From ‘Great Expectations’ to ‘Paradise Lost’: Ruminations of a Parting ‘Brandtan’

by: Mark Amaliya

Embarking on a rather circuitous academic journey, I have become inured to the emotional sensibilities of parting company least of all, sparing a thought to the memory of the institution itself. For all it is worth, “we meet some, we lose some”. Yet, like Achilles, there is always that insecure spot to our impregnable emotions and accursed as I am, time has pierced my emotions so deep, I only find it fair to scream out with pride, this sweet pain I feel.

Great Expectations

I arrived in Erfurt on the 10th of October, 2010 from Berlin where I had spent six long months convincing myself that I too could have Deutsch running through my DNA. Phew!  Mission Impossible was finally over and here was I filled with “Great Expectations” about my new school, well psyched up for what I had envisioned was a mean and lean institution filled with nerdy ambitious students and quivering at the thought of whether I could meet the standards.

But the Brandt school opened its doors to me like a lost son, an administration so benign and a student body so still…they were neither intimidating nor overly enthusiastic, just a set of warm hearted, multi-raced, men and women ready to do academic battle. And the last two years have been nothing short of thrill, the most of which social than academic.

Life at the Ivory Tower

Since its establishment in 2002 as the première Public Policy school in Germany, the WBSPP has swollen in size, expanded in scope and exploded in numbers. One fascinating treasure of the school has been its heterogeneous homogeneity, 120 students from 54 nations of nearly all the continents. Run your mouth carelessly and you will pay the price for cultural intolerance! With a very modest budget at its disposal, the Brandt school encapsulated for me, “the can do spirit” of a modern university. Unlike the Harvard’s and LSE’s of this world, the WSPP bridged the gap between academic status and intellectual deprivation. One may not be privileged to an Ivy League education, but certainly not denied the access to one. Although I spent a third of my time lamenting areas of improvement, the remaining two thirds depended on what this institution would mould me into and the missing third, what I could do for myself. And that is probably what I learnt- you don’t leave the Brandt school content, there is always that void you are challenged to fill out there.

Somehow, every student of the Brandt school suffers from the “WISPP” syndrome. Dealing with the “What Is Public Policy” question from outsiders has been one of the greatest traumas I have had to endure since gaining admission into the Brandt School. From an observer’s perspective, Public Policy is a monolithic discipline for which students should have no challenge explaining, and for others, Public Policy resonates with Political science or national politics. Often times, people confuse the discipline with the profession- studying Economics or Sociology, makes one an Economist or a Sociologist, so what are you? But for a ‘Brandtan’, we don’t do public Policy that way! It is no candy one can unwrap and gulp down with a swallow.

“Public Policy” is both a process and a product. It entails raw materials carved out of theories from a multidisciplinary perspective; a pool of actors and regimes namely states, markets and civil societies; occurring across space where global problems demand local solutions; aimed at both short and long term goals; combining objective scientific evidence, with latent political interest and ideological persuasions; all converging in the policy kitchen where political expediency combines with shrewd politicking to produce the “policy soup”. Of course the public reaction determines how tasty the policy is and how long it stays on the menu. However a policy is not only a dish to be served, it situates within a fragile implementation arena, where legal and political forces pit against one another, open to media scrutiny and left to juggle the dilemma between technocratic expertise and democratic authority or bridging the gap between theory and practice. Policy analysts from the Brandt School are thus market oriented, theoretically grounded individuals and I am proud to wear that badge of honour.

More than anything else, one could hardly ignore the Managerial style of the school’s administration. Rather than maintaining a sacrosanct academic disposition, the Brandt school runs along a horizontal plane, an eye-to eye level leadership style and a sometimes too laissez-faire composure to the student folk. One is guaranteed your academic license and is challenged to be innovative and initiative driven.

Paradise Lost

Life at the Brandt school has been a “quickie” (I mean literally!). According to experts :), you had hardly relished the consuming passion before the adrenalous outburst of strange vocabulary to rather familiar faces. Yes! This is exactly how it feels when you have built a sensational grid with friends for two years and you suddenly find yourselves screaming, sobbing, chest punching, clinched tightly in each other’s arms and muttering very philosophical sentences of how much you appreciate each other, while chanting down Babylon’s Favour on each other’s future.

Within the past two years, I have shared an intimate intercourse with the City of Erfurt, chilling in its cozy hideouts, flirting with its beguiling natural landscapes and increasing the size of my extended family with the addition of my host family with whom I share a tremendous bond. Don’t get me wrong, this has not always been romance ad infinitum…. We had our usual morning mood swings, petty jealousies and even ambitious rivalry, but we loved to hate one another for we were all we had. I came to Erfurt for a degree but I left with a family and a pedigree, if time were a bit lenient, I could have added a wife :).

This is a eulogy and an elegy, a journey through time and of the time past, a narrative about my most treasured secrets but one I cherish to spread about. It begins with a handshake and ends with a hug…this is written in my voice but echoes that of many…….





  1. Farooq Yousaf

    Great man, you should be applauded for such a fine, emotional and amazing piece of writing.