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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

Dr James Wood 2024 Winner of the Aaron Rapport Teaching Prize

The Department of Politics and International Studies is delighted to announce the 2024 Aaron Rapport Teaching Prize for excellence in teaching has been awarded to Dr James Wood

This is the second time Dr Wood has been awarded a teaching prize from the Department. He was jointly awarded the POLIS Teaching Prize in 2019, but this year he accepts the award on his own in recognition of another year of outstanding teaching.

 Every year, the Department of Politics and International Studies awards a prize based on student feedback to the individual who has best informed students' education in Politics and International Studies over this past year. It could be a lecturer, a supervisor or a seminar-leader, in any of the multitude of fields and subfields taught within the larger department. The award of the prize is based not just on the number of nominations, but also on what our current students have to say about why they believe the award should go to that person.

When students were asked to nominate an academic who has exhibited excellence in teaching this year, Dr James Wood's name came up again and again.  Dr Wood teaches the POL4 US/UK module for the undergraduate programme as well as postgraduate papers on Comparative Political Economy and Advanced Political Analysis.

This is just a brief selection of what some of Dr Wood's students had to say about him in this year's feedback survey:

James Wood has been the best supervisor I've had all year. He has conducted discussions excellently, ensuring everyone is on the same page in group supervisions. He makes it clear that it is okay if you don't know something, and will explain it concisely and accessibly. When you are unsure of something that perhaps isn't a factual example or a definition, he asks questions that leads you to your own answer - you end up being able to work it out for yourself even though you didn't think you had the knowledge or understanding to. In this way, he not only challenges me in supervisions, but allows me to leave supervisions knowing that I have improved and that my understanding of the topic is better without making me feel that I had missed something even if I didn't know automatically.

- Second Year Undergraduate



Probably the best supervisor I have had at Cambridge. I genuinely enjoyed the topic even in the times that I found it difficult. The supervisions were incredibly detailed, helpful and challenging but in the right way.

- Second Year Undergraduate



"James Wood has been by far been the best supervisor I have ever had and he has been so incredibly understanding and caring both as a human and in catering to my disabilities and needs"

- Third Year Undergraduate



Seminars were made inclusive and engagement by Dr Wood. Discussions were always fruitful and everyone was encouraged to join in.

- MPhil in POLIS



POLIS has been awarding a teaching prize for many years which has been won by both junior and senior scholars. The teaching prize was renamed the Aaron Rapport Prize in 2020 in honour of our late and much lamented colleague, who died far too young in 2019 and who was one of the most popular and engaging lecturers in the department. His lectures and supervisions on US foreign policy and international relations drew some of the highest praise ever given by POLIS students for their originality, their humour and their captivating quality.  In previous years, the prize was for undergraduate teaching only.  In 2023, postgraduate teaching was included in the prize for the first time.

When asked about winning this year's prize, Dr Wood said, 

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to teach so many bright, hardworking students throughout my time at POLIS. Cambridge is a highly challenging academic environment, and it is immensely rewarding to see students gain confidence in their abilities over the course of their studies. I am continuously inspired by our students' academic achievements and their desire to make an impact in the world, which fills me with hope for the future. It is very satisfying to be able to play a small part in their impressive growth as scholars and people. Knowing how committed they are to their studies makes winning this student-nominated award exceptionally special to me. I am deeply grateful to be recognised in this way by them.


The Department of Politics and International Studies would like to wholeheartedly congratulate Dr James Wood on winning this year's prize.

Read more about the Aaron Rapport Teaching Prize