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08 July 2024

From desktop research to national headlines: Student praises 'amazing opportunity' offered by undergraduate fellowship

When King’s student Tora Hovland applied for a King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship in the summer of 2023, she wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.


The fellowships offer King’s undergrads the opportunity to work with academics on research projects and often involve a range of tasks both familiar and unfamiliar to students, from literature reviews and data collection to analysis and writing.

Through her studies, Tora (BSc Politics) had taken a particular interest in fiscal policies, data analysis, and inequality, but she admits the idea of bringing those areas together and working on an academic project felt like entering uncharted territory.

A year on, however, and Tora has not only got to grips with data regressions, background research and report writing, she has also marked the publication of an academic working paper, seen her work covered in national media and is getting set to present her findings at conferences around the continent.

Tora Hovland

“It went beyond any expectations that I had,” said Tora. “When I first applied for the fellowship I wasn’t sure exactly what it was going to involve, I wasn’t sure what was possible, but it has just kept getting better. I have had the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of the process required to produce a research paper in economics. It’s been an incredible experience”.

Tora’s initial fellowship saw her secure 150 hours of paid work with Dr Yonatan Berman, from the Department of Political Economy, and she set to work that summer looking at the question of austerity and public health.

Her role initially saw her gathering data, building data sets, and analysing existing literature in the area of austerity politics and health outcomes in the UK.

As the initial two-month fellowship came to an end, Dr Berman asked if Tora was interested in continuing her work and, over the following 12 months, she continued the collaboration; learning everything from data regressions and python coding to report writing and presentation.

“It was an amazing opportunity to be involved in the research in this way, and I’m incredibly grateful to both King’s and Dr Yonatan Berman for this opportunity”, said Tora. “I was able to see a different side to the university and it has been great to be able to use the things I have learned in my degree.”

In June, the results of their research were published in a new working paper, The Impact of Austerity on Mortality and Life Expectancy, which showed that the impact of austerity policies in the UK had reduced life expectancy by up to five months by 2019 and caused a three-year setback in life expectancy progress between 2010 – 2019.

The data suggested that austerity was responsible for 190,000 excess deaths in the UK. The research was covered by the Evening Standard, LSE News, and mentioned in the Washington Post.

We were surprised at how quickly we saw an impact, considering there were not that many years involved since the change in policy.

Tora Hovland

In the months ahead, Tora and Dr Berman are due to present the paper at a conference in Czechia and, later in the year, attention will turn to submitting the paper for peer review and, hopefully, publication in an academic journal.

And it all started with an application to a summer internship programme.

“It’s great that King’s offer opportunities like these,” said Tora. “Being involved in academic work is really rewarding. If you are applying for a fellowship or are due to start one, make the most of it. There will be a lot of new things to learn and to take in, but I always felt well-supported.”

You can find out more about the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship here: Apply for the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (KURF).

In this story

Yonatan Berman

Lecturer in Economics