CEID Featured Alumni: Mengqi Sun

Mengqi Sun, CEID Class of 2021
Nationality: Chinese
Current Position: Assistant Lecturer in Primary Education Faculty at Shijiazhuang Preschool Teachers College

My main responsibility in my current position is to teach the course Primary Education to the students in Primary Education Faculty of Shijiazhuang Preschool Teachers College. In China, college belongs to the level of higher education, but due to the fact that students entering college generally have lower scores in the college entrance examination than those entering university, the recognition of college is not as good as that of university. The students in this college are going to be primary school teachers after three-year study. And most of them are going to work in schools located in relatively less economically developed areas due to the educational level limitation.

On my career journey, CEID helped me a lot, especially in terms of courses and events. Regarding courses, the CEID and Education Policy and Politics of Education (EPPE) courses had a great impact on me. CEID helped me realize that education is such a grand concept that it is not equivalent to teaching or pedagogy. In the CEID course, I explored the relationship between education and culture, education and economy, education and gender equality and issues of concern for NGOs and the GEM Report. In the EPPE course, I found my interest in the field of comparative education, which is policy analysis. When you are conducting policy analysis, you will find that the reasons and purposes for some phenomena in the field of education are not as simple as they appear on the surface. And my dissertation also focused on this point, I studied socio-economic inequality in China’s HE internationalisation policy by doing critical policy analysis.

In terms of events, what impressed me the most was the PhD Panel and Career Panel. During my studies, whether to continue pursuing further studies and pursuing a doctoral degree was also a question that I considered. After participating in PhD Panel, I thought I should figure out whether I want or I really need a doctoral degree. After careful consideration, I gave up the idea of directly pursuing a doctoral degree after graduating with a master’s degree. For me, pursuing a PhD is to research specific issues that interest me, not just to improve my academic qualification. However, I had almost no experience working in the field of education, as a result, I had not yet gained a deep understanding of some phenomena or issues. It might be more meaningful for me to pursue a PhD when I discover some phenomena and issues through my work experience and aspire to study them.

Since I decided to work after graduation, the Career Panel helped me a lot. I really appreciate that Career Panel provided us with lots of practical skills such as CV writing and ways of searching career for opportunities.

In pursuing a position after the master’s degree, the biggest challenge for me was to make clear what kind of job I would like to do. Ultimately, what motivated me to make up my mind to work in college is my interests in policy analysis. But when I search for those recruitment positions, I found all of them requires at least three-year teaching experiences in school or colleges, and most of them require a doctoral degree. Then I thought if I am unable to secure my ideal position for the time being, I should at least do a job that will help me achieve my future career plan. Working in college first is very suitable for me at present. Compared to those who work in enterprises, those who work in universities have a relative advantage in applying for a PhD. At the same time, working in college can also help me accumulate work experience.

Preparing for an Academic Conference: Advice for MSc Students

CEID student Ijaaz Jackaria presenting at the 2023 GINTL Seminar: International Education Development and Internationalisation of Education

Masters students are often left behind in the world of academic research. Conferences, if open to them, often position masters students as part of the more passive audience – there to absorb knowledge – with little opportunity to share their experience and practice communicating their research. That is part of what makes the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL) events so unique. Here masters students are seen as junior researchers and provided the opportunity and support to improve their skills. Four students in our MSc in Comparative Education and International Development (CEID) took advantage of one of GINTL’s recent events, with two presenting online and two in-person in at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. The hybrid event allowed students to share the in-process work on their master’s dissertation in a traditional academic format with other graduate students and faculty present to add comments and probing questions. Given the unique opportunity, we asked students to share advice for other master’s students that might be preparing for an academic conference. Their insights are below. You can also find Sydney Harrington’s story – with all the tech challenges, anxiety, and relief you would expect from a first-time presenter – here.

GINTL Research Seminar 2023

Peer Recommendations on Preparing, Engaging, and Navigating an Academic Conference

  • I have five pieces of advice: (1) It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. That being said, sensible shoes are a must. Trust me on this one, your feet will thank you. (2) Make sure your name tag is easily visible and smile when you make eye contact with people. (3) Don’t feel that you need to change who you are to fit into academia; I have a southern accent, use the word y’all in every other sentence, and speak at 150 miles per hour. It didn’t mean that I was any less qualified to be there. Trust yourself.  (4) You know your research better than anyone in the room, take constructive criticism but don’t take it personally. Use what you think will be helpful and leave the rest behind. (5) Make sure you write down both people’s names and how you know them. Writing down “John Smith, GINTL, education and food presentation” is going to be a lot more helpful than just “John Smith”.                      – Sydney Harrington
  • Practise giving your presentation. The more often you practise, the more confident you will be on the day. Also, have fun with the experience and be open to accepting any feedback from staff and peers- they may give you advice that you would otherwise not have considered!Niamh Ni Iceadha
  • When you prepare for a presentation, it’s essential to keep it brief and relevant to the theme of the conference. Don’t feel the need to convey all the details of your research; rather, focus on the core elements, e.g. your research questions, your methodology, and your findings and main arguments.                         – Ijaaz Jackaria
  • Presenting at a seminar, online or in-person, is a great opportunity to network with peers and gain more clarity about our thoughts through interaction with scholars from the same discipline. It would be great to focus on the main parts of the research such as the research questions, methodology, and data collection methods for ongoing research. However, it is crucial to present the results/findings of the research if you are presenting a completed presentation. A good PowerPoint presentation will help you communicate effectively with the audience.Chinchu George


Sydney’s Finland Adventure

Reflecting on My Experience at the 2023 GINTL Seminar of International Education and Development

By Sydney Harrington, MSc CEID (class of 2023)

Outside the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland


This is a reflection on one MSc Comparative Education and International Development (CEID) student’s experience at the 2023 GINTL Seminar: International Education Development and Internationalisation in Education. To read more about the seminar and advice from MSc CEID students that participated click here

I’m sure it’s an unwritten law of the universe in pretty much any event that if there is something that could go wrong then it probably will, in some way, go wrong.

That being said, I think the GINTL seminar went very well and I had an incredible time visiting Finland and learning about others’ research while sharing my own.

I was one of two presenters from Edinburgh who went in person, and I’ll be honest and say that I was more than a little anxious. I couldn’t help but heave a small sigh of relief when I saw Will, our program director, come up to the front of the stage. He was one of the opening panelists and would be doing the closing remarks as well, and it felt good to be in a completely new environment with two familiar faces.

The morning of the seminar went well, and I sat in on Ijaaz’s panel asking questions and offering praise when I felt it was warranted, which I felt often. Did I fully understand what an auto-ethnography was? Nope. Did I understand the philosophical underpinnings behind his research question? Also no. But that didn’t stop me from clapping the loudest and taking as many pictures as I could subtly get away with to later share with the CEID group chat.

Ijaaz and Sydney at an airport café preparing for their presentations

After the coffee break, it came to my turn to present and when I got to the room and realized that I was the only panelist who hadn’t emailed their presentation and instead brought my slides in on a USB, I started getting a bit nervous. When I realized that I had all my notes on my PowerPoint and would need to reformat the display of the computer so that no one but me would see my notes, I started to panic.

It took a bit of finagling, and I’m sure I said something amusing to the waiting audience as I got a few chuckles, but eventually, I was able to start my presentation.  I remember absolutely nothing of it besides the fact that I was passionate about what I was saying and that my heart was in my throat the entire time. Once I had landed on my reference slide and received the usual polite applause, the chair thanked me for the presentation and made a remark about how quick it was, instantly turning me beet red. I’m sure I looked a bit like an ice cream cone, my white dress offset by my quickly deepening pink cheeks.

Sydney presenting on Education and Liberal Peace

I answered the questions that were asked and defended my choice of topic, gladly accepting the praise and critiques. That’s why I was there, after all. I wanted the help and needed the practice, especially if I wanted to continue on to a Ph.D. someday.

When one of the GINTL conference leaders asked me about how I was going to cut down the research to make it appropriate for a master’s dissertation and to fit the timeframe I had, I hesitated. “To me, I guess there isn’t such a thing as too much research–” I started and noticed the wince on Will and Ijaaz’s faces, “but of course, I’m going to make sure to break it down into the relevant pieces for my dissertation.” I laughed a bit breathlessly, color darkening my cheeks again. “I suppose I have an academic’s heart–” Another wince from Will and Ijaaz.

I swear I swallowed my tongue.

“This has all the potential to turn into a Ph.D. research project as well, so that’s something to keep in mind,” I finally squeaked, not entirely sure how to defend my love of learning for learning’s sake, especially since the people looking at me were there to judge the application of my research on future endeavors.

Despite it, I felt rather good about my presentation, and when we left the conference room and Will teased me saying “Honestly, you were slower than you normally speak!” while Ijaaz laughed, I was able to elbow him good-naturedly with a mumbled, “oh shut up”. There is a reason that we call Will our CEID Dad, he’s just as supportive as we need him to be.

Being able to share my research project in Finland was a fantastic opportunity and I am so glad I swallowed my initial hesitation to send in my abstract. I got to meet a group of incredible people who were on a similar path and I connected with academics that have been able to help me with different inquiries around my dissertation.

If you get the opportunity to go in person to a seminar, I would say that you should definitely try to go. It was an amazing experience and I feel more prepared to tackle my dissertation and the rest of my academic journey.


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