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Pluralism at Leeds University Business School—Economics Division

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By Giuseppe Fontana and Annina Kaltenbrunner

The Economic Profession and the way Economics is taught is once more in the spot-light. The international financial crisis, the consequent recession and the inability of mainstream Economics to predict the former and avoid the latter, has re-emphasised the need for a more open and pluralistic Economics. This is an Economics which learns from history, is open to other social sciences, and puts the analysis and solution of real world problems at its core. The insights of some of the greatest economists, including Marx, Keynes, Minsky, Veblen, Schumpeter have largely been forgotten by the current mainstream. However, these economists and their emphasis on social groups, money, uncertainty, inequality, and the inherent instability of the capitalist system offer crucial insights for current and future economic problems. The need to adopt such a broader and pluralistic approach to Economics is also increasingly demanded by students interested in studying an Economics which helps them to understand and solve real world problems. Recent student initiatives in the UK have shown students’ increased dissatisfaction with the exclusive reliance in their teaching on the neoclassical approach at the expensive of other economic approaches.
The Economics Division of Leeds University Business School aims to offer such a pluralistic and broad view of Economics teachings. It provides undergraduate programmes in Economics, Business Economics, and Economics and Finance and supports a full range of joint honours programmes and economics modules across the University. It offers MSc programmes in Economics, and Economics and Finance and a full PhD program. All programmes are supported by several national and international scholarships. The Division’s main ethos is to provide students with a wide range of different economic approaches, which allow students to form their own opinion and use a wide set of tools to face the world as freshly formed Economists. We teach traditional economics modules and neoclassical economics alongside material which introduce students to alternative economic approaches, such as Post Keynesian and Marxist Economics, and insights from other social sciences. This also includes a strong focus on economic history and the history of economic thought, which shows students the importance of contextualising economic knowledge and the crucial role of history and path dependency. We strongly believe that such an approach to Economics teaching is an important element of making students critical and responsible citizens. Moreover, a more open and “real-world” oriented teaching arguably increases students’ employability. Many employers, including but not only the Government Economic Service (GES), seek students who understand and can solve day-to-day Economic problems. In 2012-13 Leeds Economics graduates were among the most successful of all UK students in the annual GES intake.
Our pluralist teaching is informed by the Division’s distinct research agenda which focuses on real world problems such as financialisation and income inequality, and draws on several research areas, including macroeconomic theory and policy, comparative economic systems, labour economics, industrial economics, development and international economics, and Political Economy. This research agenda is reflected in one of the largest research grants in social sciences ever offered by the European Union on Financialisation, Economy, Society and Sustainable Development (FESSUD, http://fessud.eu/), which is coordinated in Leeds. It is also supported by the recently created Applied Institute of Research in Economics (AIRE). AIRE enhances research within the division and provides support for interdisciplinary research across the University and beyond. This vibrant research and teaching community is also supported by a regular Research Seminar Series, which over the last years has featured a wide range of speakers, including Jamie Galbraith, Charles Goodhart, Mark Lavoie, Wendy Carlin, Mark Setterfield, Stephanie Seguino, Peter Skott, Ozlem Onaran, Ha-Joon Chang, Domenico Delli Gatti, Sheila Dow, Karen Mumford and many more.

From: p.10 of World Economics Association Newsletter 3(6), December 2013 http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/files/newsletters/Issue3-6.pdf

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