In late 2013, Stephen Kinsella and I undertook a survey of Irish economics and finance academics. We asked a bunch of questions on what they felt was core and not in the subject, on how things had changed in teaching over the last 5 years, on their views on the subject etc. We are writing this up as a paper with additional commentary and some suggestions on how to improve things but in the meantime we are presenting it at a conference organized by the Irish Economics Association on Friday 31 Jan 2014. (Update : Stephen has unavoidable work commitments and I have unavoidable personal/family commitments that make it impossible for us to attend. Hope this blogpost fills the gap partially)
Here are slides on this presentation. Here is a powerpoint show with my narration – this is quite large ( ±100 mb) so be warned – but it gives a much better sense of how we feel than just the raw slides alone. This is my take. Others, including Stephen, might not agree with any or all interpretation, so please recall that.
What’s the takeaway?
- We surveyed 300+ academics and got a fairly poor response. It was surprising how little people seemed to care about the profession. We unashamedly concentrated on university and macro/finance. We couldnt be sure of a full sample in IoTs. And we want to first see what the academics think before maybe moving onto the industrial.
- Modal respondent is 10y plus in academia, has a PhD doesnt have a professional training.
- only 11% are teaching in an area v close to their research – research led teaching seems a long way off
- average undergrad contact time is 57% of total teaching.
- Most economists think the government should put more money into economics education …mmmkaaay
- Despite the preponderance of evidence, the respondents dont think that studying economics makes you more selfish
- They firmly think its a science (three words – Prescott, Sims, Nobel…)
- Respondents want a broader focus in economics teaching BUT also want more math and DONT want it taught as part of management or social sciences. Greetings from Isolation Hill.
- There is no sense that the profession should sort out its internal disagreements on fundamental issues (and these are many and stark) before speaking out.
- Theres a very traditional skills led view of what should constitute the core. Amazingly only 33% think that a survey of irish economic conditions should be in the core.
- Theres a deep suspicion of accounting. Which is worrying as its the language of business. Most graduates wont go indon’tesearch but become part of the business workforce. Despite this there’s a feeling that SME finance is important. This is not logical.
- Most come across as technological illiterates. While there is considerable use of anti-plagiarism software there is much much less use of even things like interactive clickers (or apps for same), or the use of social media for engagement.
- compared to 5 years ago
- more time is being given to labour market issues, to debt dynamics and to DSGE. The latter is worrying as these are in essence (and imho) useless. See the series of takedowns by Noah Smith (search for DSGE). We also spend more time on the microstructure of financial markets, on models of bubbles and networks, and on the role of financial institutions. More time is spent on expansionary fiscal contraction, hopefully debunking its existence (but I wouldn’t be too sure) . That old trope of the Regan era, Trickle Down Economics, gets more time, as does privatisation and endogenous growth. If I had to call it, I would suggest that finance teaching has taken more cognizance of the crisis than has mainstream macro teaching in Ireland.
- Less time is being spent on very little. Keynesian Cross models – this is interesting as an implication of the KC model is that there can be a equilibrium with less than full employment and with recession – that might be a useful idea to implant in peoples minds, no? Maybe its seen as dangerous.
- For the most part people teach the same , more or less, than they did 5 years ago. Despite the massive wrench in the actual economy, the academy seems to be broadly unchanged in how and what it teaches. This must change.