Showing posts with label economics degree ranking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economics degree ranking. Show all posts

Friday, 22 January 2016

better economics teaching

Related: Bad Economics Teaching for the twenty-teens from data on Unistats, 2015 Better Economics Teaching: some off-the-cuff suggestions based on being a 1980s student The British Economic Crisis - a similar book to Robert Peston written in the 80s - Star Courses: the least satisfied, most bored and lowest paid UK graduates, written 2015 Boring Economics Teaching is interesting: how someone managed to teach economics from memories of an old textbook at the peak of the worst recession since the 1930s, and tried to cover-up for government causing the recession. Journal Articles by Professor Les Fishman - unbelievable beliefs - 1980s recession explanations I wrote - UK unemployment 1980s from the Begg 1984 textbook

Introduction - skip this or you won't read more 

My writing style is rather muddled, with digressions all-over the place, and the ones on better economics teaching end-up here. Even though I have barely taught anything - certainly not at a college - and I have not been a student for a long time, so it's a bit daft to offer advice and suggestions to those in the trade. 
This follows a blog post called "boring economics is interesting" about studying economics at the worst of the 1980s recession, on a course that often didn't quite cover the 1980s recession, with large parts of obviously stupid rubbish. We studied the micro-economics rules of thumb out of a special stupid textbook called Laidler, which tried ot show that one could be derived from another, without other application or reference to fact. Why didn't lecturers change the course? Why didn't students like me walk-out? Those questions are still running in the late 20-teens. What was it like in 1985? It was odd because the college itself was a victim of whimsical funding changes, which I think are an economic problem. The Chief was a man who had been hauled before the McArthy or Todd Committees and probled about anti-american activities, like a teach-in-protest he did in his 20s at UCLA where staff and students just chatted about what they wanted to teach and learn. So he was a perky witness to the history of bad economics teaching. Where stupid teachers use a circular argument about subject names as an excuse: "economics is rubbish therefore we teach rubbish as economics", Fishman put the lie more simply "We have to teach this stuff in order to call this an economics degree". 

"It's nothing earth-shattering"

... said a tutor about one of the models on my 1980s economics course,

What not to do

We'd just studied ASAD model to be followed by the ISLM model which suggests the ASAD model is wrong although teachers know and students guess that both are wrong. They are about tweaking the economy via interest rates and government deficits up or down; both have been done to death. They don't get to the point by saying why UK factories close, which in the mid 1980s, was an interesting subject to students with no job prospects and our redundant parents.

In lectures, we also learned about Cow Theory, by which democratic welfare states should be run-down in favour of a globalized sweatshop economy and pay towards the process, for example through the British Council's Delphe programme which funds just this kind of teaching at UK taxpayers' expense. Oxfam commissioned a book called "Rigged Rules and Double Standards" to make just this kind of point. A group of people from the New Economics Foundation, I think, overlapped with a group called Futerra Communications and their fake trade association Ethical Fashion Forum, tend to make these kinds of points.

Professor Patrick Minford of Cardiff Business School gets to the point in saying that most UK manufacturing would close with unilateral declaration of zero tariffs against goods from China, and he thinks this is a good thing (Sun article quoted by Evan Davis on Radio 4's More or Less program). This is how ignorant economists are allowed to be; they don't all understand that the tariff is to protect the higher costs of a welfare state because that's another subject called Social Policy. There's more say about him, personally, that is polite; he demonstrates why economics is a failed subject.

What order to teach things in?

The post crash economics society call for teaching to start with problems, and to choose theories that help solve those problems. Lots of economics students might have had a similar idea, while listening to a lecture about something they do not want to know and suspect that nobody else wants to know either. If theory is taught in order to solve a real problem, then a large proportion of it can be cut and the Post Crash Economics Society suggest things like Game Theory that came-in after I studied. I was lucky

What to call the subject? Social Policy & Management Science?  Applied Economics?
I add this in 2018: a new idea.
Suppose the problem is subjects called "economics" and expectations of what to teach by applicants or all kinds, decision-makers at the college, and textbook-writers. For example because political and government economics, such as how to fund the NHS, seem to be taboo and of no interest to some students, while management science is a bit of an odd thing to apply-for at the age of 18 or 19 without any work experience - it's a bit of a fall-back geography kind of uncool subject a tthat age, however much it's interesting to people decades older.
Near me in London, someone tried splitting "Applied Economics" and "Business Economics", which are good titles. Then students got wary of spending £9,000 a year on course for people without great A-level results or history, and the "Applied Economics" course dropped for lack of students, which is a pity..
Another idea would be to have
"Management" or "Business Mangement" or some title like that next door to
"Social Policy" or "Political Economics" which is a new one I have just coined.
The idea is that "economics" becomes a title for one or two short courses on the notice board and not the big letters on the college web site that lure people in. Maybe less people come-in, but I understand that Economics has about as much attraction as Geography just at the moment; it isn't something you'd mention on a dating site. Whatever I think, college managers have the same idea. As I typed blog posts about Economics degree feedback on Unistats, I realized that some colleges like Imperial have dropped it altogether, despite it being a schools subject name. A student from Cardiff was quoted as saying something like "if they don't want to teach economics, why don't they set-up a new department to teach it?". I don't know, but the Open University has such a slow server for their Economics degree that it's very unlikely that enough people will apply to make the course viable. They have much quicker server speeds on other subjects. So someone at Open University is deliberately trying to get them out of the Economics market. As I said, it's not just me that wants a new name.

 What to study. What kinds of problems do politically-minded macro students want to solve?
  • Rules of thumb including bits where markets don't work so well as on the X-shaped diagram.
    Fair treatment of suppliers by big customers; fair treatment of employees by employers, fair treatment by big unions of employers (this last case could be extinct bar Aslef), fair treatment of union members by un-accountable unions (this is a common problem with UK unions).
  • critical understanding of economic claims in "The Value of Fashion" report of Heathrow Airport's report on the benefits of another runway or political claims about EU membership
    I didn't finish that list and grafted-on another one that I had already, which should have a different title

    Helping better jobs happen, including better jobs for new graduates;
    This is also something that economics students would want to study

    ...access to workshop space and fair planning rights to work at home; other ways of tweaking an economy to make sure that a list of good things happen like growth via innovation, employment...
  • trade directories that don't exist but that the government could inform from tax data, currently protected from freedom of information requests or government re-use by the revenue and customs act.
  • online markets cheaper than ebay's 10%. (This could be done by cajoling the current monopoly to present data standardised forms, including postcodes, so that small-ad gathering web sites could send customers to the more obscure small ad sites as well as to ebay.)
  • training for self employment and work skills, and
  • secured or well-judged credit (a tweak of the "British Investment Bank" desks at the Department for Business which lend a bit through P2P lenders to business)
  • customer appreciation of the benefits of UK-made products including their built-in taxes paid towards a welfare state
  • social insurance; fair tariffs against products from countries without social insurance costs (on a formula that would allow them to introduce social insurance and get cheaper tariffs).
One of the background, foundation courses that needs to be taught to anyone interested in macro-economics and politics is the structure of welfare states or social insurance systems round the world; which work best, and how they can cope if people move from the parish of their birth (as under the poor law system) or state of their birth more recently. This could be shared with a politics department in the same college, as the political items on the news are partly about how to cope with the problem, whether it is more percieved than real in causing unfair migration, and whether trade between non-welfare states and welfare states can be fair and free at the same time.

Other problems could emerge from whatever students ask about, and could emerge from books by the likes of Robert Peston, Evan Davies, or Keele's own staff and ex staff. There's a temporary transcript of the 1984 "British Economic Crisis" by Keele author Keith Smith here - and probably on a site later. It reads like Robert Peston and describes the decades before. People are trying to write online textbooks to get-around the obstical of a brick-thick-tome that has to sell all-over the place. One book I haven't read is on

Back to teaching

These suggestions for teaching are nothing earth-shattering either. I'm not well-qualified to comment on what to teach as I'm not a student, teacher, or economist.

Keele in particular

... was about bottom for economics student satisfaction on unistats when I first wrote this in the mid 20-teens; The Complete University Guide re-hash the data in a way that's easy to click.

Keele departments are exposed to bad feedback because they taught mainly joint-honours. Apparently 30% on a recent check, but 100% when I was there with a compulsory third subject in year one and foundation year for big chunk. So a subject like economics that gets bad reviews everywhere got worse reviews at Keele because students compare it to some other subject they chose for fun. If the trend at Keele is for more single subject economics students, and better feedback, it could be because the single subject people know nothing better and lack critical skills, so other improvements are worth a thought.
A way of checking this would be for someone good at maths to work-out which joint-honours subject combinations with economics give better feedback. My hunch is that traditionally-taught science courses, which teach theory first with plenty of algebra, go well with taditionally-taught economics which is the same. Leicester Uni has a BSc Economics course and a BA economics course. The BSc scored worse on 2015 Unistats quoted on my the Star Courses page.

When Keele departments get bad feedback, they have another problem, which is generally high expectations of Keele. I think that might make the score worse than a student would give for the same course at at a college that they expect to be bad, to have low staff ratios, to teach something they don't want to know. If the course is half decent they are surprised. Meanwhile at Keele, people travel however-far to live on a campus for a couple of courses taking less than half their time, so students are bound to be a bit dissapointed with the courses. There are also low scores for Economics at the LSE, suggesting that the high expectations of specialist students tend to be dissapointed too. And Brunel, and Goldsmiths.

Unistats also publish a graph. I don't know quite what it graphs, but down is bad.

More noisy, detailed data is shown on Unistats: : Checking in early 2017, Keele Economics scores better than St Andrews (specially their MA course) and most of the Scottish colleges, with the LSE, Brunel and Goldsmiths scoring badly too, but the gist is still bad for Keele.

College publicity often repeats Keele is number one for student satisfaction overall, and to hold-on to this boast the college needs to do something about economics. In 2008 they thought of closing the subject, but were talked out of it; it's hard to offer a lot of subject-mixing choices and not offer a popular subject. So something needs to be done even if the course is good; expectations need to be managed.

A long post called Boring Econimics is Interesting shows that there was a good economics course at Keele till the 80s recession, when problem-solving workshops of six students to one teacher were cancelled and replaced by classes of 25 students noting conventional wisdom from someone standing at one end of the room. The idea of a problem-solving approach, in which theories are yanked-in to the course if they help solve a problem, is mentioned on the post-crash economics society's report about how to sort the subject out.

It's possible to google the names of people working in this good department at the early 80s - they are mentioned in the preface of Kieth Smith's British Economic Crisis. A bit of googling finds two of them now teaching at Imperial College and one at Birmingham Uni. These are the people to ask about how to restore a decent course at Keele. The Birmingham one even writes about economics teaching for a living.

The reason for asking ex-Keele teachers is that Keele teachers have the problem of condensing a course  that's often taught over 90 weeks full-time into less than half of that. They face a broad intake of students, which is another problem for Economics courses where different students can have very different expectations I guess.

Any teacher who has taught a popular joint-honours economics degree could have good ideas too. I think that any prospective economics student would be daft to do a single honours degree. There would be too much chance of getting frustrated, seeing only other frustrated students, and dropping out while the keen ones are the least imaginative. I think that courses where people end-up doing economics next to a whole range of things are most likely to bring common sense to the subject, but how, exactly, on a Monday morning with 12 or 24 bored 20-odds scowling at you? Maybe that's why a tutor from Keele got interested in teaching about the subject.

I don't know if the page here relates to the white paper at all. This is more based on decades-old experience of being a student. I think it's better to make suggestions and show ignorance than to criticise without suggestions, so here goes.

Managing expectations; grouping people with the same expectations together

I think a problem with economics courses is high and conflicting expectations.
I remember that a problem on my course in all subjects (it was a subject-mixing college) was that the first bit repeated A level.

This is known to teachers and students, but there is no strong incentive or easy solution for dealing with it. The long process of passing exams and getting course offers seems to be a rationing ritual which serves no other purpose: once you are at college, you start at the beginning of the subject again. I don't have a solution to this and so shall move-on to the next subject.

Where to teach

I think holiday camps are a likely place, at least for courses about hospitality. Use them for teaching in winter and as holiday camps in summer. There's one holiday camp on the market to use all the year round according to this.

The need to teach in a physical place suggests some interaction between people that would not happen on a distance learning course. Students comparing ideas. Lecturers adapting the course to students.

From my experience of an under-funded 1980s course, this didn't happen on the course itself so the course could have been held anywhere, but being among students and near a library probably made it easier.

Another factor is that a lot of 18 year-olds most likely want to stop living with their parents full-time. They want to meet other 18 year-olds. But if they go to Oxford Cambridge or London, with extreme housing costs, they will boomerang back to their parents' spare bedroom after the end of the course. I guess that housing costs are extreme, because they are high in these areas. The particular cost is the cost of accomodation that an ex student might want or get, compared to the wage available on a job that an ex-student might want or get. Something similar applies for people who want to work at universities.

I have started a subject here without knowing where to finish it.and shall move-on to another point.

social insurance / social security / welfare state : passnotes

I think another problem with economics courses is their use of american syllabuses which leave-out social insurance, so I will explain social insurance for those who don't know about it.
Private payment plans exist for a lot of the things that the state provides - health care, school fees, pensions, and short-term loss of earnings - including the famous PPI scheme.
Assuming these plans are as efficient as a state scheme, they have a problem: you can't afford them on a low-paid job. Put in another ways: people without these costs can under-cut you; employers can get cheaper people to do the same job.

Parts of Germany had a compulsory insurance system for employed people from 1868. The UK and Ireland had compulsory membership of insurance schemes from the National Insurance Act of 1911 (the empire was not covered). India had a basic hospital insurance scheme for people in formal employment from 1948, just the minute Lord Mountbatten had resigned as govenor, and the UK nationalised its scheme that same year while adding a health service free a the point of use and a national assistance scheme to pay lower pensions or unemployment pay to the uninsured.

Compulsory insurance does not have to be run by government, but public sector give cheap deal. Government is, generally, efficient at vast uniform simple activities, and saves the costs of advertising, admin, and assessment that make up a big chunk of private insurance costs. The brokers' fee for motor insurance used to be about 50% in the first year for example. There is also a lot of saving in hospital admission costs in the post 1948 NHS system: you just have to prove that you are sick to get admission, rather than remember your insurance details. The NHS is much cheaper than the US system of healthcare. I don't know figures for how cheap it is to another couple of universal benefits - pensions and family allowance - but I imagine it is practically free because a computer can do most of the work.

What does "welfare" mean?
Nothing. It is a slippery word. It slipped into the idea of a "welfare state" I think because the 1948 system paid staff to help the unemployed get interviews and nanny them about in a rather awkward way - quite different to the insurance-like gist of the thing. I think it's also a book-keeping heading for things like buying a tea urn at the works canteen. The idea of nationally-employed social workers didn't last long and they are now employed by councils for child protection. "Welfare" is also a word used by economists and politicians who want to say nothing while earning high salaries from our taxes. I dislike them. Other than association with the "Welfare State", the word has no purpose when talking about UK social insurance. People who use the word are bad people to teach economics in the UK, I think; universities who employ such people a bit iffy and a bit suspect and not the kind of place that students should choose to study if there is a choice.

Is it any good?
Yes: there are great side-effects. You do not have to pay for a parallel system to keep the old sick and young uninsured off the streets; the people born with learning difficulties or the people who have never earned enough to insure, nor to run another system again for people you think are feckless rather than unlucky, nor spend time agonising about the borderlines between sad bad & mad, or between drunk, dotty & desparado.

If you consider health and education as insurance-like services, because they are used at parts of our life-cycles and not at others, then there are more good side effects. Mothers with access to secondary schools and health services tend to have fewer children and later in life. Parents who expect a basic pension and care in old age have less incentive to have a lot of children, which, in Bangladesh, it is common to do because you as a parent hope they will look after you in old-age. So a cycle of poverty and over-population tends not to happen when there is social insurance. Both China and Bangladeshi governments agree with this point of view. China has a "one child" policy and Bangladeshi government sends health advisors to go and persuade the poor to have smaller families, but neither yet has universal healthcare and pensions. I understand that the Bangladeshi system is like Victorian Britain: there are teaching hospitals with some state subsidy that keep bodies off the streets in the towns, and a referral system that tries to get fair access to them for people out of town. A good Victorian system to be proud of, but one that was improved-on decades and hundreds of years ago by better governments.

Problem: cost of means testing or admin still exists for some benefits
Costs mount-up again for means-tested benefits, for which you have to prove something like low income and affordable rent (for housing benefit) or unemployment and active seeking for work (for dole).

Problem: the state thinks the money is theres and runs the scheme like a charity
Where the state nationalises the system as in the UK in 1948, it tends to regard the money as its own, paid straight out of the current account as a favour, and this idea creeps into the methods of administration and political decisions such as benefit sanctions or housing benefit cuts. When I was at college, Edwina Curry MP came to give a talk. She mentioned how hard she had worked to persuade the civil service to give up the notional "national insurnance fund" that still exisited at the time.

Problem: the state doesn't plan ahead
Private insurance and pension systems try to have an expert who guesses how long pensioners will live or how many accidents will happen. An absent-minded government can forget that and then leave MPs to say, with a straight face, that there is "a problem of an ageing population", as though they only discovered just recently that people get older. They can accept taxes or national insurance payments for years, and then decide they'd rather spend the money on The Olympics instead.

Problem: structural imbalances
Insurance can only be compulsory in one country. What if someone moves? What if someone works cheaply in Rana Plaza in order to sell cheap goods in Rochdale? Governments have not been good at solving this problem, mainly because they studied bad textbooks at college which don't mention social insurance. As a result we have a mixture of sweat-shop and non sweat-shop countries in the world, with most of the goods made in the sweatshops and poverty not always reducing in those countries. One brief attempt to build-in a "social clause" into tariffs, requiring something in return for low tariff access to trading blocks like the EU, was quickly shouted down by sweatshop governments. Attempts to defend trade and industry in states with social insurance, by building tariff barriers, are generally dismissed by economists as something that tabloid readers want and that government should not give-in to.

Oh I don't know lots of stuff

I'm so ignorant I didn't know where experts on this subject write, but just now found  an introduction to social policy by Paul Spicker - a collection of open source textbooks and posts

by the way - sites were people post stuff like this tries to put ideas from sites like Manchester's Post Crash Economics Society on a non-geagraphic page and link to other similar. The good idea here of teaching from a problem to solve is pinched from Post Crash Economics. The Quango of Things has a cheat-sheets of what you are meant to discuss with an external reviewer if you want to run an economics degree. I have condensed their benchmark standards into a short box at the end of this post, leaving-out their introductions. Another site that comes-up on occasionally is Three of them have Wordpress technology in common, allowing them to publish stuff that would once have been in a little-read and expensive journal. There's a lobby group with very fixed views about the need to subsidise firms like Monsoon, but it presents itself as an open forum. More about Ethical Fashion Forum here.

Expectation: information that is fit for purpose, accessible & trustworthy

This could be the only subject where a quick email to the Quality Assurance Agency could get results, because facts might be clear-cut. The agency might agree that a syllabus or a course is so badly described that the description unfit for purpose, such as descriptions of the Barnsley Early Years course that's about bottom on Unistats. The agency might get the attention of people running the course in a way that a direct approach might not. The college managers might think a description of a "vibrant buzz" at a college and interview with a previous student is more important than a syllabus and notes of tutorial times, until they get questions from a government agency. London College of Fashion used to do a lot of that in prospectuses as well.

There is also law.

The common law phrase of "merchantable quality" was  included in the Sale of Goods Act, expanded to services & "reasonable expectations" by the 1982 Supply of Goods and Services Act.It is now defined for services by the 2015 Consumer Rights Act .
However often the law is re-written, it's still hard to define an education service so bad that students can get their money back, so they don't, but the act provides a few headings that could stop any institution being the first one to get sued:
#49 reasonable care & skill
#50 information to be binding
#51 reasonable price ... and no more
#51 in a reasonable time

There is a danger of college managers thinking that this means a tightly-drawn syllabus. Teachers reading this ought to try to get a bit of flexibility written-in so that different groups who want different things can be taught differently; students join and study or participate. As groups they differ a lot in what they already know and what they'll do on the course. Even if the teacher is perfect in every way, the group of students might not be. They have to join each others' company in order to study.

Talking of who gets on to the course, students on the more marginal courses will have wider ranges of reasons for applying, as there is less control by a college has on who faces them on the first day. This could make it a much better course, but there is a need for a skeleton structure, like a list of chaptors in textbook, and reasonable care and skill in using what students already know. The teaching on all courses - specially the well known full-time ones like the LSE - isn't likely to show reasonable care and skill in knowing what students already know. -
The Economics Corriculum and the Anglo-Saxon Model - Kieth Tribe, 2014
Students who have completed a two year A level in economics will have some initial advantage ...[that]... will not persist much beyond the first term. Hence students who have taken economics A level in school are deemed to have expressed an interest in economics, but not learned anything in two years that will help them beyond the first two weeks. [...]

Selective entry makes it possible to maintain [...] a routine, but attention can be drawn to the lack of connection between what pupils learn in school, and what their university teachers expect of them. The early specialisation typical of the A level curriculum, only three subjects being studied in the final year of school, is disregarded by university teachers, even though the subjects studied at A level have extended in imitation of a university curriculum, including business studies, psychology, sociology, dance, sports science, drama. Leading universities now routinely warn applicants that high grades in subjects such as these are not equivalent to high grades in the core subjects. But on the other hand, little effort is made to either build on what new students already know, or alternatively, seek to communicate to school teachers and school pupils to the school system what kind of competences are desirable for particular courses of study. Consequently, with the exception of requiring competence in mathematics, university economics teachers plan their work on the assumption that their new students know little of relevance.

It would be good it students could get a refund for behavior like this, but in practice I guess it takes extreme clear-cut cases like a college closing, before the remedies apply:
#54 refund and a general list
#55 repeat
#56 reduction in price

Linked searches of "Consumer Rights Act" university are on Google Bing Mojeek

Some people on the net are more clear in explanation and informed about laws than me.
There's a guide from Durham Uni that looks good and mentions other similar consumer laws. As taxpayers we've paid for a guide from the Competition and Markets Authority, which is on

The reason to quote law here is because I've copied an attempt at a consensus view from the Quality Assurance Agency, and it should be read alongside the law. A video of a previous student saying things like "you can do it", as at Blackburn in 2015, or a glossy prospectus about former students saying what a vibrant area the college is based-in, as at London College of Fashion's footwear department in the early teens, are asking for trouble.
Higher education providers produce information for their intended audiences about the learning opportunities they offer that is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy. - Quality Assurance Agency Expectation C
If an external examiner wants to talk about this on a borderline case or just because all is going well and there's time to talk about systems, I suggest these ideas.
  • Surveys of what students want from a degree - maybe in retrospect or with a sense of what the college wants to teach added-in. Particularly important for economics with its conflicting expectations from different students. Also in over-subscribed colleges where more than enough applicants have very good A-level results; there ought to be some other way of finding which ones would enjoy the course or opt for it, given a good prospectus.

  • Teaching staff able to describe their own course to applicants, and say what kinds of applicants have done well or enjoyed it. The role of central web PR or management staff ought to be to take-out vagaries and the over-statement, not to put them in, and their job descriptions job ads and responses to questions should reflect that.

  • Shortlists of new staff chosen to match what students want to study. So if student applicants want tutorials with someone like Robert Peston and a chance to test theories on the computer, then you can rule-out most of the applicants. Someone who's main expertise is in another economy and talks about "welfare" in the american sense should not be shortlisted. Someone who does not do tutorials, like Fishman on another page, should not be shortlisted. Someone who was a mathematician and then diverted to teaching game theory as applied maths should not be shortlisted. For a page about the process see here.

    I write without experience of teaching jobs or academia, but guess that something like this is done in colleges that do well.
Quality Assurance Agency expectations could be used as evidence if, in a rare and unusual situation, someone tried to sue for money back after disappointment. Generally people don't want to sue and the few who think about it find that reasonable expectations aren't clear in education: it's not like buying a faulty toaster. If they did find clear fault it would probably be at the most obviously failing college that did something like close before the end of the course, not a run-of-the-mill duff course that more-or-less gets to the end, but the principal of fairness ought to be the same either way when people think how to run courses.

  Default settings. Quality Assurance Agency benchmarks: Red, amber & green

1 ignorance / knowledge & understanding of economic concepts, principals & tools.
2 ignorance / knowledge  understanding of distinctive economic theories, intepretations, modelling approaches & their competant use.
3 ignorance / awareness & proficiency in quantitative methods & computing techniques appropriate to their programme of study, show an appreciation of the contexts in which these techniques and methods are relevant & how to use them effectively across a range of problems.
4 ignorance / knowledge & understanding of sources and content of economic data & evidence, and appreciate what / and of those methods that might be appropriately applied to its analysis.
5 ignorance / knowledge & understanding of how to apply economic reasoning to policy issues in a critical manner.
6 ignorance / knowledge awareness & understanding of historical, political, institutional international, social, and environmental contexts in which specific economic analysis is applied.
7 ignorance / knowledge in an appropriate number of specialised areas in economics as well as ignorance or an appreciation of the research literature in these areas.
8 ignorance / awareness of & familiarity with the possibility that many economic problems may admit of more than one approach.
9 familiarity and understanding / awareness of / ignorance of the idea of compulsory insurance, often state-run, with its cheap-deal method of evening-out typical payments and benefits over a life cycle. This is the main work of most European governments, but has to be ignored in order to sell textbooks from Alabama to West Virginia. Completely misleading concepts like "transfer payments" or a slippery american word "welfare" must be used instead. Substitute red for green and vica versa if studying history or social policy. Threshold level is amber; typical level is green. Point 9 is not on the QAA site.

Talk about talk

A problem with organisations that separate the mangement role from the foreman or lead role is that the manager has to make-up another job to do, which is of course thought to be worth more in pay per hour than the usual job. So an organisation selling quango client services on a grant employs a manager who is not at all interested n clients, but very interested in getting grants or any darn thing to justify a well-paid job out of the staff room. I have put this in a rather cynical way.

Anyway, cynical or not, there are different groups of people who study economics from the readers of newspapers to people who read money advice service web pages to A-level students to degree students.

Without extra talk about talk, I think that first year degree students should get a chance to pass an A-level if they have not done so already, and do something more sensible if they have already got an economics A-level. Like pass a few tests, revise bits they got wrong, and have time for another short course with luck.

There could be more that higher education teachers can contribute to the work of economics teachers at other levels, but as I write this I realise that it sounds like something the civil service is asked to do because of some mad minister that will never come to anything good, with the outcomes already known before anyone is consulted.

  Courses at other colleges

♦ checking the best places

Most teachers don't need to pinch ideas, but comparing notes as a way of keeping up to date with other syllabuses and book lists is a good thing. Colleges that run tutorials in areas where there have been financial crisis should be the ones to watch, if you want to pick up a good set of course notes. However put them together will have had to present them to seething students. Colleges that run "classes" or, worse, "recitations" are the ones to ignore or search for failed ideas. Google lists the places my ex-professor worked at UCLA and Colorado near the top of the bad list alongside Chicago, which says something about the Chicago school of economics. In the UK there is unistats data for colleges, based on the questions at the bottom of this page. Some of it is in a dense format that foundation economics students might work-out how to download and put into an open source spreadsheet. Some is search able straight from the web site menus including "Staff are good at explaining things", "Staff have made the subject interesting", "Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand", "I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies". A few quick sorts of the data by those drop-down menu options should reveal which UK colleges run tutorials, and so are worth closer online search for good syllabuses and book lists. These might show how they get good scores. Someone could probably write a piece of software that says a book or a jargon phrase referenced on bad-scoring college web site should get negative points and a book or jargon phrase referenced on good-scoring college web sites should get positive points.

♦ Getting new staff from the best places when comparing CVs

If new staff are asked for tutorial experience and asked about it at interviews, that can be a way of getting better staff because they will have learnt from the students.

♦ knowledge understanding and awareness of historical, political, institutional international, social, and environmental contexts in which specific economic analysis is applied

I have another post about a Professor Les Fishman who was sacked from UCLA California for failing to swear a loyalty oath, then called before a Senate Committee when working at Boulder Colorado after some anti-Vietnam protests. The Senate Committee were interested in communist conspiracies. The students were interested in a military industrial complex I found out more about him from someone who did American Studies in the department next door than from signing-up to his Economics degree course. The economics degree course I studied was taught in a farcical way, like this american one.


It's hard to see why anyone would sign-up to such a course except to avoid the draft to go and get killed in Vietnam, but that is something the courses and their supporting journals do not mention. Take Econometrica on Google Scholar, and search for "military industrial complex". There is only one reference. American Economic Review has 15. There are over 100 Vietnam war songs listed on a page of Wikipedia. From that ratio I conclude that Econometrica and American Economic Review are not good places to go looking for wisdom, although further funding is required for a more statistically clear report because many of the anti war songs may not have included "military industrial complex" in the lyrics, but that should be weighted against the difficulty of rhyming and fitting into short emotive lines.
Someone here at the Association of Heterodox Economics understands more than I do about journal rankings from the Association of Business Schools and the Keele List, which are a kind of top of the pops for journal articles in the eyes of people who award research funding. Someone who gets published in these journals would therefore be more of an asset to the department than a good teacher who does tutorials and learns from students, because the first one is more likely to attract research funding. Even someone like the teacher who published "The British Economic Crisis" with Penguin while working at Keele, or Robert Peston with his books about banks.
"The irony of this, given the history of the discipline, is clear. One can imagine Adam Smith’s head of department at Glasgow informing him that An Inquiry into the Nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations is all very well, but books don’t count. Keynes, likewise, may have been told that Cambridge were including his journal articles in the submission, but The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money would not be entered because it wasn’t bite-size enough."
You can tell I don't understand very much about this. Why should economic research be expensive? Why don't students help with it as part of their course? Isn't £9,000 a year from the Student Loans Company enough to educate a student without further grants? Lastly, if you happen to be a bigwig in the Department for Economics and Management Science at Keele University, why not tweak the list? It could include any books published with reasonable reviews or sales. There is also the option of investing a bit of cash in a trust fund, lent-out on P2P lending sites, that in a few decades could be used to fund research privately and save the trouble of asking for state funding. It could be a trust fund controlled by the Association of Heterodox Economics. The first £100 could come from the Fishman Bursary.

♦ Cosmopolitan good?
This overlaps with other paragraphs here about subject-mixing

Some of the overseas students at Keele from places like Malaysia were so polite that some of them who could afford cars bought UK-made cars in order to fit-in. Another one was keen to say that his parents were middle-class; they weren't oligarchs. The reason for putting a question mark after "good" is that a cut-down economics course, taught in ever-shorter modules and more varied course formats will stretch two things. It will stretch the social skills of students to get to know one or two other students, and it will stretch their ability to learn the peculiarities of any economy - let alone the one where the student will graduate. Economic history, I think, is as much a marmite subject as algebra and although I like it, I can't imagine a college getting a quorum together if a lot of the other students are from other economies. Even if enough students do sit in the same room, it's hard to callibrate the self censorship that makes anyone politely hold-back about polarising subjects, like whether the Co-Op is worth calling a co-op compared to John Lewis, whether trades unions really represent their members, whether benefits are good, ministries competant, and so-on.
She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge She studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College, that's where I caught her eye... - Pulp
Topics like social insurance are likely to be lopped-off the course, even though social insurance is the main thing that european govenments do. If the subject is taught, it's likely to be a badly-attended option because if I come from the UK and study in Greece, I won't want to learn about Greek social insurance systems am I? History of recessions is likely be lopped-off for the same reason. Why would I want to learn about the failures of Greek olive harvests and pecularities of an economy when not democratic in the 1950s, or about the tourist and shipping booms, if I come from the UK? The quality of representation by trades unions of their members is not a polite thing to mention; it's a bit controversial, so that will definately be lopped-off as will the economics of individual wage bargainers compared to the economics of unionised wage bargainers. To put it another way, these things would be good to be part of the rest of a students' education but can't be part of a degree studied as a module in one country and 2½ modules in another, not necessarilly learned just by talking to other students. The teaching itself is likely to become a bit like the mid-atlantic music that used to be played on Radio 1 in the Saville and Blackburn years and hated by students.
Other situations exist. The 1960s and 1970s students from Oregon who got points towards their degrees by going with American Heritage to live with an English family might have had much more constrained backgrounds. I don't know if they had to write an essay about the eccentric hosts and the stange silent Eejut-boy from boarding school who sat round family meals in the school holidays as I grew up. I know that one of them was a potential nun who asked "what country is it on the other side of the Thames?" and another - Big David who's dad was a motor trader said "back in the states they would have knocked that down ten years ago" about old buildings. I think that was a joke about himself - it was hard to tell. And another bunch had an accoustic guitar and sang "Puff The Magic Dragon" on the lawn to children, so they taught something too. I think those were situations that existed for students when cheap air travel was new, and how came from a place in the middle of a lot of similar places; they could travel in the US but not learn so much. Now that more people travel around in Europe, it's easier to get a tourist guide to another city, even without paying to live with a family and writing an essay about it; there is less need to travel as part of a degree course now and more need to learn about the system where you live.
I suspect a problem when Oxbridge graduates do short well-funded postgraduate courses in the USA and then drift back - something which at least three recent MPs have done and probably many more. George Osborne "attended" an economics post-graduate course in the states and then drifted back, probably more educated but none the wiser. He had the sense to admit that he just "attended", but others have had the same problem finding out whether the exam is worth taking or they are able to pass it; expectations are so different from course to course and place to place. Ian Duncan Smith pretended to have passed his Italian degree, and the Ethical Fashion Forum person I mentioned earlier did study something at St Martins College, just like the Pulp lyric. Same point from a staff angle
Keele Management School is seeking [sic] to appoint an outstanding academic at Senior Lecturer level specialising in the area of Economics. The successful applicant will already have a national or international research profile, have contributed to curriculum development and teaching in the subject area and will demonstrate a proven ability to attract external research funding and of providing academic leadership and management. The Management School has been identified as a strategically important area of development within the University and the successful candidate will have a significant opportunity to help shape this development. The individual appointed will play an active role in the School's research, teaching and enterprise activities and will contribute to the continuing development of the School profile at home and overseas. They will contribute leadership by undertaking research of national and international quality, contributing to the development and delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and will engage with the School's internationalisation and enterprise engagement agendas. We encourage applications in all areas of economics but are particularly interested to hear from candidates with strengths in the areas of Macroeconomics and/or International Money and Finance.
This rules-out a candidate who wants to teach that the EU, as a trading bloc with a lot of social insurance schemes in member countries, needs tariffs to up the price of imports from countries without a social insurance scheme. An applicant for the economics teaching job would be thought difficult to combine with the college's aim of attracting international students, attract research funding from the powers that exist, and if you want to read the cringeingly embarassing blairite bit "engage with the School's internationalisation and enterprise engagement agendas". Put another way: as a UK taxpayer you are paying for colleges like this one at Keele to preach a form of economics against your own interests. If you believe that social insurance or a welfare state or some-such is good for the people of the world - as I think most people in the UK do - then you pay tax to preachers who are not good for the people of the world.
"Economics as it is taught currently is disconnected from real-world events and policies. In many departments, much of the curricula in the last few decades have slowly lost all mention of contemporary events or facts. This means that students are not being equipped to engage in real-world debates. We believe economics graduates should be prepared to consider and react to the economic problems that the world faces, because societies are shaped by economic events and policies, which are in turn shaped by people’s understandings of economics." -

 Expectation of value for money, and others not mentioned by the quango

♦ Good to offer courses which are more-or-less free to run, as long as they are more-or-less free to take.

An online foundation year in economics with cheap guidance to pass online tests would be a good alternative to A-level grades as a way of choosing people to allow to study face-to-face. I am not sure how to make a soft return work on this software today, and so shall add a separate point to the same paragraph. Young students on campuses can do freelance work. Not easily, but with the help of a specially set-up business they might do shifts on stalls or piles of book-keeping. The book-keeping system would be for a qualified, well-proved person to check the work and for students to do it. Initially, firms of accountants might find the book-keeping work but soon a college could offer the package under its own name.

♦ Good to give parts of the course for free.

A college in a town could offer free lectures to anyone who turned-up. So a potential economics student could sample some or all of last year's lectures and maybe do a DIY stats course before trying to join the college, getting accepted and paying the fee via the Student Loan Co. 

♦ It would be good if more colleges published degree passes online.
Without any need to write-in with a signed letter to get a claim of a degree confirmed. That would reduce the share of jobs that go to fake graduates like Ian Duncan Smith; Camila Batmanghelidjh who's degree was in drama, and the person who set-up Ethical Fashion Forum, the free-trade lobby group. (The Ethical Fashion Forum person has a degree in development practise awarded largely for her work trying to set-up Ethical Fashion Forum and a thesis, but made-up her architecture degree, architecture career, and dress import company called Juste.) A public register would increase job prospects for honest people, and make degree courses better value for money financially.

♦ The Keele list: noting and contributing to cheap journals

Cheap journals are a problem. Few if any are free, so there is a cost to students via the library to subscribe. This is backed-up by a document called the Keele List. It would be good if academic employers noted contributions to cheap journals when hiring for jobs. It would be good if staff were encouraged to re-write articles from the most expensive journals into some free wordpress-based thing, so save college libraries having to subscribe to the expensive journal. It would be good if organisations like the Royal Economic Society used their own web sites to publish articles instead of commercial publishers like Wiley or Elsevier. The technology already exists on their web site - - but they use it to divert readers to a subscription service at Wiley. It could be good if new papers were published in some peer-reviewed wordpress blogs. I don't recommend blogspot and publish here by mistake, but is free, while Wordpress on a free server costs only the price of a domain name. A stickler for publisher's rights might say that the price paid to journals helps publishers keep-up the quality of contributions. My mum was secretary to the person under the person under Robert Maxwell at Pergamon Press, now Elsevier, that published new 1950s things like Journal of Transport Research and so Professor Fishman and J Stewart Wabe's rather good article on car clubs. My mother didn't think much of Maxwell as an employer, and refugee employees got far worse working conditions than UK-borne ones. Maxwell only got the complete ownershop by tricking and bullying his partner out of the role, and continued into newspaper ownership in the same way. Although my mother worked for Maxwell, I don't think she'd miss his successor's right to subscription fees from university libraries; I think she'd quite like them to break free.

♦ Shorter courses in economics can include a history of the subject as free video

It would be easy to offer a video list as well as a book list and a lecture list to students, with little pressure to study in depth or pass anything. The purpose would be to teach the history of a subject as background. The history of statistics could help students get the hang of how their stats manual comes to be, other than the obvious purpose of helping solve useful stats problems. The history of economics could help students get the hang of how their economics comes to be, other than the obvious purpose of being worse than useless.

 Expectations are hard to manage among economics students

♦ The quango suggests some student expectations

Expectation B could well be the same as benchmark standards specific to each subject, with the ones for economics is at the bottom of this page. The idea of an expectation for each subject has a down-side, which is that most courses follow it. I imagine that if a course wanted to offer something else it would be legal if well-described to applicants and anyone who asked, but am not too sure. My course was much shorter than most in the 80s, and spent most of its time on the theoretical parts of the first two or three points, or B-expectations, or benchmarks. 1) concepts, principals & tools 2) distinctive economic theories, interpretations, modelling approaches 3) how to use how to use quantitative methods effectively across a range of problems These were taught to the "threshold level", rather than to the point that they could used, and anything extra was squeezed-in to the course at a kind of minimal level to scrape-past external examinors' reviews. Now that more economics courses are short, there's more need to teach the application of theory at the same time as teaching the theory in order to avoid making the same mistake.

♦ Economics students' own expectations are very tricky to manage

When I did an English half-degree, I didn't have expectations. I didn't so much care that it covered Victorian poetry that doesn't exist, or Milton who is just bad in every way, and other old fiction. I hadn't done English before and just thought it was funny to be allowed to play and get life experience and that was it. It worked by teaching from an original source, and then finding something to say about it rather than listing some theories in case one day in life they allow you to have something to day, as Economics was taught. When I did the other half of my joint degree in Economics, I was taught a lot of old fiction on my economics course and I notice. Economics suffers from expectations.. There's a comparison to hospital complaints that says the same thing. Apparently the maternity ward gets the most complaints because the expectant have something clear in their minds when they arrive. If you give them a three-legged dog or a cat or the slightest little thing they get tetchy and they complain or they sue or make a fuss. I suppose it's the same with serious courses for jobs or for understanding how the economy works, except that economics students might expect quite opposite things to each other. Some want to be seconded from a career in order to learn obvious stuff faster and prove they know it. A sub-group take the same course in vein hope of a career. A third group want life experience and to sort the world out. As a note in the student halls of residents said - "Conference delegates and students are notoriously bad mixers".

♦ I don't know how to match a good syllabus to informed demand.

If economics students all wanted the same boring thing, they might give the same reviews as people on courses for pharmacy or surveying or accountancy. Students of subjects I'd expect to be boring seem to know what to expect as well; they suffer quietly. I think that a college manager, seeing bad reviews, should do one or two things. The first and most obvious is to expand popular courses and contract unpopular ones, slowly to avoid redundancy costs. This might be balanced against some greater good like wanting to teach useful subjects, but otherwise the market could decide. The second is also obvious but worth saying in case one person says it differently to another. It is to put time and thought into describing what badly-reviewed courses can do for the next generation of students and what they can't do. Students reviewers should be as careful when reviewing courses and probably harder on the bad ones. Maybe there ought to be separate streams of study for the students who want separate things as well. I saw a comment on The Student Room like "why do you want to study macro-economics when it's so hard to prove anything?". As a student I was opposite; I couldn't see the point of studying how to run a stall in place of, maybe, running a stall. (If the course had included time spent running a stall in a market I might have been more interested: I think fashion courses ought to include that, and a chance to do freelance work as part of a practical course could have made it worthwhile.) One syllabus at SOAS quoted a "course outcome", which was that students should be able to state the application of its statistics course to real situations. In other words, it's the students' job to think of a use for this stuff. Sir Humphrey would be proud, but there's a better way of doing it. Solve problems statistics as a way of teaching it, and good reviews will follow. If theories and maths don't come-up as ways of solving problems, they don't need to be on the course.

Trying to manage expectations among economics students

♦ Good to have some kind of feedback form for students to comment on job ads for new staff

This could be organised without the college's permission, by a student society or a group like rethinking economics, on a wiki. I hope that students would comment on the advert above and ask: how is it relevant to what I want to study? Quite likely, students would not have much to say, but if feedback helped match staff skills to student hopes, that would be good.

♦ Good to use external course reviewers who do not teach economics, but a more trusted and satisfying subject like English or History or Engineering

Otherwise there's a risk of one disappointing economist signing-off another disappointing economist's course, as happened at Keele from 1969-1987. For example signing-off a course that doesn't offer tutorials, or a course where students cannot assume sincerity in the theories given because officially they are "models"; a course where it's admitted that teachers teach theories they know to be untrue, without due health warnings and explanation. Examples are
  • the need to close UK factories with monetary policy in order to reduce inflation (it works by subsidising cheap imports), or
  • ignoring the benefits of social insurance and human rights when setting tariffs between Europe and Bangladesh or China.
Both topics are taught in a way that I think reflects lobbying of grandiose teachers by even grander lobbyists, probably in the USA where some senior economics teachers make more of their money by consultancy than by lecturing students and don't even bother with tutorials. In a sentence, the consensus is set by the wrong people. In mundane reality, textbooks have to sell in West Virginia. The country with a lot of econonomics taboos is also the country with a lot of students on minor or introductory courses who particularly want the 500 page textbook, officially published for students worldwide but particularly published for those annoying rednecks in West Virginia who won't tolerate a textook with a chapter on social insurance. Unistats shows that economics is more disappointing than other technical or social science subjects.

Better economics teaching: teaching everything at once in a way yet to be invented

♦ Learning without doing is a problem at colleges.

If students were to learn about some theory or other from selling on eBay, or attempting low-budget arbitrage on financial markets, or analysing real firms that ask for P2P loans, then there would be real life to go with the theory. A course could be advertised as based on whatever the open university uses, but with a good chance of using real data as well if staff are available. Since I wrote that I discovered that someone else has had the same idea. Q-step is the search term.

♦ Starting with problems to solve is good

Students with different expectations separate themselves according to the problems they want to solve - whether "unemployment" or "selling golf tickets". Also, students learn two things at once; they learn the problem and the attempted solution. The Open University programs The Catch and London's Markets are rather long for someone who just wants to tick-off the microeconomics part of their course, but they do cover loads of random information about the fish industry which is worth watching for that alone.

♦ Picking theories to solve a problem is good

Theories with little use are then left at the back of the theory box. Unexpected theories are invented or dredged-up from other parts of life. For example, if the problem is inflation, then better markets that help people find cheaper suppliers could be an answer. Now that global transport is so good, inflation isn't so much of a problem but the taxing of multinational companies becomes a problem instead.

♦ Research is considered a Good Thing by outsiders. I don't see why college students don't do the research, rather than their teachers trying to do it in the lunch break.

Or do it together with students, at least.

♦ I re-named this box to "teaching everything at once in a way yet to be invented", because that's what it suggests, but perhaps people who know more about teaching can tell whether it makes sense.

Hope: dealing with the algebra thing

♦ Hard sciences are hard because of the way they're taught.

They have the same problem as economics. They are loosing student numbers. They are taught, I guess from reviews, in the same way. There ought to be conversion courses for people who have only ever taught by lecturing about algebra to see what other departments do and give the techniques a try. Maybe the more obscure and smaller colleges should pay their staff for time spent studying second or third undergraduate degrees, just to learn how other subjects work. Maybe there is something relevant in the Nuffield Foundation's Q-step program, after their rather wonderful Nuffield Physics A-level course proved to me years ago that you don't need very complex maths to understand things; you can discover a lot just by looking at the objects.

I don't know if their A-level stats material is any better than anybody else's, but here is the link just in case. There is an opposite point of view which I don't understand but quote anyway.

I don't understand why it takes complex maths to know why a teapot factory closes. If it did require complex maths, I doubt the data is available; national data is rather aggregated. It doesn't tell you who makes teapots and who makes coffee pots - just some grant heading like "manufacturing".

♦ Stop teaching pure mathematics

The course at Leicester Uni that has more statistics in it gets worse reviews than the one with more applications. This could be because people who like pure maths get to study it and then go-on to teach statistics, to people who don't like pure maths. If lots of colleges teach a useless subject, there will be a glut of graduates in that subject and they will find ways of teaching other subjects, just as latin graduates were one common as UK school teachers. If the supply of pure maths graduates was reduced, that could be a good thing. It could force non mathematicians to fill any necessary gaps. I am sure they would do a less nerdy job, because I think maths is more of a mental condition than a science. I am sure they would do a job more understandable for students; the origin of a technique in engineering or surveying or whatever applied field would be more obvious.

♦ Start using paragraphs and prose

For some reason, economics teachers think that students would have trouble reading Keynes. I haven't yet tried it but the preface is OK. I do know that more and more people read stuff online and more and more people mix-up subjects, so the chances are that someone thought not to be able to read Keynes on their economics course is reading some obtuse book for another course at the same time in the same college.

Hope: information that is more than just fit for purpose

♦ Good to warn if a course copes with proper controversy and problem solving.

This is the BBC programme Greece with Simon Reeve: "with youth unemployment over 50% it's no surprise that so many of the young are angry at everything they associate with the establishment who they think have messed-up Greece". This is a problem for teachers. One year they're teaching students who do an Economics Joint Honours degree because they think it goes well with Golf Studies. Or want to know financial markets so well they can make a living on arbitrage. The next year there's a financial crisis and people want to know why factories are closing and taxes aren't being paid. On top of that there are fewer students. Swansea Uni has lost a lot of applicants recently. Those cross ones that turn-up are also more worried about living costs and finding work after graduating. When I studied there were maintenance grants that allowed more people to study, so more of the cross ones got a chance. At least Greek economists are aware of the situation and one tried being Prime Minister. My course in the same situation in 1980s Britain was taught by a man unaware of the problem. When asked why the latest factory had closed he just tried to think of a micro-economic answer and then said "I don't know". There was pretend controversy like Punch and Judy. One of the textbooks said so in the title. It was called "Macro-economics An introduction to Keynesian-Neoclassical controversies", but that's different to the controversy outside the window of 4 million people unemployed and a fifth of manufacturing already closed by one daft policy which a student reasonably expects to talk about.

♦ Good to separate economics from management schools

When economics started, with its grand 1950s Macro theories, it was a replacement to the quaint little old subject of Business Administration which can't easily be scrubbed-up to look like a degree for undergraduates. People were sent on the course by their employers, along with touch-typing and shorthand, and that's still how management schools should be used; to put "business" in the title of a university department doesn't make sense. Graduate prospects prove the point. If you are not an employee, and want to study business, you would do better with a stall and a web site and some P2P lending investments, then to do a short course while you are trading. If you are not an employee or a stallholder, you end-up on the dole as a business graduate. I exaggerate a bit - I'm thinking of University of East London's hospitality degree - but the same is partly true of a lot of people who graduate in management. They're a different bunch to the people who study economics alongside politics or something else, and could maybe find a trade at the end of it all with a bit of help.

♦ Good to offer an A level course for people who haven't done it before
The syllabuses will be on web sites linked from Wikipedia on A-levels, and similar
That way, students who haven't done the first year of the course before will get a certificate for it, and students who have done the first year before will know that this is a bad idea. They'll either not come on the course or they'll ask for a separate teaching stream that's just a quick revision. 

Good to offer a course for A-level economists without maths
"The aim is to introduce Economics in the analytical manner commonly adopted at University level. (Students should be aware that it is now accepted wisdom that those with A level Economics do less well in Economics degree results than those without A level Economics.)" - Keele Economics prospectus, 1996 describing the economics introductory course. I don't believe that university teaching is more analytical; I think it just has more twiddly bits added to the standard theories, if I judge from student feedback online and my own Keele study, ten years earlier. If university teaching were more based on facts, then it would be more analytical, but I don't remember many clear facts used and the international nature of university economics teaching can make a lot of the teachers and texts more ignorant of the UK economy than a typical A-level class.

Rather than more analytical, I remember the maths component being worse edited.
Here is an example from Economics, British Edition, Begg, 1984, p439:
Retail price indexes are shown in a table as 237.7 for 1981; 218.9 in 1982.
"The annual inflation rate is simply the percentage increase in the RPI over the corresponding figure one year earlier. Thus in 1982 the 8.6 per cent inflation rate is calculated from

100% × (237.7 - 218.9) / 218.9 = 8.6%"

Here is a less twiddley way of saying it: 237.7 / 218.9 is 1.085; 108.6% higher, showing an annual inflation rate of 8.6%.
♦ Good to say the reasons a course is hard to teach.

Where a college currently states "buzz" and "vibrant" as characteristics, in the softer part of their descriptions, they could include a video interview with the department boss saying what the course is good for and who has been disappointed in the past. For example I read that people with economics A level are particularly disappointed with economics degrees and do worse at them. That's weird. It would be a good thing to mention in a few paragraphs of prose or a video. Peer-review teachers from other colleges should ask for this too. For example they should ask Keele Economics teachers could say something about how their short courses compare with economics as part of PPE, and demonstrate that they are aware of how other teachers cope, and how a course suits some kinds of students better than others. I don't know if Keele offers more chopped-up courses than other colleges now, but it did when I was there in the 80s so I pick that example.

♦ Maybe award points on top of the standard UCAS score for subject mixers

The idea of a specialist who has done three social sciences at A-level at an academic school, does a full-time degree in the one subject of economics, and then perhaps does a post-graduate qualification is good. There's nothing wrong with it. A note saying that subject-mixers are given slightly better offers on a college web site could help applicants, if it also helps teachers and students on the course. Meanwhile, shrinking colleges have to think which exam-flunking students to accept from the UCAS clearing system. If a course suits subject-mixers, who have more trouble getting good grades, then maybe a college offering that couse should consider lower scores from subject mixers. If I remember the system from school, the best grades went to people who did double maths and traditional physics for three A-levels, the next best went to people who did all essay-based or all science-based subjects, next came subject-mixers, and then came people who got rather cross with life or school as teenagers which is common. These people would do worse at A-level than at mock A-level exams a year earlier.

♦ Maybe design bits of courses for subject mixers

If you have enough students studying English and Economics, it would be good for them to have an option to write an economic analysis of a Jane Austin novel or a literary criticism of Paul Samuelson's 1948 textbook. If possible. I don't know if somone in an economics department could do a lecture to Eng. Lit students on economic history at the time of Jane Austin or Dickens.

♦ Good to mention nuffield science subjects as a good grounding and make sure that it is, because it it should be.

Students who have done Nuffield science subjects know that algebra and shorthand is a way of showing-off and complicating, that distracts from the pattern. They expect to be told the reasons for things rather than a formula with "Fred's Law" written after it. This can only be good for an economics department. I suggest that college staff should sometimes try to keep-up with what Nuffield Foundation teaching is like, and what ex Nuffield A-level students think of their current economics course.

♦ Extra boxes on feedback forms: do you know of other science courses that have influenced your verdict, such as types of A-level or other friends and family doing other economics courses?

It's already noted on some academic prospectuses that people who have done A-level Economics do less well than those who approach the subject fresh, which is odd. There's an example of an economics professor's own child failing an economics degree on another page here, which might be a lead for research too. Maybe there is some way of getting contact details for lots of economics undergraduates who have family members teaching the same subject, and to find out what they think and whether they passed the exam.

♦ Craft courses
Grammer schools and universities were designed, I guess, to lift students out of practicality into the worlds of latin and algebra. As more universities and grammar schools sprang-up, the polytechnics joined-in too because these courses have a higher social status, are cheap to teach, and attract lots of applicants for teaching jobs as well as student places.

Some craft courses like phychology can be interesting in themselves, but easily adapt to the trade of being a psychologist. If there is a good supply of psychologist courses, or people enjoyed the course as general education, that's good.

Some craft courses like law lead to jobs that are over-applied for, so that students have to start at the beginning again as barely-paid or unpaid articled clerks in solicitors' offices just to get the work experience that employers want to go alongside a degree. The same is true, I guess, of journalism or fashion design. These are courses that should really only be taught to people on a sandwich scheme - combined study and work experience. One of the problems is that students are not helped to become self-employed or join new firms. There can be a shortage of cheap lawyers and a shortage of jobs for law graduates at the same time; colleges need to bridge the gap somehow by setting-up law firms with expert supervision, or training students in self-employment.

Some craft courses like fashion manufacturing, scaffolding, plastering, or maybe shorthand, lead to jobs that you can get if there isn't a recession. Even in a recession, there is a chance of self-employment if you find some niche market like scaffolding for windmills (I guess) or some such. So there is scope to offer craft courses as minor subjects alongside economics, just to get people started in work when they graduate.

Trade qualifications and help with self-employment bundled with a degree course

♦ I don't know if there are any trade qualifications that could be combined-into an economics degree. show an Ex-MP trying to earn money from book-keeping so maybe students could do it. (The professor at Keele had worked as a docker and company finance manager in between teaching jobs, although you wouldn't guess it from meeting him.) It isn't a requirement to do book-keeping but it is a confidence-booster. Ulster University managed to get the first third of an accountancy trade qualification combined into their economics degree, but then left a lot of graduates reporting £14,000 a year salaries after graduation because the ulster economy had no need of so many trainee accountants to do the second and third parts of the training on the job at an existing firm. I don't know if there are similar certificates available for doing commonly advertised jobs in software that economists might use. For example, some freelancers' web sites have online certificates in using certain pieces of software. I left college during a recession and see that lots of people get some kind of job after graduation nowadays, but recessions come round again and McJobs are hard to escape. There are also courses like Hospitality and Tourism Studies at the University of East London that have strangely few employed graduates. My hunch is that students should learn a free or open source piece of software for any freelance work they do, and an in-demand one for getting advertised jobs, if that's different. And an NVQ in frying chips if that suits the course.

♦ In a college that does a lot of short courses as well as the main subject(s)

A course on autism from the Psychology and History departments would be good, for the benefit of science and social science students who should have it as a compulsory course. I don't know anything much about autism but feel clever for having written this here. The idea is that a lot of scientists like Turing and Newton have been a bit odd, and with the help of the college system of their times have done well, but maybe their oddness has effected the textbooks and teaching traditions over the years.

♦ Better economics funding already exists if students give fair reviews

The student loan system and the national student survey are annoying. A grant for students to live on would be nice. Repeated reviewing is not nice. But there is some sense to idea of money following the student. I remember the system of most money following the organisation, and have worked in systems like that. Power follows the money down the funding chain, with the provider and customer fighting for bottom place on the chain. Machiavellian grandees discuss the funding body's latest policies in hushed tones. The current system allows most money to follow the student, so that popular courses - not just popular colleges - can expand, if they do it gradually without becoming unpopular. The courses like Glasgow Uni Economics that sit first year students in front of robotic computer programs for a year will get less applicants. Interesting courses like the one at Kingston will get more. As there are far more graduates than jobs requiring graduates, people will think: "If I'm not enjoying this and not getting a better career, why do it?". If students are absolutely fair in advising each next generation of students what to expect, then the worst courses will close and that will be a good thing. If courses are absolutely fair and detailed in saying what they offer, then fewer students will go on the wrong course and give bad reviews. Someone might even find a way of setting-up good degree courses from scratch for less money. All you need is ivy, somewhere to sit, and access to degree-awarding powers. I benefit from the grand distance of a blogger. I am sure things are not nearly as grand and clear as this in practise.

A newspaper article about job prospects said that a degree from a Russell Group University would get you a job interview; a degree from University of Surrey will not, and to pretend so is to lie to course applicants, even (by implication) they have to go on a worse course to get the kudos. I think the example was law degrees and the kind of solicitors' firms that have stratospheric salaries for partners at the top with next to no pay for new recruits at the bottom. I have no idea what a Russell Group University is and don't want to know.

Another example "Everyone came across as very smart and terribly eloquent – with a shared frame of reference that I just didn’t get. When I told my minister that I’d gone to Keele University, she responded sniffily, “That’s not on the list, is it?” I still don’t know what list she meant." - quote from a civil servant

The solution to this snobbery is for snobs to stop being snobs, but until that happens there is a next-best solution, which is for more people to become self-employed and set their own rules of snobbery if they ever become employers. This ought to be easy among professionals setting-up law firms. Slightly harder among manufacturers, but nonconformists did a good job helping the industrial revolution get going when they weren't allowed to go to Oxford and Cambridge; maybe non-snobs can do the same now.

The need not to teach things twice to the same students after A-level
The possibility of cheap courses

There are plenty of colleges with vice chancellors earning ten average wages, plus air fairs to liaise with other similar vice chancellors around the world. It would be nice if teachers and students could get together in some way that ♦ Got degrees for some of the students - maybe from a distance learning college ♦ Taught good things with small tutorials ♦ Met somewhere nice and comfy, near cheap places to stay, or near where applicants already live. Maybe in rooms above council libraries. Ivy would be nice. Big chairs. Good coffee. Wifi. A view out of the window. ♦ Had a workload compatible with living on a very low wage or working alongside ♦ Often lead to life experience outside of study for students who wanted it ♦ Might combine with some available job for people who wanted to work their passage ♦ Was recognised by the Student Loans Company, the UCAS clearning system, and Unistats. For example the worst-rated college on Unistats at Burnley is a place that coaches for degrees at Huddersfield University; it doesn't award degrees but it is part of the system that attracts students.
Nuffield Library, Keele University 1986. A standard looking desk for students to borrow dozens of copies of the same book for a short period, allowing a foundation year course to a large number of students to run without massive book-buying costs to them
Keele library kept dozens of copies of books in the short-term loan section, so that dozens of students on the same course could borrow at once. The section began with a grant from the Nuffield Foundation
♦ Had a fund for buying second-hand text books and donating them to local libraries so that enough are available for everyone to borrow whatever's needed each week. This idea is in response to which suggests perception of high book costs by students, who don't have an income and don't choose the book list directly. is a good example for finding copywrite-free sources that are easy to find online, but they have trouble and state that most of their courses are cancelled for lack of copywrite-free sources. Second-hand printed copies are another way-around. (The college where I studied had a £20,000 grant from the Nuffield Foundation to run-short term library loans to people mainly on a foundation year. The system was staffed and stocked to lend-out 20 or 50 copies of the same book in the same week if planned in advance with teaching staff. Keele Foundation Year was an unusual scheme in the UK in the mid 1960s when the grant was given, so similar applications may not get the same response now, but I think it was money well-spent. The current web site even has a photo of the short term loan desk from 1986, when libraries looked pretty much as they did thirty years before or after). I don't think that any of these things requires a vice chancellor on ten average wages. The course would need to find a degree awarding body to co-operate and write a syllabus, or use an existing one. There is only one distance learning economics course listed on Unistats, which is the £5,000 Open University one, but there are plenty of part time ones which somebody keen could research further. Somehow, in my head, part-time and distance learning are connected. Anyway, sufficient demand could persuade these colleges to tweak their offer, and some UK colleges offer distance learning to people outside the UK so they might be persuadable. I have another post about unistats on the Star Courses page which shows whether any of these are notorious.
  1. BSc (Hons) Economics

    Part time
    Birkbeck, University of London 1 location: Birkbeck College - Bloomsbury Campus
  2. BSc (Hons) Economics

    Part time, Optional foundation year
    Cardiff Metropolitan University 1 location: Llandaff Campus
  3. BSc (Hons) Economics

    Part time, Optional year abroad
    The University of East London 1 location: Stratford Campus
  4. BSc (Hons) Economics

    Part time, Optional sandwich year, Optional year abroad
    University Of Greenwich 1 location: Greenwich Campus
  5. BA (Hons) Economics

    Part time, Optional sandwich year, Optional year abroad
    University Of Hertfordshire 1 location: University Of Hertfordshire
  6. BSc (Hons) Economics

    Part time, Optional year abroad
    Kingston University 1 location: Kingston University
  7. BSc (Hons) Economics

    Part time, Optional sandwich year
    London Metropolitan University 1 location: Moorgate Site
  8. BSc (Hons) Economics

    Part time, Optional year abroad
    London South Bank University 1 location: Southwark Campus
  9. BSc (Hons) Business Economics

    Part time
    Anglia Ruskin University 1 location: Cambridge Campus
  10. BSc (Hons) Financial Economics

    Part time
    Birkbeck, University of London 1 location: Birkbeck College - Bloomsbury Campus
  11. BA (Hons) Business Economics

    Part time, Optional foundation year
    Cardiff Metropolitan University 1 location: Llandaff Campus

Current National Student Survey questions, including optional follow-up questions and extra questions for NHS students

Main Questionnaire

Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Not applicable

The teaching on my course

1. Staff are good at explaining things. 2. Staff have made the subject interesting. 3. Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching. 4. The course is intellectually stimulating.

Assessment and feedback

5. The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance. 6. Assessment arrangements and marking have been fair. 7. Feedback on my work has been prompt. 8. I have received detailed comments on my work. 9. Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand.

Academic support

10. I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies. 11. I have been able to contact staff when I needed to. 12. Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices.

Organisation and management

13. The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned. 14. Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively. 15. The course is well organised and is running smoothly.

Learning resources

16. The library resources and services are good enough for my needs. 17. I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed 18. I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities, or rooms when I needed to.

Personal development

19. The course has helped me to present myself with confidence. 20. My communication skills have improved. 21. As a result of the course, I feel confident in tackling unfamiliar problems. 22. Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course. Looking back on the experience, are there any particularly positive or negative aspects you would like to highlight? (Please use the boxes below.)

National Student Survey Bank of Questions (Optional)

Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Not applicable

B1. Careers

As a result of my course, I believe that I have improved my career prospects Good advice is available for making career choices Good advice is available on further study opportunities N/A

B2. Course Content and Structure

All of the compulsory modules are relevant to my course There is an appropriate range of options to choose from on my course The modules of my course form a coherent integrated whole

B3. Work Placements

Did your course involve any work placements? Yes (ask all questions in this section) No (skip this section) I received sufficient support and advice from my institution about the organisation of my placements My placements were valuable in helping my learning My placements have helped me to develop my skills in relation to my course My placements have helped me to develop my general life skills The taught part of my course was good preparation for my placements

B4. Social Opportunities

I have had plenty of opportunities to interact socially with other students I am satisfied with the range of clubs and societies on offer I am satisfied with the range of entertainment and social events on offer

B5. Course Delivery

Learning materials made available on my course have enhanced my learning The range and balance of approaches to teaching has helped me to learn The delivery of my course has been stimulating My learning has benefited from modules that are informed by current research Practical activities on my course have helped me to learn

B6. Feedback from Students

I have had adequate opportunities to provide feedback on all elements of my course My feedback on the course is listened to and valued It is clear to me how students comments on the course have been acted upon

B7. The Physical Environment

Security has been satisfactory when attending classes My institution provides an appropriate environment in which to learn

B8. Welfare Resources and Facilities

There is sufficient provision of welfare and student services to meet my needs. When needed, the information and advice offered by welfare and student services has been helpful

B9. Workload

The workload on my course is manageable This course does not apply unnecessary pressure on me as a student
The volume of work on my course means I can always complete it to my satisfaction I am generally given enough time to understand the things I have to learn

B10. Assessment

Teaching staff test what I have understood rather than what I have memorised Assessment methods employed in my course require an in-depth understanding of the course content

B11. Learning Community

I feel part of a group of students committed to learning I have been able to explore academic interests with other students I have learnt to explore ideas confidently within my course, I feel my suggestions and ideas are valued I feel part of an academic community in my college or university

B12. Intellectual Motivation

I have found the course motivating. The course has stimulated my interest in the field of study The course has stimulated my enthusiasm for further learning

National Student Survey Questions for NHS-Funded Students only

Definitely agree Mostly agree Neither agree nor disagree Mostly disagree Definitely disagree Not applicable

N3 Practise placements

I received sufficient preparatory information prior to my placement(s) I was allocated placement(s) suitable for my course. I received appropriate supervision on placement(s) I was given opportunities to meet my required practise learning outcomes / competences. My contribution during placement(s) as part of the clinical team was value. My practise supervisor(s) understood how my placement(s)related to the broader requirements of my course. N/A

Other posts about economics teaching

Related: Bad Economics Teaching for the twenty-teens from data on Unistats, 2015 Better Economics Teaching: some off-the-cuff suggestions based on being a 1980s student The British Economic Crisis - a similar book to Robert Peston written in the 80s - Star Courses: the least satisfied, most bored and lowest paid UK graduates, written 2015 Boring Economics Teaching is interesting: how someone managed to teach economics from memories of an old textbook at the peak of the worst recession since the 1930s, and tried to cover-up for government causing the recession. Journal Articles by Professor Les Fishman - unbelievable beliefs - 1980s recession explanations I wrote - UK unemployment 1980s from the Begg 1984 textbook
ukgovernmentconsultations - migration advisory committee call for evidence on the effect of international students
International students' effect on providers in expensive areas who provide the worst courses

International Student Course Satisfaction
Table of feedback scores for the economics degrees for the universities that take most international students. Most of the courses are at the bottom of the league table for student feedback

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