Bao-Chau Pham

University of St Andrews - Social Sciences
Bao-Chau Pham

Multiple Speakers, Competing Discourses: The Construction of Security in the 2016 Austrian Presidential Election

I'm currently studying international relations in my final year at the University of St. Andrews. I am a Laidlaw Alumni and was part of the cohort in 2017. My research project was based on the 2016 Austrian Presidential election. More specifically, I was looking at how the word security was used.

My time on the Scholarship can be roughly divided into 2 parts: the research component, where I undertook a research question of my own choice under the supervision of a leading academic in that field; and the leadership component which covered a period from spring to autumn with various workshops, guest seminars and 2 leadership weekends where we really got the chance to work on our leadership skills. At the end of my undergraduate degree, like any graduating student I was very lost at the beginning. But I feel like the Laidlaw programme really helped me find out that I wanted to pursue a postgraduate research programme.

Leadership and Defying Expectations

Prior to becoming a Laidlaw scholar, I had never undergone any leadership training. Now, I feel like it was one of the most beneficial parts of the scholarship because I’ve been able to become a lot more reflective and self confident. Going into the Laidlaw Programme my expectation was to really delve into the research topic and to do only that, but I feel that, especially through the leadership component, that I was able to develop as an individual and I’m very grateful for that. Now, I’m a Laidlaw mentor for students coming into the programme, and I support them with their questions and tell them anything they want to know about the Laidlaw Scholarship.


My research project was on the 2016 Austrian Presidential election. More specifically, I was looking at how the word security was used. The core message of my project is that the word security is not a fixed term, it can be negotiated and contested and I really enjoyed delving into that, not only looking at the literature but also the primary material. Doing the research, I felt like I was really able to develop as an academic myself. I felt that I was able to structure my own research, to manage my time, to become really engaged with academic literature and to be well versed in it. The nature of my project required me to go to Austria in order to access video materials. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to do that but I was actually financially supported by the Laidlaw programme to go to Austria.

Mentorship and Support

Throughout the whole research project, but also in the whole leadership component, I felt supported every step of the way. From the Laidlaw St. Andrews team to my supervisor to the administration, they were all approachable and always supported me. For me personally, being able to work under the supervision of one of the leading academics in the field was one of the most rewarding experiences of the programme. My supervisor was very approachable, and our relationship developed eventually into co-authoring an article, which was published in an online journal.

Going into the Laidlaw Programme I only knew of 2 other people who were taking part in it, but because the programme spans from spring to Autumn I was able to get to know lots of people, and I actually developed a few friendships out of it. I think that having those connections and friends will be very fruitful for any future collaborations, but even if that turns out not to be the case then I feel like I’ve gained a few valuable friends.

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