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Economics: an elite subject for elite universities? An investigation into the changing nature of economics provision in the United Kingdom Higher Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Economics: an elite subject for elite universities? An investigation into the changing nature of economics provision in the United Kingdom Higher Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Economics: an elite subject for elite universities? An investigation into the changing nature of economics provision in the United Kingdom Higher Education sector James Johnston Contact:

2 The rationale for the study 1.Concern over the withdrawal of economics programmes. 2.What these withdrawals tell us about the health of economics as a university subject. 3.And the implications for different parts of the HE system. 2

3 Research questions 1.What distinguishes retainers from withdrawers? 2.Is economics in danger of becoming an elite subject confined to elite universities? 3

4 Offered economics in 2012 Did not offer economics in 2012 Did not offer economics before 2012 Offered economics before 2012 (Retainers) Offered economics before 2012 (Withdrawers) Did not offer economics before 2012 Framework for interpreting the current level of economics provision in the UK HE Sector (Table 1) 4

5 The current state of provision of economics programmes in the UK HE sector What economics programmes do UK universities provide? Economics, Business Economics and Financial Economics were by far the most common titles on offer in 2012 Sixty-six universities (55%) in our sample of 119 universities offered single Economics, Business Economics or Financial Economics 5

6 Providing ONE of the three optionsProviding TWO of the three optionsProviding All three options 1.AberdeenAberdeen2.AberystwythAberystwyth8.BradfordBradford 3.Anglia Ruskin12.CardiffCardiff15.CoventryCoventry 4.BathBath13.Central Lancashire*Central Lancashire30.KingstonKingston 5.Bangor16.DundeeDundee44.Plymouth* 6.BirminghamBirmingham17.DurhamDurham59.SwanseaSwansea 7.BournemouthBournemouth18.East AngliaEast Anglia 9.BristolBristol21.EssexEssex 10.BrunelBrunel22.ExeterExeter 11.CambridgeCambridge23.Glasgow 14.CityCity24.Greenwich*Greenwich 19.East London*26.Hertfordshire*Hertfordshire 20.EdinburghEdinburgh27.HullHull 21.EssexEssex29.KentKent 25.Heriot-WattHeriot-Watt31.LancasterLancaster 28.Keele32.LeedsLeeds 36.London School of EconomicsLondon School of Economics33.LeicesterLeicester 37.LoughboroughLoughborough34.LiverpoolLiverpool 38.ManchesterManchester35.London Metropolitan*London Metropolitan 41.NewcastleNewcastle39.Manchester Metropolitan*Manchester Metropolitan 42.NottinghamNottingham40.Middlesex* 46.Queen MaryQueen Mary43.Nottingham Trent*Nottingham Trent 49.Royal HollowayRoyal Holloway45.Portsmouth*Portsmouth 51.SheffieldSheffield47.Queen's – BelfastQueen's – Belfast 52.Sheffield HallamSheffield48.ReadingReading 53.SOASSOAS50.St AndrewsSt Andrews 54.SouthamptonSouthampton57.Surrey 55.StirlingStirling60.UlsterUlster 56.Strathclyde62.UWIC 58.SussexSussex 61.University College LondonUniversity College London 63.WarwickWarwick 64.West of England, BristolWest of England, Bristol 65. Westminster 66.YorkYork Table 2: Economics provision (new and old universities) 6

7 Points of interest In northern parts of the United Kingdom, such as Scotland, economics exit titles of any sort appear to have been almost entirely removed from the prospectuses of the new university sector The best predictor of whether a university offers an economics title is almost certainly whether it is old or new Paradoxically: Three new universities - Coventry, Kingston and Plymouth- offer single honours in Economics, Business Economics and Financial Economics; while only two of the old universities offered all three titles 7

8 The link between the Research Assessment Exercise and the provision of economics programmes Of the sixty-six universities identified by us as offering an economics programme, only 33 (50%) actually had an economics entry in the 2008 RAE In contrast, only three of the eighteen new universities which were identified as offering an Economics degree in Kingston, London and Manchester Metropolitan - had an economics entry in the 2008 RAE 8

9 The link between the Research Assessment Exercise and the provision of economics programmes When compared to the economics and econometrics submissions, it is noteworthy that of the 89 entries in the Business and Management UoA in the 2008 RAE, 37 (42%) were new universities Similarly, of the fourteen submissions in the Accounting and Finance UoA in 2008, 6 (43%) were new universities Both of these proportions are high relative to the Economics and Econometrics UoA where only three of the thirty-five submissions (9%) were from new universities 9

10 Consequences: intended or unintended? Given the incentive structure universities face, this change in priorities should not come as a surprise to economists It is an illustration of how national research evaluations have influenced UK universities Where is this trend leading us? 10

11 University alliances and economic provision Only two of the Russell Group and the 1994 group did NOT offer economics programmes Of the University Alliance group, 11 out of 23 members offered economic programmes Only 8 of the 27 members of the million plus group of universities offered economics programmes 11

12 Retention and impact on performance: withdrawers appear to differ from retainers 1.Table 3 shows what is happening within the new university sector. In terms of performance. 2.Withdrawers seem to do a little better than retainers in terms of some indicators of institutional performance. Is there a learning effect? 12

13 Table 3: New university retainers and withdrawers compared Indicator of performance Retainers[1]Withdrawers[2] Average Entry Tariff Average Percentage with a job after 6 months 5560 Average Research Assessment Rating – Business and Management[3] Average Guardian League Table Position

14 Details of the geographic split in the provision of economics programmes since 2003 Table 4 shows 16 universities identified as withdrawing at least one economics title While Table 5 shows new university retainers and withdrawers Old universities (until now) seem to be largely immune from the withdrawal of economics titles 14

15 Table 4: Economics titles withdrawn between UniversityEconomics Business Economics Financial Economics 1.University of Abertay University of the West of England**2007 * 3.University of Central England University of East London** University of Glamorgan Glasgow Caledonian University University of Liverpool** Liverpool John Moores University Edinburgh Napier University Northumbria University Nottingham Trent University** Oxford Brookes University University of the West of Scotland Salford University Staffordshire University Teeside University

16 Table 5: New University retainers and withdrawers (complete) RetainersComplete Withdrawers 1.Anglia Ruskin1.University of Abertay 2.BournemouthBournemouth2.University of Central England 3.Central LancashireCentral Lancashire3.University of Glamorgan 4.CoventryCoventry4. Glasgow Caledonian University 5.East London5.Liverpool John Moores University 6.GreenwichGreenwich6.Edinburgh Napier University 7.HertfordshireHertfordshire7.Northumbria University 8.KingstonKingston8.Oxford Brookes University 9.London MetropolitanLondon Metropolitan9.University of the West of Scotland 10.Manchester MetropolitanManchester Metropolitan10.Salford University 11.Middlesex11.Staffordshire University 12.Nottingham TrentNottingham Trent12.Teeside University 13.Plymouth 14.PortsmouthPortsmouth 15.Sheffield HallamSheffield 16.UWIC 17.West of England, BristolWest of England, Bristol 18. Westminster 16

17 Geographic impact of the withdrawal decision In addition, there seems to be a distinct north-south divide There is no new university economics provision above a line from Preston to Sheffield 17

18 The four interviews All four were new universities Two withdrawers and two retainers The two withdrawers were in the north, the two retainers were in the south Anonymity guaranteed Informal interviews each lasting about 2 hours at or near the institutions 18

19 Contrasting experiences Retainers Demand for economics programmes had remained healthy Economics had always been part of the Business School Economics was strongly supported by senior management Economists were very active in School/Faculty business Economists brought in significant income from external engagement Withdrawers The demand for economics programmes had fallen considerably over time Economics was once a separate section/department Economics lacked support from senior management Economists were not very active in School/Faculty business Economists were less actively engaged in external income generation 19

20 Conclusions 1.Old universities have been much less likely to withdraw the subject than new universities. 2.Within the new university sector, there is a suggestion in the UCAS data that universities may be responding to the incentives in league tables by altering their suite of programmes to maximise league table positions and that this has led some to remove economics. 3.There is an emergence of a geographical dimension to the provision of economics in the new universities. 4.Our small survey has identified five contrasting features distinguishing retainers from withdrawers. 20


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