As an earnest second year at Lancaster, David Watson remembers vigorously debating viewpoints with the lecturer about Machiavelli in a political philosophy lecture, then afterwards catching sight of the flyleaf of his copy of The Prince, and being mortified to see the professor's name, Russell Price, printed there as its co-translator.
"That was the level of scholarship we had there," says David, who is now Head of Campaigns for 10 Downing Street. "But this professor had been prepared to really argue and debate with me. There was a genuine desire to see students develop their own ideas and tackle the material for themselves."
This ability is vital on a daily basis in David's work, where he may be put on the spot at a moment's notice by government ministers to justify or explain some marketing decision or proposal.
No day is the same for David Watson. As part of the communications team at Number 10, his remit is to deliver campaigns on issues which are a priority for the Prime Minister and to strengthen marketing and communications capability across government . He is part of the team responsible for communicating on all the issues which aren't today's headlines. This means looking ahead at forthcoming projects on the PM's agenda and also suggesting projects that should be there.
A great deal of time is spent on the phone working with people in government and beyond, with a keen eye on the news agenda, trying to look into the future, putting together ideas and the campaign plans to back them up. David Watson is part of a small, close-knit team, so the ability to work together with others is vital. He is also in the peculiar position of working in a building which is at the heart of UK politics, at the same time as being the PM's family home. At any moment he could bump into the families living 'above the shop' in numbers 10 and 11.
Working at Number 10 has given him some unforgettable moments, such as the day Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited the PM there and all the staff were given permission to line the corridors and to clap her into the building. "That was really fantastic," recalls David. "You have the sense of doing a job that is really making a difference."
This is all a long way from Burnley in East Lancashire and the comprehensive where he decided he wanted to go to university to study politics. Lancaster was his first choice because of its reputation for the subject. He also liked the idea of living, socialising and studying on a campus.
Lancaster was what David Watson needed. He quickly made friends at Cartmel - many of whom he retains to this day - and soon became excited by his chosen course of study. "The teaching was excellent," he says. "It was also a fantastic innovation to allow students to study complementary subjects to their major - I did history and philosophy. It encouraged me to think independently about my subject. It was for me to make the links."
Many of the lecturers were national or international experts, whose books he consults to this day.
He helped rebuild the university debating society and, as its president, worked with the campus political party organisations in the run-up to the general election, to put on a question and answer session with local political candidates. This was an excellent preparation for his current role. Also useful, was honing his writing skills on the university newspaper, Scan.
Socialising was not neglected however. He admits that 'bar-related activities' were high on his agenda, including captaining the Cartmel pool team.
On leaving Lancaster University, he was not sure what to do. He had considered journalism, but realised it was, at least initially, poorly paid and with limited prospects. He took a communications job with a charity consortium in East Lancashire, with no boss and where he had to teach himself the ropes. It was enough to persuade him he had fallen into the right kind of career area for him.
After a year he was offered a job in the Department of Trade and Industry in London and has worked in senior marketing roles in a series of different government departments ever since. Notable projects in which he has been involved include drink driving, speeding and seatbelt use, campaigning and marketing for the national minimum wage and putting together the UK's approach to climate change.
In summer 2011 he had the opportunity to join the newly-formed Campaigns Unit at 10 Downing Street - an opportunity he says "I really couldn't turn down". The job clearly delights and challenges him.
David Watson clearly continues to value what Lancaster University gave him and maintains links with it. He has taken part in career fairs and has mentored students, as well as attending the University's management lecture series in London.
"Lancaster University helped me develop my own critical faculties,' he says, "To challenge what I heard and to come up with my own views. I was taught that the text book is the beginning not the end - your job is to interrogate and question."