Why Reform the Curriculum

Over the last 30 years, economics education has become increasingly narrow and detached from the real world. Lectures teach one perspective as if it is the only legitimate way to study the economy; seminars ask students to memorise and regurgitate academic theory; whilst exams award those able to solve abstract equations rather than engaging critically with the actual economy and real-world economic problems.

Economics degrees are characterised by a lack of critical thinking, a lack of alternative perspectives, a lack of real world application and a lack of ethical and political context.

This not only fails economics students but society as a whole. The economics graduates of today, are the policy makers of tomorrow, but are ill-equipped to deal with the most pressing problems of our time. Poverty, climate change and inequality are rarely mentioned in seminars, and when they are textbooks recommend the same tired old toolkit, with no opportunity to asses whether or not these methods are actually working.

If you want support in approaching the academics in your department, get in touch at academia@rethinkeconomics.org.

Read our Manifesto for

Curriculum Reform.

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Barriers to Curriculum Reform – Hiring the right academics

What are we doing?

Rethinking Economics is working with its sister organisation, Reteaching Economics, to create a community of young academic committed to a better economics education.

We are creating a database of opportunities for a better economics education at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.

What is the barrier?

How do we ensure that universities are hiring an intellectually diverse community of academics capable of teaching the economics we want to see?

Funding for university departments (and thus faculty salaries) is often allocated by a national judging panel. These are often dominated prominent neoclassical economists, unlikely to award funding for research and teaching that does not match their own understanding of economics.

Agreeing what should be taught

What are we doing?

Working with the QAA to better define what an economics graduate should be expected to know.

Read our response to CORE, the curriculum being introduced as an alternative, and why we think it’s not enough.

Assisting students in lobbying their economics department to make reforms - find out how you can lobby your own department.

What is the barrier?

National bodies will often set the standard for what should be taught, as well as the skills a graduate should be expected to acquire. In the UK, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) sets the ‘subject benchmark statement’ for the teaching of economics in universities. Students must try to influence the standards these bodies set.

Individual economic departments nevertheless enjoy freedom in deciding what they teach students. Despite significant changes, some universities remain staunchly against curriculum reform.

Finding and using good materials

What are we doing?

Creating a whole new curriculum in partnership with economists Lord Robert Skidelsky and Ha-Joon Chang.
Visit The Curriculum Project →

Collecting a database of existing material, available to academics wanting to teach a better economics.

What is the barrier?

Its important that when we convince national bodies, economics departments and individual lecturers to change the way they teach economics, we can demonstrate that a wealth of quality resources exists for them to implement. This means providing a clear introduction of alternative economic perspectives and their uses, proposed lecture/seminar material, and even demonstrating better forms of assessment.

Mobilising Student Demand

What are we doing?

We try to make it as easy as possible for students to get involved.

Funding residential weekends to foster a long-lasting community.

Providing support to new groups through our monthly organisers call.

What is the barrier?

The nature of student life is that it is brief, with the majority of students being at University for only 3-4 years, which is shorter than a standard University curriculum planning or hiring schedule.

One of the biggest challenges our movement faces is maintaining momentum and pressure on economics departments to reform the curriculum, whilst the people that make up our movement are constantly coming and going.

Economics network employers survey 2014-15
Survey of seven British universities
ISIPE global survey
Employers report