PCES have put together 12 questions that we think every economics student should be able to at least have a go at answering (and ‘no’ doesn’t count as an answer!). We think these get to the heart of the shortcomings of undergraduate economics education: a lack of real world understanding; a lack of pluralism or even awareness of different schools of thought; a lack of critical engagement with the material and a lack of interdisciplinary knowledge. If you are an economics student reading this, we’d love to hear your answers to these questions!
1. Do I have a good idea of how, in practice, banks, firms and government organisations such as the Bank of England work?
2. If tomorrow my boss sent me some data on oil markets and asked me to produce a report on global demand and supply for oil, would I have at least a half-decent idea of where to start?
3. Am I confident in communicating my economic knowledge to different groups such as the public, academics and policymakers, both in written form and verbally?
4. Am I able to offer a solid, perhaps theoretical interpretation of major historical events such as the Great Depression or 2008 crash?
5. Actually, do I even know the historical details of these events?
6. Have I been shown a real world situation to which a theory I have learned can be applied? Which evidence was presented to support this?
7. Has my curriculum made any mention of theories such as endogenous money, cost plus pricing or the financial instability hypothesis, all heterodox theories which have a good degree of empirical support?
8. What is wrong with non-mainstream economics? Why have I not been taught it?
9. Do I have ethical obligations as an economist? Why/why not?
10. Are there ethical assumptions and commitments at the core of the theories I’ve been taught, or are they ethically neutral?
11. How do some of the economic theories I’ve been taught relate and compare to what’s taught in other social sciences such as politics, sociology and psychology?
12. What limitations of economics as currently practised have I learned about in my degree?