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'I'm a great believer in life-long learning'

Dr Martin Gliniecki

Dr Martin Gliniecki

When asked about his experience of undertaking an AHRC-funded doctoral studentship and the impact the grant had on his career, former Army Colonel and current senior civil servant Dr Martin Gliniecki enthusiastically spoke about the value of lifelong learning, using philosophy in policy-making, and interpreting immigration law through moral lenses. 

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1984, Martin joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. His army career was primarily in logistics and engineering; as an ammunition technical officer he performed bomb disposal activities in Norther Ireland, in the Balkans, in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the meantime, he studied part-time to gain a bachelor’s degree in theology and a master’s in social sciences. It was the time spent on foreign missions that inspired him to ponder the circumstances of modern warfare, including the risk of collateral or incidental damage, and how soldiers in 21st century conflicts identify who is a combatant/fighter on the other side. This moral challenge was the inspiration for his doctoral studies.

Martin started his doctoral studies in his late forties. He decided not to take a career-break, but instead did his doctoral research part-time. The downside of it? Being able to interact with fellow doctoral students and attend seminars and lectures linked to his interests less frequently than a full-time student. The positive side? Building a new skill set in philosophical analysis at a pace that suited him, without sacrificing his job, and finding a responsive audience among his colleagues at the Ministry of Defence. As Martin’s research evolved, it was applied to existing and emerging policies in a practical way:  ‘I was able to share some of that research that I’ve been formulating with colleagues at the MoD in branches like the Doctrine Branch and Policy, Procedures and Tactics and Techniques to say: ‘This is how we should be thinking’’.

The studentship Martin received from AHRC allowed him to dive into philosophy at Oxford University and add the missing skill of ‘thinking like a philosopher’ to his already interdisciplinary background. Asked about the impact of the doctoral studies on his career, he says: ‘This experience taught me how to think differently to the way I thought and wrote before as an officer […] to look at arguments and see what was possible to argue, what made sense and where were the logical deductions as you followed a thread through an argument’. This has proved invaluable both in his final years in the Armed Forces and in his new job as the Immigration Compliance and Enforcement Lead for Wales and the South-West at the Home Office. Since becoming a senior civil servant Martin considers legal matters concerning immigration through the lens of moral as well as legal analysis and facilitates such an approach across his team.

Asked if there’s any advice he would like to share with current and future AHRC-funded doctoral students, Martin says it is key to choose a subject of doctoral study to ensure one will be able to meet the commitment. His view is that if the project is interesting and exciting, you will have the drive that is essential to undertake doctoral study part-time. The ability to bring the newly acquired skills and knowledge into the wider world is equally crucial: as an AHRC alumnus who didn’t decide to pursue an academic career, Martin emphasises the importance of learning job-hunting skills, for example writing job applications and being interviewed. The former, he advises, should be based on the ability to ‘transpose the skills you’ve learned by doing your doctoral studies to say what they mean to an employer’.

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