Lauren Brown working at the FCO
Working at the FCO


Lauren Brown (BA Philosophy and Politics 2013, MSc Political Behaviour 2014) shares her experience of coming to Essex through Clearing, and about her current role working in the Civil Service on the Covid-19 response.

“Starting university in 2020 is not a normal year. There are challenges that the world has faced that were not there ten years ago when my friends and I came to the University of Essex. What we did have was the deepest economic recession in our lifetimes, a massive change in government and a lot of uncertainty – so actually, not all too different from today.

In what was probably a distant memory for those of you reading this, I completed my A Level studies in the summer of 2010. After being predicted A*s, I was expecting to open my envelope on results day (we still did paper results then!) with my ticket to Durham or York. Instead, after a year of poor mental health and personal struggles, I had not achieved those scores. Despite achieving three B’s I was not confirmed by either university and was on my way to clearing. Luckily for me, that meant Essex.


Lauren Brown at her MSc Graduation Day in 2015
At my MSc Graduation Day in 2015


The University of Essex is where I found my voice again. My lecturers and department heads were kind, patient and above all, wanted us to succeed as much as we did. I made friends from all over the world on the diverse campus, both in my classes and working as a Senior Student Ambassador. Being from Essex as well, I was able to show my new friends the place I was from and travel to London for work experience in Parliament, which isn’t something I could have done had I been further away from home. I loved my time there so much that on completion of my BA Philosophy and Politics, I stayed at Essex for postgraduate study. I found people that were interested in what I was and found interests in areas of study I didn’t even know existed. My tutors celebrated successes with us and were our biggest supporters, some of which I still keep in touch with today.

After attending office hours once, I thanked one of my lecturers for all of the time he was investing in me, and his response was “but of course, you are a good student, you are passionate and want to learn”. This is something I’ve taken with me through my career and one that I hope you will all come to share from studying here. I felt that I had fought for my place, was lucky to be there but was never made to feel any less part of the community. And as much as everyone does say this, you will make friends that will last a lifetime. My best friend from university will be a bridesmaid in my wedding next year, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After completing my MSc in Political Behaviour in 2014, I was at a loss of what to do next. I still thought that a career in academia could be for me but wasn’t quite ready to start a PhD. The strong analytical skills and contacts I had gained at Essex were opening doors for me in the polling world, like YouGov and ICM. I still had my network in Westminster, but had decided that Parliament wasn’t for me either…so what was?


Entrance to Westminster tube station with the Houses of Parliament in the background
First day in the Civil Service


Being back home, I was looking for a break from studying and a chance to unwind after four years of hard work on two degrees. After enjoying student recruitment so much during my time as a Frontrunner and Senior Student Ambassador I started looking for roles in that field – attracting young talent to companies and training them to achieve their best. I found a contracting role at Ford Motor Company in HR and spent two years growing my skills profile, learning more about HR’s role in an organisation and considering what kind of career I wanted. Despite no longer wanting to work for a political party, I felt called to the public sector to work towards a greater good. That is what brought me to the Civil Service Fast Stream, the most competitive and awarded graduate programme in the UK that promised a fast paced environment where you are a leader from day one.

I successfully completed the programme in 2019 after working in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These two drastically different organisations taught me so much about public service, the machinery that is the British government but also about privilege, and how small your world can be when you don’t see the experiences of others. Based on the Fast Stream’s reputation for hiring only Oxbridge students from affluent backgrounds, I did not expect the Civil Service to necessarily be the place for me, but I am pleased to say I was wrong. I am now working on the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, somewhere I never thought I would be back in 2010. Any career can be open to you following university, regardless of which institution it is, and the University of Essex is a great place to start.”

Find out more about Clearing at Essex