Exciting time to be an economist

Filed on April 1, 2021 | Last updated on April 1, 2021 at 06.11 pm

It's hard to get people excited about Economics, especially when we see it as a subject. We think that it is only for the 'clairvoyant and the intelligent'. But we all know that money matters equally to all, be it a shopkeeper or a billionaire. Imagine as a homemaker, you have Dh2,000 to be spent over a month. You automatically start calculating how much you need to spend over a period of 30 days. A mere Dh60 a day feels a bit tight, but nevertheless with proper accounting, it is doable. This is what Economics is all about - managing money.

As a topic, Economics is a part and parcel of all of our lives and we constantly engage with it without realising that we are. The economy's performance impacts the availability of jobs, housing interest rates, the value of our currency, the prices we pay in the supermarket, and our overall standard of living. As such, economic performance affects everyone.

Surprisingly, Economics, as an academic subject, feels 'alien' to the common man even today - many say it's because the common man cannot relate to what Economics has to do with their daily lives. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth.

As a discipline, Economics has been in existence for more than two and a half centuries. However, over the last three decades, Economics, as a field, has become much more empirical. Regional and global financial institutions are moving cautiously concerning Blockchain and artificial intelligence. Economics as a tool to end conflict and foster peace game theory, the study of how people, companies, or nations determine strategies in different situations are applied to better understand conflict to make the world a better, more peaceful place. A behavioural economist is aiding individuals and organisations in making smarter choices in areas as pension systems, consumer behaviour, and healthcare.

With the economic consequences posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the toughest issues confronting our society today are rapid structural, technological, and demographic changes, macroeconomic turbulence, and the growing income inequality; therefore, some of the biggest challenges faced by Economists today include designing tax, health, welfare, and education systems, along with competition and industrial laws that balance equity and efficiency, and robust macroeconomic policies for an integrated world economy. It is no wonder then that the demand for economically literate citizens is at an all-time high.

SP Jain

Why, then, is Economics as a subject alienated from the common man?

Sadly, this has a lot to do with the educational approach taken by most universities where economics is taught to young students. Many universities treat economics in a manner that is narrow, uncritical, and quite detached from the real world. It is rigidly taught from a single prescribed perspective in a way that asserts the only legitimate view to study the subject. This leaves very little room for critical discussion and debate that is much needed for any student to engage with real-world economic problems. Seminars focus on memorising and regurgitating academic theory, while assessments test how well students can solve abstract equations.

What is the solution to this problem, and how can we ensure that economics as a subject is interesting for future Economists?

Economics with a difference

What is needed is a degree that equips students with the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of the discipline, combined with the quantitative techniques, to contribute to sound public policy and business decision-making. An ideal example of a course like this would be the 3-year Bachelor of Economics (BEC) degree offered by S P Jain School of Global Management (S P Jain) - a twin-city quantitative programme split between S P Jain's campuses in Mumbai (Year 1) and Sydney (Years 2 & 3), and primarily made up of subjects that will help students study international business environments and critically analyze issues from an economist's perspective.

Students at S P Jain learn and graduate with the capacity to participate actively and responsibly in a diverse and changing world. It is the contestable nature of the Economics discipline that makes it such a fascinating area of study. For students who care about how the world works, Economics should be one of the most relevant and exciting courses they study. The three-year course focuses on the practical application of economic models, develops more fully basic data analysis skills, and provides depth through historical perspectives. Behavioural economics and game theory subjects add lustre to the programme.

The course is structured in a way that provides students with analytical reasoning and critical thinking skills, highly valued by the employers. Moreover, the first year of the programme provides students with a broad understanding of the various business disciplines so that the feet of students are firmly anchored in real-world business applications. The program culminates with a Capstone Project where students apply their knowledge and quantitative skills to a real-world practical problem. Over the years, employers have consistently appreciated the hands-on, practical orientation of the program.

Careers after graduation

"I'm currently working as a Business Consultant and leading 2 major global projects with Logistics Executive Group - an industry leader providing a suite of whole-of-lifecycle business services. I had originally met the CEO and COO of my organisation at a conference organised by S P Jain where I was able to interact with them, which effectively resulted in this job offer," shares Aindrea Sewell from the BEC Class of 2015.

"S P Jain has provided me with the deep multicultural understanding that helps me effectively lead my project teams made up of diverse and geographically scattered professionals. The public speaking training that I got at the School transferred well into participating in my client-facing meetings confidently, and I am quite grateful for effect my time at S P Jain has had on me." said Aindrea Sewell.

Today S P Jain's BEC graduates building their global careers in Australia, Dubai, Singapore, India, Mauritius, the UK and several other countries. While a significant number of S P Jain's recent Economics graduates secured jobs in Australia, the key experience that students take away from the course is the exposure to diverse international markets.

A recent example would be Nihala Hussein from the BEC Class of 2018 who, before getting placed as a Finance Specialist with Merck, also got the opportunities to be part of the Graduate Program at Hilti (2018), intern at Gulf International Finance Limited (2017), and also at Emirates Shipping Line (2016).

To make this possible, the School ensures that the students are ready and well-equipped for their future professional lives. Some of the initiatives include :

  • Assistance in resume and cover letter writing ensuring they have the right tools as they enter the job market.
  • Ensuring that students gain practical work experience and enhance their knowledge and skills by being in a real business environment through internship search and placement.
  • Facilitating mock interviews (i.e. technical, case study, panel, behavioural, etc), allowing students to experience a very crucial part of the recruitment process in a simulated environment.
  • Providing a well-curated soft skill coaching and development through the "Professional Readiness Program" (PRP).
  • Providing fully trained and accredited Counselling Service to assist students with either academic, social, or personal issues that are dealt with professionally and confidentially.

With changing times, economies will evolve and so will Economists. Isn't it time we prepare for the future?

Dr. John Lodewijks
Vice President, Academic and Professor of Economics
S P Jain School of Global Management, Sydney campus.

Dr. Arindam Banerjee
Deputy Director (Dean) - MBA programs and Associate Professor of Finance
S P Jain School of Global Management, Dubai campus.

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