This latest lockdown has hit many particularly hard, and of course we all hope for a return to more normal times in 2022 and beyond. There will be a big hangover, especially from lost international commencements. There is also reason for optimism, and I can mention a few of these briefly.
Our student numbers for the Department are up over 15 per cent since before the COVID crisis. Our Master of Economics commencements are up in particular, and this has been a big strategic priority for us.
It is very likely we will be able to recruit at the junior level in the coming months. Relaxation of border restrictions appears on the horizon, and we plan to offer an Economics unit in Prato in July. Our research productivity in the best outlets continues to grow.
As you all know, we have made large investments into curriculum redesign and refreshment over the past few years, which are clearly working out very well.
The next major set of changes proposed are likely to involve the Bachelor of Economics. We are in the initial consultations with colleagues from the EBS and B&F departments about some potentially really exciting revisions to the degree.
The aim is to create a strong peer cohort, rigorous technical training, strong professional pathways, and opportunities to specialise in focus areas such as quantitative economics, financial economics, or public policy.
With an eye to the professional pathways aim, we will need to develop more internship opportunities for students. If you have any good connections or leads for internships, please pass those on to Vinod.
Despite terrible circumstances, we are thriving professionally, and the trend is up on almost all dimensions. That said, many of us are struggling with homeschooling, social isolation, and the challenges of online teaching. Ideas on how we can collectively be more supportive of each other are most welcome.
Wishing you all the best.
Professor Michael Ward
Congratulations to our newly promoted colleagues! Arthur Campbell, Paul Raschky, Wayne Geerling, Ayushi Bajaj, Gordon Leslie, Xiaodong Fan, Anupama Sethi, and Kris Ivanovski.
We are now expecting new colleagues Stefanie Fischer and Corey White to arrive in June. Kaveh Majlesi and Krisztina Orban are anticipated to arrive near the end of this year.
The Economics Department has continued to increase our student numbers this year and last year, despite the adverse circumstances. Most of this is due to a large strategic investment in new units and new programs, which is still an on-going process for us.
For example, the new Politics Philosophy and Economics (PPE) degree now has a healthy intake in its second year, and we anticipate more growth next year as word of mouth spreads.
The Department currently contributes to well over ten different degree programs and we are working on more. One exciting proposed new program is offering the Economics major through the Bachelor of Arts as well as Bachelor of Commerce, which is how for example our friends in Parkville manage things.
I believe we are likely to have a formal role in fifteen or more degree programs by 2023, which gives us both broad educational impact and a highly diversified business in a risky time. We'll give a full accounting of all our curriculum initiatives in the upcoming department self-review.
Many people have contributed to new or revised programs and units, too many to list by name, but we all owe thanks to those who have contributed to the design and delivery of these many initiatives.
With all the new business and new students, we will be making the case soon for at least one strategic hire to help continue those investments. Recruiting leads are very welcome.
Professor Michael Ward
2020 was another very strong year of teaching for Economics, despite the adversity of pandemic. Once again, as in the previous few years, Economics had the highest average student evaluations of any department in the Faculty. This takes a team effort, and there are many to thank. I would like to acknowledge the teaching associates who provided so much of the front-line small group teaching experience, each of the chief examiners who so effectively ran the units, and of course the members and leaders of the Education and the Learning and Teaching committees.
We are clearly delivering a good level of satisfaction in how we teach. What we teach is of course at least as important. I will recap a few of the recent developments in curriculum, and foreshadow others. There is so much to cover that I’ll just note in one sentence each of the major initiatives, but it is useful to see it all together to get a sense of how much innovation is underway.
In 2020, we launched the new Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics; restructured our economics majors in both Clayton and Caulfield to provide more choice and better integration; restructured the Masters, refocused it as a professional degree, and introduced specialisations such as Development Economics; integrated some of the PhD and Honours coursework; and taught more than five new units on topics including Networks, Energy, Big Data and China.
For 2021 and beyond, initiatives (both exploratory and already approved) include new specialisations on International Business Economics for the Master of Business and Master of Business Leadership; a new Economics specialisation in the Bachelor of Data Science; an innovative multi-campus unit with Malaysia and eventually Indonesia; a summer and possibly eventual full semester in our Prato Italy campus; a new graduate diploma of Economic Analytics; the restructure of the PhD program; a broad new partnership with Arts, and again over five new units on topics such as the Internet, Growth, Cost-Benefit, and Finance. That’s quite a lot, and I’ve left out dozens of smaller initiatives. Most of us are involved in a few parts of this, putting it all together I hope this gives the department a broader overview of just how much change and innovation is going on.
The hope of course is that this will serve the students well and keep the department thriving well into the future.