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Profile: Nidhi Madhani

Woman speaking at Oxford Union

Nidhi Madhani (2021, PPE)

Nidhi Madhani is studying PPE at Univ. She was previously President of the Oxford PPE Society and Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club. In this profile, she discusses student politics, the Chalet des Anglais, and her favourite final-year PPE modules.  

Why did you decide to do PPE at Univ?
Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) strongly drew my interest because of its flexible structure and rich course content. When I initially came across the subject on the degree course list on the Oxford website, I felt an instant lightbulb moment because I was rather electrified that a degree programme could cater to my broad academic interests.

Group of friends at matriculationWhy PPE? Studying Economics during both GCSEs and A Levels was instrumental in influencing my decision to study PPE because it enabled me to understand the large role played by the government in influencing critical decisions surrounding policymaking. Additionally, the opportunity to study modern British political history at A Level meant that politics became an almost immediate fascination, albeit through a historical lens. This is because the chance to evaluate the successes and failures of each Prime Ministership in Britain since the post-war era was intriguing and felt like something I was missing out on my whole life since I was rarely exposed to politics in such great depth during my earlier years of education. Thus, PPE felt like the perfect degree for me.

Addressing the latter, I honestly did not know much about Oxford colleges or their distinct cultures and reputations before applying. Univ certainly stood out as a strong all-rounder due to its rich diversity of alumni and by having one of the largest PPE cohorts in Oxford. Moreover, the fact that University College was the first college to pioneer the Opportunity Oxford programme gave me a sense of hope while applying because I knew that a college that recognised the fundamental importance of increasing access and creating a level playing field for Oxbridge applicants would be the right place for me.

How have you changed since starting at Univ?
Upon commencing my studies at Univ, I had never lived away from home for more than two weeks consecutively (except for the Opportunity Oxford programme), which was honestly slightly nerve-wracking. Not only was I unaccustomed to the challenges of independent living and the absence of day-to-day interactions with my family but also had to deal with adjusting to a whole new city and of course the academic jump in intensity and workload. Luckily, by the beginning of the second term, I felt a lot more comfortable with Oxford life and I have grown a lot more confident across the course of the degree which I am super grateful for.

Two people in a playWhat do you do you do outside your studies?
Outside the realm of academia, I had the privilege of serving in leadership positions across student societies such as serving as the President of the Oxford PPE Society and as the Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club. I got involved with the PPE society during Hilary term of my first year and quickly found that I enjoyed being part of student committees and interacting with other students across the university through our newly launched weekly debating event at the time. Fortunately, I had the chance to serve as President during my second year and particularly enjoyed orchestrating a Head-to-Head debate event on foreign aid in collaboration with the Oxford Diplomatic Society. Serving on the committee truly enriched my experience as a PPE student and I would strongly encourage all students to join their respective subject societies if they have the time to do so.

My experience serving on the PPE society committee was also incredibly helpful because it gave me the confidence and motivation to stand for the role of Women*s Officer and Treasurer in the Labour Club. During Michaelmas term of my second year, I was elected as the Co-Chair alongside my friend Ali Khosravi (Balliol) for Trinity Term 2023 during which I had the opportunity to invite and host a wide array of distinguished speakers including our Master, Baroness Amos (which was very exciting!) and executing a panel event on “Inequality on Britain”, which delved into critical issues within left-wing politics in the United Kingdom. Turning back to Univ’s history, it should make us proud that University College itself is associated with a number of prominent Labour alumni who have all accomplished remarkable feats in the realm of public service.

Additionally, outside of my studies, I have enjoyed serving as a student ambassador at Univ during open days and outreach events since the experience has been enormously fulfilling having participated in numerous access initiatives myself as an applicant. This is part of the College’s aims to ensure that all potential applicants to Oxford feel able and encouraged to apply irrespective of their background. It is exceptionally important to continually champion the transformative power of education, and I have faith that higher education will continue to become more accessible for all so that talented students are not barred from achieving their true potential.

How was your experience on the Chalet trip?
When I turned up at the Chalet des Anglais with my Barbie pink suitcase for the first time, I had no idea what was in store for us. In many ways, I think the experience of being a Chaletite marks a strange sort of rejuvenation of one’s character. It transforms us by imparting invaluable lessons about perseverance and determination if one truly commits to the mountain hiking element of the experience! But what makes the Chalet the most special is not its location, nor its beauty, and not even its history. In classic fashion, it’s all about the people you meet along the way.

Many of us did not know each other before the trip so the opportunity to interact with new faces and particularly the postgraduate community was much appreciated. Along with the chance to savour the breathtaking view of the Alps, we also engaged in numerous activities such as philosophical reading group discussions, late night gameplay sessions of “Werewolf” and of course the daily trips to the Hôtel du Prarion! However, the highlight was undoubtedly the Tête Rousse climb and venturing off in groups at 4 am to commence the challenging ascent. On the days we did not hike, the party offered an ideal environment for doing some good academic reading and engaging in discussions surrounding the rich history of the Chalet and how special it felt to be there.

I also thoroughly enjoyed playing a cricket match with the other Chaletites and I guess my enthusiasm was so much so that I secured the Les Cendres trophy beautifully handcrafted by Xander! It is often in the simplest moments that we experience the most terrific tides of joy, and I thank the Chalet des Anglais for reminding me of that.

Woman wearing white blouse in park mid-laughterHas anything surprised you about your course/Oxford/Univ?
What surprised me most about my course is truly how much I have come to love it during my time at Oxford due to its flexible structure. After completing their first year, PPE students have the opportunity to specialise within certain disciplines and choose either a bipartite or tripartite route according to their interests.

Currently, I specialise in politics. My favourite FHS modules are the IR-focused regional papers I am undertaking in South Asia and the Middle East along with the political history module of British Politics and Government since 1900. The fact that PPE students have the opportunity to study such a wide range of topics within each discipline alongside world-class tutors at the forefront of their research is inspiring. Also, the unique tutorial teaching system means that students are challenged on their academic rigour to a high degree such that tutorials become both an educationally enriching, and dare I say, character-building experience.

Additionally, the course content has also contributed dividends to my understanding of the key issues affecting British and international politics and particularly aided me during interviews and weekly debating sessions in both the PPE Society and the Labour Club. FHS modules have thus greatly met, if not exceeded, my original expectations of the course content. I think that’s rather splendid.

Woman sitting on a bench wearing yellow jumper, blue coat, and burgundy trousersWhat is your proudest achievement (personal or professional)?
An opportunity that I particularly cherished was spearheading a cross-political garden party on behalf of the Labour Club in order to raise money for charities like Homeless Oxfordshire. It was delightful to see so many participants getting involved in challenges such as tug-of-war matches and skipping competitions in support of a charitable cause! I believe it is crucially important that student societies do what they can to play a part in supporting local communities because we have a lot of potential to make them happen.

Student politics aside, having the chance to participate in a play by portraying the titular role of Gwendolen Fairfax in Oriel College’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was a brilliant experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed performing on stage at school since childhood and it was wonderful to have a chance to contribute to Oxford’s tradition of hosting summer garden plays, especially since dramatic arts play such an important role in Britain’s cultural history. What I loved the most was the chance to work with such a dedicated cast and crew and I am truly thankful that Oxford provides us with a plethora of opportunities to keep our creative spirits alive!

Describe Univ in three words.
Splendid. Transformational. Academic.

Published: 18 March 2024

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