I pursued my MSc in Impact Evaluation for International Development at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK from September 2014 to September 2015. The degree is organized under the double degree program offered by Kobe University and UEA. This is therefore a summary of my experience at the UEA.
My whole year was filled with challenges and adventures. Initially I was accepted in the MA International Social Development program, but I decided to transfer to the MSc Impact Evaluation program, since I felt my professional interests align with the latter better. There were 11 people in my course including myself from greatly diverse backgrounds; our countries of origin were Sierra Leone, Kenya, UK, Germany, USA, China, Philippines, and Japan. Some had professional work experiences with developmentorganizations such as UNDP, ADB, World Vision, so I was very lucky to learn from their wealth of knowledge and experiences.
I did three modules in the autumn semester (September to December 2014) namely; Econometrics for Development Studies, Welfare and Evaluation for Development, and Research Techniques and Analysis. The first two modules were compulsory for my course. Basically two writing assignments are required for each module and must be submitted by the due date during the course. There were also optional academic English workshops which anyone could attend to brush up academic writing, speaking, and reading skills. In the welfare module, we gave a group presentation on political issues that might arise at different stage of evaluation process and how evaluators might respond to these constraints. Each of us was required to write a workshop paper reflecting what we discussed further in class afterwards. We also completed an essay of 3,000 words, explaining major challenges in the course of an impact evaluation with a focus on randomized control trials (RCTs) and discussing solutions using case studies.
In the spring semester (January to March 2015), I took three modules; Applied Methods in Impact Evaluation, Education Policy and Practice for Development, and Gender, Diversity and Social Development. Each module consisted of lectures and computer workshops or seminars. I particularly enjoyed Applied Methods as we explored cutting-edge impact evaluation topics and learned a range of analytical methods preliminary focused on quasi-experimental approach using Stata. A part from writing our own impact evaluation study, we were split into small groups and made group presentations on RCTs and mixed-method impact evaluation. These activities trained my discussion, writing, and team-working skills while working with native and international students. In the education module, we critically examined policy making processes and education policies as well as relationships between policy and practices in diverse development contexts. What I liked was that we developed campaign and advocacy strategies as a group to influence policy makers on the theme of ending gender inequalities and gender violence. In addition, the gender module introduced me to new analytical methods such as life-cycle approach to look into gender norms that varies with age. I was also impressed knowing that some impact evaluations can demonstrate effects of small but innovative projects and they bring attention of policy makers in the field of social development.
At the end of two semesters in April, we had an exam. As of my dissertation project, at first we were required to submit a brief research outline and one chosen supervisor by mid-March. As I conducted my internship for two months during summer, I submitted my MSc dissertation to the UEA after I returned to Kobe University in October. Now I am working on my MA dissertation for Kobe, and am expected to obtain two degrees in the upcoming March.
Events and socials
I had a wonderful time in the UK thanks to my friends. During the winter break I traveled to Germany and Austria and walked around festive Christmas markets. During the Easter break I was able to visit my friend’s house in Leeds, northern England and see my old friend studying piano in Paris which is just two hour away from London via train. Moreover, I will never forget the good times we clinked glasses over home-cooked food around the world and chatted together with classmates near the lake (UEA has a beautiful lake on campus!) after sleepless nights.
Moreover it was just before the exam that a devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Three of international development master’s students including myself and two Nepali MBA students formed a group and started the UEA Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. We organized a series of fundraising events such as bake sales and a movie night with Nepali curry both on and off campus. With generous support from countless students and people in the area, we collected many contributions and donated to the British Red Cross.
Although I had ups and downs, my time at UEA was life-changing and unforgettable. My deepest gratitude goes to my academic supervisor Professor Keiichi Ogawa, who constantly supported me with warm advice and trust. I also thank Professor Motoki Takahashi for providing his recommendation letter and Assistant Professor Kazue Demachi for supporting me during the process of writing the application. Thanks to them, I could receive a JASSO scholarship to cover all of my tuition and accommodation fees while abroad. I am also grateful to Academic Affairs Office in the Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies for their kind assistance. I thank my family for being always my cheerleaders and friends at Kobe University for cheering me up during the last 12 months.