Home > The Economics Profession > Media Release: Attempt to close down non-neoclassical economics department

Media Release: Attempt to close down non-neoclassical economics department

Media Release – UWS proposes to axe Economics as a result of funding cuts

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) received $14 million less than anticipated this year as a result of the government’s uncapping of university enrolments. Uncapped enrolments at inner city universities have risen whilst enrolments to UWS are expected to decrease.

Of the cuts suggested in an effort to balance the budget, Clive Smallman – Dean of the School of Business – proposed that the Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Economics (Honours) no longer be offered at the institution, effective 2013. 

In 2010, UWS received 455 total applicants for the Bachelor of Economics. In 2011, this figure fell to an alarming 215 applicants. This year, the university recorded just 19 first preferences for this degree, compared to 70 first preferences in the previous year. A member of staff stated that these figures are unrealistic, as these figures are based on first round offers. He noted that course preferences change constantly, with most preference updates made in January. Moreover, even with uncapped enrolments, competing universities have limited placements on offer and students who aren’t offered their first preference would have to seek entrance to other institutions.

A senior economics lecturer at UWS raised the concerns of several students who had intended to complete their Honours degree in Economics at UWS. Among them, one student had received a cadetship from the Reserve Bank dependent on his enrolment into Economics Honours.

Another student had taken six months to further strengthen her foundations in econometrics and perfect her research proposal. She stated, “To be honest, it’s been incredibly stressful and I’m finding it quite hard to apply myself to my current studies when I’m not sure if it’s even going to happen.”

A third student reiterated, “Recently there have been seemingly unfettered spending on cosmetic projects, and that should not be at the expense of [the] economics program. After all, how many interested students will prefer a landscaped and manicured campus over a proper economics program?”

In a 2012 publication of ‘The Economic Society of Australia’, Tim Thornton stated that the School of Economics and Finance at the University of Western Sydney appeared to be laying the best foundations for the future. Thornton explained, “Its explicit stress on economic controversy (rather than consensus) and its embrace of both theoretical and methodological pluralism are consistent with such a vision.” What happened to the prestige of an Economics degree at UWS? Unbeknownst to many, the majority of graduates recruited by the Reserve Bank in 2012 were from UWS. One lecturer highlighted that the university had never let them market the Economics degree to prospective high school leavers before. The lack of marketing as well as the government’s new policy allowing uncapped enrolments, have since declined first preferences for the institution.

It is not just students who will be negatively affected by the scrapping of Economics. One lecturer expressed his contempt for how staff are treated by this proposal. With 28 staff in the Economics and Finance discipline, UWS hopes to make 10 (just over 35%) of them redundant. Staff had previously called for a change to upper management whom now face the accusation of only being concerned about saving their own job security rather than ensuring the wellbeing of staff and students.

In a recent forum organised by Cathy Xiao Chen (member of the UWS Student Representative Council), Deputy Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Hawkins indicated that current students wanting to complete their degree and begin Honours in Economics next year would not be affected. However, many foresee that the future of the Bachelor of Economics beyond that looks much less promising. At this same forum, Christopher Wilson, Parramatta Chair, established that “If the reality on the ground [at UWS] matched the [corporate] rhetoric, this forum wouldn’t have been needed.”

This last minute proposal indicating the closure of Economics was released to staff on Monday at 5pm. It may have drastic implications for Honours students at UWS, particularly as the move has not allowed ample time for students unable to continue their studies at UWS to apply to transfer to other universities as applications have now closed. For currently enrolled Bachelor of Economics students, adverse effects would be less drastic as the university has a duty to these students and so would continue to offer core subjects to students until the degree was phased out. However for future students, a reliable source confirmed that only a first year subject, Principles of Economics would be offered alongside Property Economics to students wishing to study economics.

Interestingly, it was also noted that students were not advised of this intended proposal by the management of the university. One also cannot help but notice the timing of this proposal. With the semester finished and exams looming ahead, even if students were to gather wind of this, they would not be able to, nor have the time to protest against it at all.

This is just one of many schools within UWS that will be affected as a result of these funding cuts.

The proposal will be officially decided upon later today, where the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Rhonda Hawkins, among others, will be present.

It is advised that all concerned students contact:

Clive Smallman (Dean of School of Business)

Email: c.smallman@uws.edu.au

Janice Reid (Vice-Chancellor)

Email: vc@uws.edu.au

Rhonda Hawkins (Deputy Vice-Chancellor)

Email: r.hawkins@uws.edu.au

  1. November 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Again, one more time, who is it that have resisted “pluralism” and “diversity of thought” in all all academic disciplines in the West? The super-rich who hire and superannuate their apologists and meme/mantra masters in academia mostly cannot understand the math and “logic” in the neoclassical stuff they rely on for their policies at least on paper. There are all sorts of opportunities for quiet and carfeful subversion of dominant paradigms in the classroom and there are some who use them. But it is the gatekeepers in academia (the buyers of allegiances, paradigm rigidity, votes in department meetings, careerists etc) who have a vested interest on their “life’s work” and “legacy” being perpetuated and not challenged by young upstarts. That is how the gatekeepers got to become gatekeepers from their own Faustian Bargains with their mentors and previous gatekeepers. But it is also those willing to sell-out for the illusions of full-time tenure, regular promotions, light loads, specialized courses of interest mostly to the professor. How many today would write something like “Anti-Samuelson” in four volumes in German, two in English? And where did Marc Linder wind up teaching?

    The problem is made worse with academic unions that are often more about careers for union bureaucrats, and careers of a few union reps, than the careers, or pedagogy, of mission, or academic freedom, or most of all due process rights, of those they are supposed to represent. And as tenure is rapidly declining, the unions see the handwriting on the wall and opt for pushing for chump change on the margin for adjuncts rather than expanding opportunities for full-time tenured positions BUT with the caveat that tenure can no longer be used to insolate and perpetuate incompetence, nepotism, cronyism, ideological cloning, worthless and narcissistic “research”, abusive and despotic teaching, etc in academia, as is often the case, in return for full-court press against administrators that seek to deny the due process rights of the tenured, and indeed the non-tenured (who still have Constitutional due process rights in public employment) in order to protect rather than compromise the competent who are often under siege from political hacks and proto-fascist admininstrators, boards of trustees, boards of regents and mobs among the right-wing in the population.

    Finally, enough time has been wasted, and enough trees killed, “debating” the neoclassicals in volumes of articles that say the same things over and over about comparative statics vs dynamic analysis; ceteris paribus fallacies; physics envy like penis envy; no notions of contexts or “contextual endogeneity” (historical, geographic, political, social, cultural) ; that the micro and macro are dialectically related such that the macro is not only more or less than the sum of the micros, but the micro is more than the relative and proportionate fraction of the macro it represents and within which it exits and interacts; or morphostatic vs morphogenetic systems and markets; etc etc. There is a certain type of individual drawn to neoclassical economics and this type of true believer does not debate they only seek to hire and surround themselves with their own ilk. They do not tolerate the respect for diversity of thought they demand for themselves. They do not debate they terrorize, fire, frame, and deny tenure to those whose own work or behaviors or principles threaten their own.

    Yes we need alternative media like this one. But what good is it if it doesn not reach out where it matters, if it is not understood because ir replicates the same shallow math, reductionism, myopia and arrogance as the mainstream like AER in trying to become an “acceptable” notch on someone’s CV as also a “peer-reviewed” journal worthy of being cited on someone;s CV. This in my opinion what the likes of RRPE has been about. Talking ABOUT victims of capitalism that were never consulted, could not read or understand what was said aout them, how they could use concretely in concrete struggles what these great radical intellectuals had to say about them in their formulaic, jargon and math-riddled articles with long titles, and with no follow-up with these victims when they have been surveyed and used as “research subjects” typically.

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