Welcoming our first DPhil students

Last week marked a very important moment in our history – the official start of the DPhil (as a PhD is known in Oxford) in Public Policy.

We’re really excited about the first DPhil students – they come from different countries and have a variety of backgrounds and interests, and they’ll be with us for the next three years. During that time, they will carry out in-depth research around topics related to public policy.

We’ve caught up with them to find out a little bit more about them beyond their impressive academic and professional achievements.

Linda Bilmes is a faculty member at Harvard Kennedy School and co-authored The Three Trillion Dollar War with economist Joseph Stiglitz. Last spring she taught a course here at the Blavatnik School of Government and she says it was “enormously fun – I loved the students and the School. This year I am on sabbatical and I am happily at the Blavatnik School again - combining some teaching with trying to complete a fast-track DPhil focusing on long-term war costs and how they were (and were not) accounted for in government accounts.”

Ivo Iaydjiev is Bulgarian and having lived in the UK, France and Belgium, is really excited about joining a school with students and faculty from all over the world. He is passionate about social entrepreneurship and connecting his home country with the world. He says: "What really attracted me to the Blavatnik School of Government was the mixture of rigorous research and quest for policy relevance. It was clear to me that the Blavatnik School is a unique place where I can combine my two passions - research and policy. Furthermore, the faculty, the research programmes, and the events and roundtables taking place at the School provide an excellent environment for my own research on the negotiation of international financial regulations after the crisis."

Juan David Gutiérrez is Colombian and says his parents taught him the importance of hard work and education, and he will focus on public policy for the management of non-renewable natural resources. He says: “Innovative research in social sciences is not just a matter of spending more days and nights studying in libraries or diving in databases. Innovation is more likely when your independent research is nurtured, discussed and confronted in an environment where talented scholars actively engage with other people's ideas. From the perspective of a student that comes from a developing country, it is a big challenge to be part of a project that generates such high expectations. However, the Blavatnik School of Government lays all the necessary tools for a scholar to excel in public policy.” He also adds: "I feel a strong responsibility to make the most of my experience at the School and to come back home to help improve the life of the most disadvantaged people of Colombia through my expertise.”

Fadi Salem is Syrian and his country’s future is very important to him. He is actively engaged in the emerging civil society in his country - empowering Syria's youth through educational and developmental initiatives continues to be an integral part of his life as Syrian. "What attracted me to the DPhil in Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government is the multi-disciplinary policy focus, international reach and standing; and scholarly excellence. Ultimately my decision to carry this intellectual journey is my realisation of the fact that 'impact' is deeply engrained in the DNA of the School and its working culture, whether on policy, development or society. It strongly felt as a right fit." He also adds: "Reflecting personally, many years ago, as a young person I was described as 'impact-driven'. My ultimate goal throughout this journey is not limited to the scholarly level, but to also deepen my knowledge, sharpen my skills and equip myself to lead in policy environments in the Middle East – a region starving for non-dogmatic evidence-based policy advice and research.”

Although studying and research is a major commitment for our four DPhil students, there is also space for other interests and activities. Ivo is a big football fan and the proud captain of St Antony's College football team and JD is an active football player and runner – he has in fact just run the Oxford Half Marathon representing the Blavatnik School of Government.

And then there is family. Linda is married and has three sons – the eldest is now studying Chinese literature here in Oxford. Juan David is married to current MPP student Diana – they're the first official couple at the Blavatnik School. Finally, Fadi has embarked on a double 'project' – his daughter Julia was born last week on the same day he started his DPhil!

As their research takes shape and develops, we’ll make sure you hear about them so keep an eye out for updates.

Read our DPhil students’ full profiles.

Applications for next year’s DPhil are now open. Read more about the DPhil.