Graduate profile
Politics and Creative Writing graduate, Patrick Swain

Patrick Swain

"The placement year was one of the reasons I came to Surrey because I could have that work experience."


Politics with Creative Writing BSc (Hons)

Graduation year


Placement company


Why did you choose Surrey?

I guess from personal experience: my brother came here. I used to come here a lot so I knew the campus really well. I have always really been interested in politics since I was about 14-15. I looked at a lot of other universities and was very engaged with Surrey’s politics course. I remember I did my taster day here and we did a big international relations model piece that really interested me and, from then on, I knew Surrey was the one for me.

Strongest memory of Surrey?

I remember my first day, very vividly, probably because during Freshers’ Week it was so sunny and we had beautiful weather all week and then, on my first day, it rained and the fire alarm went off at 6am. We all had to go outside – I didn’t put on any shoes and stood in a puddle. So, my first day didn’t get off to a good start….

But at the end of the day, I had my first international relations class and I remember sitting in that room with the tutor explaining the theory of international relations.

At the end of each Monday, we would have these lectures and have these really interesting debates. Our tutor would go into great detail about each theory: realism, constructivism and idealism, and I just really get an understanding of the ideas of international relations and just thoroughly enjoying it.

Best thing about the course?

The support I got from the staff: they were really good. They always had their door open. You could go to their offices at any time, with any questions, sharing your ideas with them, bouncing your ideas off them, and being able to get good support from them.

What do you do now?

I used to work for a think tank in London, the International Longevity Centre UK, which is the UK’s specialist think tank on aging and longevity and the impact it is going to have on society. I was a Senior Research and Policy Officer. I primarily focused on health policy. I did a lot of research into vaccination and tried to use my reports and research to engage with governments, the private sector and other people in the third [charity] sector, as well raising the profile of the value of vaccination and how it is good for longevity and society.

I have just started a new role as Policy and Advocacy Manager for Leukaemia UK. I’m currently advocating on behalf of leukaemia and blood cancer patients in the UK. I’ve already had some great engagement with policy-makers, including members of the House of Lords and MPs in the Commons.

What is the best thing about your work?

For me, when you finish a report and you have a set of really strong clear recommendations for government policy-makers to be able to take. I have also been lucky enough to work on secondment to a European charity. I got to go Brussels fives times a year, to the European Parliament, spoke to the members of the European Commission, as well as UK stakeholders; it’s been fun to be able to travel around to speak to people.

How did Surrey help you choose your career?

I think for me, doing a placement year really helped. I worked for Airbus as a public affairs assistant for a year, and that set me up really well, because I applied my politics in the field of work and went straight in. I remember my first week, I went to the House of Lords, spoke to a member of the House of Lords and, by the end of it, I was showing MPs around on a site visit. I showed the Secretary of State for Transport around the Farnborough Air Show.

So Surrey set me up a lot, it really helped in getting me out there and doing a bit of work while studying. You can put it on your CV and use that experience in interview process later on. The placement year was one of the reasons I came to Surrey because I could have that work experience.

What is your advice for students wanting to work in your area?

I work for a think tank so some of them are quite lucrative so I think if you really like the academic side of politics, it’s definitely the thing for you because you can apply that and influence policy- makers in a very specific way. Going out there with your research, quantitative skills, your analysis skills, you can use those. When you start to write reports, and do policy-work that can then be used to influence policy-makers in government and other stakeholders. If you are really into academic research and you really like academia, then research and policy-making is something to do and something to consider.