Expertly flagging bottlenecks and points for improvement
'Every organisation, including outside the academic realm, can benefit from someone who has completed a research master's programme. These people are independent, extremely knowledgeable and skilled at flagging an organisation's bottlenecks, as well as points for improvement. But a research master's programme is worthwhile for more than just those with academic aspirations. For instance, I have acquired a sound understanding of public administration, academic research methods and practice, and I have learnt how to write well academically. At the same time, the way the programme is designed has largely taught me critical thinking, learning and reflection, made me more independent and taught me how to choose a good position in academic debates. Above all, the master's programme gave me the room to explore my qualities, interests and passion in an academic way. It's a busy and heavy programme, but I learnt a lot.
Nowadays I work as a policy adviser/project manager for Impact – a partner in Arq. Psychotrauma Expert Group. Impact is the Dutch centre of expertise for psychosocial support after disasters and crises. In collaboration with Utrecht University, I'm also working on my PhD research on collaboration between professionals in various disciplines and organisations in the post-disaster and post-crisis stage. At Impact we advise national and local governments about the post-disaster stage. For instance, we were closely involved with the response to the MH17 disaster, where we advised the national government for instance in dealing with the suffering and mourning of the families of the victims and assisted in organising the commemoration services.
“I really understand what colleagues go through in the field”
When there aren't any disasters to deal with, we work with partners like the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, universities, local authorities and public health services to build knowledge on what proper care after a disaster should entail. In this connection, we lead larger research projects on preparing for aftercare in the event of a terrorist act, for example. We as Impact also support a large number of services, such as the fire service, police and ambulance. At these organisations, I supervise projects to implement support from colleagues or to boost the resilience of professionals, such as the Colleague Support Team of the National Police, where colleagues with training and practice stand ready to help colleagues who have had a traumatic experience.
Alongside my work for Impact and the university, I am also a fireman at the Amsterdam Amstelland Fire Brigade – Diemen station. This gives me first-hand experience with ‘disasters', in addition to my mainly theory-based work. That means making important decisions under high pressure in practice and being confronted with emotions and suffering. It's at these times that we can do something that really matters – and that is valuable. And as a result, I really understand what colleagues go through in the field.'
Jurriaan Jacobs is policy adviser/project manager at Impact – a partner in Arq. Psychotrauma Expert Group and graduated in the Master’s Programme Research in Public Administration and Organizational Science.
Tools to develop your personal career
'I was a PhD student at Antwerp University, and Associate Professor at Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano (Colombia). I started my PhD in Antwerp and after my first year I moved back to Colombia. In Bogotá I tought classes about governance and public administration and about sectorial public policy, sometimes also research methodology. In addition to my own Phd, it was also expected that I engaged in contract research and consultancy. And I was involved in a research project which aimed to study the coordination of the implementation of several public policies in the Colombian public sector after the peace agreement with FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Colombia.
This Master’s Programme has been quite relevant for me. The training in research methods in particular has given me an advantage over my colleagues that have studied only in Colombia. I think the quality of the master in that regard is superb. With the basis from the programme, I have specialized in quantitative methods, which has been a determinant aspect in applying for a PhD position. Besides this, I have learned to judge the quality of the research of other researchers both in terms of methodology and content and this has also been also of much value to me.
"Not just an academic experience"
To international students I would say that this is a very good programme that will not only give you some prestige back home, but will also give you specific tools to develop your personal career. That is not so common in Master’s Programmes. This was a key element for me in getting my PhD position and later on, for obtaining my current position.
Something else is that the Dutch education system is quite different to educational systems in many other parts of the world. it requires much more discussion and personal involvement in class sessions, peer reviewing and critical thinking. This is certainly challenging for those of us that come from a more rigid system, but at the same time it gives you the possibility of going beyond: not sticking to the readers but looking for further information, papers, data etc.; pursuing ones interests and not buying everything that is told. That is a very good asset for your future career.
Living in the Netherlands is a very gratifying. It is a small country yet it has a very international perspective. Literally everybody speaks English. In my experience Dutch people are very open to interact with expats. I always felt very welcome among my classmates. Although they were very busy, they took the time to show me around and invited me to social activities. Furthermore, when I moved to Antwerp several of them came to visit me. Therefore, you will not get just an academic experience but also a cultural one.'
Camilo Gonzalez Becerra was a PhD student at Antwerp University, and is now Assistant professor at the Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). He graduated in this Master’s Programme.
You learn to breakdown complex problems
‘Since I graduated I have been a Rijkstrainee (Central Government entry level public servant) for two years. During this period I have worked for several divisions of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports. The traineeship also gave me the opportunity to work for the European Commission in Brussels for six months. After, I became a policy advisor at the ministry, mainly concerned with the issues of health care fraud - a challenging subject that often draws strong media and political attention. Among other things, my colleagues and I dealt with improving the internal financial processes of healthcare providers like hospitals and improving the quality controls exercised by healthcare insurers via intermediaries who organize care for individuals with long-term care needs which is paid for by government-provided personal budgets.
Part of my job was preparing our Minister for parliamentary appearances on this subject. In these cases, we prepared a ‘dossier’ with all necessary facts, figures and possible speaking points. During the debate itself, we tried to prepare on the spot answers to questions asked by the MP’s.
Another important part of my job was cooperating with several stakeholders, like professional associations and interest groups. These organisations have a lot of clout in the health care sector and it is hard to come up with effective policies without their input or support. That is why I often met with them, consulting them about new policy initiatives and informing one another what we both are working on. We needed to know their key concerns. A specific subject that we discussed quite often now are the norms professional groups communicate to their members concerning financial matters.
"You've go the necessary experience to find your way into the fields of policy making, consultancy, research and beyond"
After I graduated, I decided to find a job that does not primarily focus on doing research. This is because I wanted to gain experience with other professional roles as well. I believe the research master provides a solid basis for this.You learn to break down complex problems easily, but it also challenges you to manage your own individual ‘project’ for a whole year (i.e., your thesis). The two-year program also provides you with enough space to find your interests, both towards the specific subjects you like as well as towards the professional role that fits you best. The research master gives you the necessary experience to find your way into the fields of policy making, consultancy, research and beyond.’
Evert Schot graduated in Research in Public Administration and Organizational Science in 2012 and is now an advisor for the Council for Health and Society (RVS).