Home > Economics Curriculum > University of Greenwich shows the way!

University of Greenwich shows the way!

from Lars Syll

The last seven years have not been easy for the global economy as well as the teaching of economics. The recent financial crisis and the Great Recession have led many economists, non-economists and students in economics to question the state of the discipline, wondering to what extent it provides the necessary tools to interpret the complex world we live in, signalling a deep dissatisfaction with economists’ ability to provide solutions to real world problems. Employers have recognised that the economics graduates that the standard curriculum generates are not equipped with the skills that the real world requires. Likewise, students themselves have recognised that the tools and theories they learn don’t enable them to make sense of the world they live in, let alone to address and solve real world problems …

The reason the revalidation of the economics programmes at the University of Greenwich is special is that it constitutes one of the first institutional responses to current pressures from students, faculty, employers and policy makers to produce more ‘world-ready’ graduates. In redesigning our economics programmes we – the economics programmes team – have decided to: 

– Address socially relevant economic questions in all core economic courses by adopting a historical and pluralistic perspective right from the start and throughout the programme.

– Add two new compulsory courses – Economic History in the first year and History of Economic Thought in the second year, and an optional course Political Economy of International Development and Finance in the third year.

– Integrate the concept of environmental and social sustainability – in the teaching of economics in all courses, as well as provide specific courses such as Environmental Economics and Environmental Regulation and Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility.

– Eliminate from the curriculum those topics that tend to be taught by default just because they appear on standard economics textbooks rather than because they are recognised as truly useful in understanding how economies really work.

However, we do not isolate the development of a pluralistic perspective to only a few courses, but rather integrate it in all our courses by approaching real world problems from the perspective of different theories, both old and contemporary, comparing, contrasting, or at times synthesising them. This should help the students to develop a critical perspective towards current economic theories and evolving economic events, and develop an understanding about the limitations of theories and models (for example, what happens out of equilibrium), and think more widely about the historical, institutional and political context of economic behaviour and policies …

Sara Gorgon

  1. January 15, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Finally, a glimmer of hope.

  2. blocke
    January 15, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    “Economic History in the first year and History of Economic Thought in the second year, and an optional course Political Economy of International Development and Finance in the third year.” Where are you going to recruit the faculty to teach this? Not from graduates in economics who have only studied economists who have become sublimely ignorant of historical specificity. Not from people educated outside economics, historians, political scientists, etc. who think neoclassical economics is a croc of irrelevant crap. Some really imaginative interdisciplinary education is called for.

  3. January 16, 2015 at 2:21 am

    Blocke has hit upon a key obstacle to creating change — which is finding the teachers. My experience is that even heterodox teachers are fairly deeply indoctrinated with neoclassical thinking, which makes it difficult for them to advocate or teach really revolutionary ideas without watering them down. For example, Lee & Keen in their paper The Incoherent Emperor, a heterodox critique write that it is common for heterodox economists to come the defense of neoclassical theories, mainly because of ignorance of the range of critiques available. One part of the journey from orthodoxy to heterodoxy is understanding the flaws. The second more important and difficult part is construction of a coherent alternative paradigm. As of now, I am not aware of such a paradigm, although I am actively engaged in constructing one. Some of the difficulties of the challenge facing us in constructing a genuine alternative is spelled out in my paper: Challenging the Economics Curriculum: Creating Challengers and Change, which is to appear in an edited volume on The Economics Curriculum: Towards a Radical Reformulation, by Maria Mady and Jack Reardon.

  4. blocke
    January 16, 2015 at 6:29 am

    In my generation (I studied for a a PHd in Modern European History 1957-1966) we still read the historical economists in history seminars (Schmoller, Sombart, Weber, Veblen, etc) at the very time they were being dropped in economics’ departments. There is a lot of specificity in these old texts. Perhaps modern European historians are still reading these people along with many others, although with the NEH determined efforts were made from the 1960s to hitch economic history to the neoclassical bandwagon. Any economic department interested in serious economic reform needs to set up a select committee on faculty recruitment composed of people rooted in the study of contemporary political science and history or set up an active committee in the World Economics Association whose members are schooled in the history of nation state geo-political rivalries who could help department recruiters in their search for appropriate staff. Also some groups like the World History Association could help out.

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