Legislative Studies and Practice Programme Blog: Business Office

The Legislative Studies and Practice Programme was established in 2009 to provide university graduates with the opportunity to experience working in the Assembly and get a peek behind the curtain of political life in Northern Ireland. The Programme runs in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast and is part of a Master’s qualification in Legislative Studies and Practice. Students contribute fully to the work of their placement office and use their experience to undertake original research leading to the development of a dissertation.

Now in its eighth year, this series is taking a look at the current group of students and finding out how they are adjusting to their placements in the various working environments of the Assembly. Having already heard from Ross Graham in the Bill Office and the students working in the Committees, we now catch up with Amy Maxwell to find out how she’s enjoying life in the Assembly’s Business Office.

Amy Maxwell

Amy studied History, Politics and English Literature at A-Level before attending Queen’s University to study History and Politics. With a keen interest in Northern Irish politics and the public sector, Amy was attracted to the Programme by the chance to work in the Assembly and gain valuable experience in a political environment. 

Every day is different at the Assembly and I have enjoyed learning about the procedural side of things. My colleagues in the Business Office have been very welcoming and made me feel at ease from the outset.  Currently, I am working in collaboration with a staff member from the Assembly’s research service to produce a paper on gender patterns in tabling questions. I have learned a lot about parliamentary processes, developing a sound understanding of the Assembly’s rules of procedure and what is involved in supporting its Plenary meetings.  For the Themed Report component of the programme, I am undertaking a comparative study into how the Assembly can work to encourage Members and their staff to use a self-service system for the tabling of written questions as is the practice in the Scottish Parliament. So far, I have conducted interviews with key members of staff from the Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly, as well as conducting a literature review on Parliaments and modernisation. It is my intention that this research will serve as a lesson-learning exercise for the Assembly.  The work I have undertaken in the Assembly has been wide-ranging in nature, allowing me to develop new skills beyond my academic studies and confront new challenges.  In the future, I hope to have a career in the civil service, or certainly one in the public sector. I think the programme, owing to the practical work experience it allows students to undertake, is a perfect stepping-stone to a career in that field and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate.  I also enjoy going for a walk each day during my lunch. It gives me a chance to take in the beautiful surroundings of the Estate!

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