Giving students a voice

Lauren Sykes
Friday 8 September 2023

The Political Institute of Action Research (PIAR) is a student-run thinktank launched in 2022 by International Relations and Management student Svenja Schulz and Economics and International Relations student Hayden Siratt, under the mentorship of Professor Stephen Gethins and with funding from the University’s Scotland’s Future Series project.  

The original concept for PIAR was born from Svenja and Hayden’s Global Challenge Programme Project that they completed in their first year. In this project, they recognised a gap between academia and policymaking, and this gap has defined the decisions that they have made in creating PIAR.

Now in their fourth year, Svenja and Hayden have spent the last three years refining PIAR and turning it from an idea into the organisation that it is today.  In this blog, Svenja and Hayden talk about PIAR, its aims, and the work they have done so far. 

Giving students a voice in policymaking – the Political Institute of Action Research

By Svenja Schulz and Hayden Siratt

PIAR is founded on three pillars: research, volunteering, and career opportunities. These pillars work in tandem to give students the opportunity both to create change in their local community and to build the skills necessary for a career in the public sector.  

We launched PIAR in 2022 and throughout the year we made considerable steps towards our goal. We brought together eight additional people to form our committee and successfully affiliated PIAR with the Students’ Association. In addition to our committee, PIAR has two fully functioning research teams working on issues that are important to our local community: Affordability of Student Housing and Inclusivity in Higher Education. Both these research papers are now awaiting publication.  

Hayden Siratt (left) and Svenja Schulz set up PIAR

PIAR has also significantly grown its network: we were fortunate to have participated in roundtable discussions with the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture, as well as the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee. Further, the PIAR team was also invited to visit the Scottish Parliament and meet with the SPICe researcher on European Policy.

PIAR has also hosted a series of successful events, from a guest speaker event to more relaxed dinners for our members. These events have helped PIAR grow a community around the shared vision of improving the policymaking process in St Andrews, Fife, and beyond.

PIAR has spent the last year positioning itself in preparation to meet its goals next year.  

Throughout the 2023 academic year, PIAR is planning on continuing to engage with elected members within local government with policy research, bolstering our relationship with the local charities based in St Andrews, and hosting policymaking and NGO workshops for the students of St Andrews.

The PIAR team hopes to build on its achievements so far. By giving a voice to our students on issues that they care about and by assisting them in maximising their skills, PIAR hopes to improve our local community and prepare the next generation of leaders for careers in policymaking and the wider public sphere.  

If you would like to learn more about our society, stay up to date or join PIAR this academic year, visit our website and social media profiles (Instagram; Facebook; LinkedIn). You can also Join Mailing List to find out more about our work or just email us at

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