Employers Report

Economics is a prestigious subject and economic experts have considerable influence in the world – these two factors make graduates both employable and high earners. We argue, however, that it doesn’t give graduates the knowledge or skills that businesses and organisations are looking for or that they themselves need to thrive in the world of work.

Our Employers’ Report provides further evidence for our argument that economics graduates must be better prepared to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, and that the reforms is needed if students are to be better educated. We have approached a number esteemed professionals from the world of finance, consultancy, journalism, policy-making and the public sector.

Employers Report 2018

More of us are going to university than ever. The path is clear: by going to university, you will equip yourself with the skills and abilities to allow you to pursue a future career. And yet, when it comes to economics education, this offer doesn’t seem to stack up. Our Employers Report 2018 provides an analysis of the link between economics curricular and the skills gap in economics graduates. The Employers Report exposes economics curricula across the United Kingdom as failing to provide the analytical skills and critical thinking required. The report brings together the perspectives of future employers of economics graduates to ask what can be done to make economics education fit for purpose.

In the report, we call on universities to make the following key reforms:

Vary the subject matter

Rather than relying solely on standard economics textbooks that abstract from real-world issues, course content should integrate a wider range of learning materials, such as economics journals and news articles. Providing perspectives from the different approaches to economics would also give students an understanding of the political, contested nature of the discipline and foster intellectual openness.

Introduce inductive and problem-based learning methods

Undergraduate economics assessments largely focus on multiple choice questions and the utilisation of mathematical formulae, both of which fail to develop the application skills and intellectual curiosity valued by the employers in our sample. To overcome these problems, undergraduate teaching could utilise an inductive, problem-focused approach in which empirical evidence and real-world issues are introduced prior to theoretical knowledge.

Encourage peer-to-peer learning and group assessments

A greater focus on peer-led discussion and debate within economics seminars would help students develop the communication skills necessitated by graduate employers. Integrating group work, particularly group presentations and debates, also has the dual benefit of augmenting students’ communication skills whilst developing interpersonal abilities.

Undergraduate Research Projects

Many of the employers that contributed to this report emphasised the usefulness that undertaking independent research would have to graduate recruitment and selection practices. Encouraging students to write dissertations that focus on problems and methodologies of practicable – rather than solely theoretical – importance would align with both of these interests.

You can read the Employers Report 2018 here.

Existing literature

Economics 2014/15 Network Survey of Employers – a considerable number of respondents believe that the economics graduates they employ have…

• Not very high critical self-awareness (28%).
• Not very high general creative and imaginative powers (23%).
• Not very high ability to communicate clearly in writing (22%).
• Not very high ability to apply what has been learned in a wider context (25%).25%).

‘What Economists do: and how universities might help’ – according to 500 employees from UK government departments, there is clear demand for…

• “Emphasis on presenting economic findings to different audiences.”
• “The application of economic tools to the evaluation of policy proposals.”
• “Knowledge of institutions and how they might impact on policy design as derived from
contemporary economic history.”
• “A use of models that emphasizes their selective use and their role not as ends in
themselves but as starting points for serious empirical analysis.”