Glasgow University Real World Economics Society
Student societies and initiatives challenging the hegemony of orthodox economics have begun operating all over the world, and some have received considerable media attention. At the University of Glasgow, undergraduate students of economics have since 2010 been provided with a short module introducing Post-Keynesian economics in second year – aare glimpse of critical thought in an otherwise thoroughly mainstream programme. Following attendance at the module in the 2012/2013 academic year we, a group of undergraduate students, joined together to found the Glasgow University Real World Economics Society (GURWES) as a platform for further enquiry into heterodox approaches that our course would not cover.
We began organising activities at the start of the current academic year and this first semester has been a promising start. We have had well-received lectures given by guest-speakers, but also by members of the society, reflecting our focus on mutual support and peer-to-peer learning. Having attended the Post-Keynesian module, we recognise that it is very difficult to accept such a radical break with familiar theories, and that it can be frustrating to engage with concepts so different from what one had been taught for almost two years previously. We therefore make it our primary task to help students look beyond orthodox theory. We are offering study groups to help students from all years with the mainstream content of the course since we believe that a solid understanding of mainstream economic theory is essential to appreciating heterodox critiques and will also allow students more time to explore different ideas and take a pluralistic approach to the discipline. In addition, we are planning to offer voluntary tutorial sessions to students attending the Post-Keynesian module next semester. We found the compulsory tutorials to be unsatisfactory since the tutors (Ph.D.-students) have little familiarity with heterodox approaches.
Our goal for the next semester is to spark a lasting interest in heterodox theory among students and thus enlarge our membership to be able to offer more frequent and diverse activities, such as reading groups and lectures by guest speakers from further afield. The two heterodox lecturers at the university, who have been supporting us in our efforts, have also applied for funding to run heterodox workshops with external speakers in the future.
Apart from this, GURWES is also actively encouraging students to engage with economic issues outside the classroom. A delegation of students was sent to the Warwick International Development Summit 2013. Furthermore we are planning to cooperate with other student societies on campus, supplying a “real world economic” perspective to the issues of interest to them.
We continue to advocate a reform of the curriculum. Students must be introduced to various competing schools of thought, as well as their origins in the history of economic thought. Teaching must make students aware of the limitations of orthodox theory which, even if well-known, are assumed away by instructors. Until such time as the need for reform has been recognised and acted upon, GURWES will provide a platform for the distribution and discussion of theories that differ from the approach presented to students on the course. Glasgow, the alma mater of Adam Smith and centre of the Scottish Enlightenment should once again become a hub of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking in economics.
We are in contact with like-minded student societies at other universities in the UK and the rest of Europe and are exploring the possibility of organising joint events. The movement for change is gaining momentum, and this time around it must be kept up until we succeed.
We are continuously looking for speakers from all backgrounds and schools of thought to speak at our events, so please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GURWES.
[Editor’s note: There are some useful links on their Facebook page].
From: p.5 of World Economics Association Newsletter 3(6), December 2013 http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/files/newsletters/Issue3-6.pdf