Skip to main content

28 February 2020

Students take centre stage in Policy Idol competition

An engaging policy pitch by a student studying in the Department of Political Economy scooped one of the top prizes in a university competition.

Zewditu Gebreyohanes with Charles Clarke
Zewditu Gebreyohanes with Charles Clarke

Zewditu Gebreyohanes impressed the panel of judges at this year’s Policy Idol competition, which took place on 25 February in King’s College London’s Policy Institute.

Zewditu, who is studying politics, philosophy and economics (PPE), took home the ‘style’ award in recognition of the delivery of her pitch, which discussed giving older people opportunities to volunteer in primary schools as a means of combatting loneliness.

She said: “My pitch outlined a programme through which elderly people would be given the chance to volunteer in local primary schools. In the short term, this would provide volunteers with a valuable opportunity to become engaged members of their communities, boosting their wellbeing and helping to reduce the onset of age-related illnesses such as dementia and depression.

“However, the scheme would also inculcate within younger generations a sense of duty to society and in particular respect and compassion for older citizens: something I believe to be of paramount importance in ensuring the long-term security of the elderly.”

The topic is of particular interest to Zewditu, who also studies in the Department of Philosophy, as she is currently writing her dissertation on the role that elderly-inclusive public policy can play in alleviating the problems commonly associated with the UK’s rapidly ageing population.

Also taking part in the competition were fellow DPE students Samuel Remi-Akinwale, James Ramsden, Nour Gado, Ollieur Rahman and Laurence Mills, who presented on the need to simplify and improve access to apprenticeship schemes in the UK.

Zewditu Gebreyohanes delivers her pitch
Zewditu Gebreyohanes delivers her pitch

Elsewhere on the night, medical student Michelle Sebele and law undergraduate Emily Yam pitched the winning policy, picking up the £1,000 cash prize with their idea to include looked-after children and care leavers in the Equality 2010 Act.

Hosted once again by BBC home editor Mark Easton, this year’s final of the annual policy-pitching competition saw stiff competition and high pressure as finalists sought to convince a formidable judging panel. The judges included former universities minister Jo Johnson, former Victims’ Commissioner Louise Casey, director of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership Professor Rosie Campbell, and Policy Institute director Professor Bobby Duffy.

In the end, Michelle Sebelle and Emily Yam’s simple but effective pitch to create a protected characteristic for children in care and care leavers stood out in the eyes of the judges. Their presentation also won them the audience prize worth £250.

Other standout performances picked up runner-up prizes, including Ash Ryan, whose proposal to empower patients on mental health wards was awarded the £500 prize for substance.

Former home secretary and visiting professor at the Policy Institute, Charles Clarke, presented the awards to the finalists. Mr Clarke highlighted the importance of initiatives like Policy Idol in helping to embed key communication skills and emphasising the importance of evidence-based policymaking. 

Now in its sixth year, Policy Idol is an annual competition open to all current students at King’s. Participants get the opportunity to develop world-changing policy ideas, and receive training and advice to help them perfect their pitch, which they then have three minutes to present to a panel of leading experts.

Former student finalists have gone on to forge careers in government, law and think tanks, or have been inspired to set up their own policy initiatives, often further developing their Policy Idol pitch to make it a reality. 

Mark Easton said: "It’s really exciting that the students going forward tonight can lend their ideas and their enthusiasm to become part of public thinking and policymaking.”

Bobby Duffy said: “Throughout every stage of Policy Idol 2020, the quality of ideas and enthusiasm of the pitchers have been a delight to see. Students have combined fresh thinking with a drive and passion to take their idea further to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges.”

Throughout every stage of Policy Idol 2020, the quality of ideas and enthusiasm of the pitchers have been a delight to see

Bobby Duffy