|In February 2012 a conference was held
at the Bank of England, jointly sponsored by the Government Economic
Service, the purpose of which was to question whether there were
manifest shortcomings in the knowledge and skills of young people taught
Economics in UK universities.
|The conclusion of this Conference was
that such shortcomings did exist. As a consequence, a steering group,
including both academics and employers of graduate economists, was
established to discuss recommendations for reforms to the teaching of
|The Society of Business Economists has
been represented on this steering group and has played a full part in
its deliberations. The steering group decided that it would be very
useful to know what the views of the membership of the Society of
Business Economists, who are typically also employers of Economics
graduates, are on the wide-ranging issues which had been so extensively
discussed. As a consequence, a survey was prepared and sent to members
in January 2013. Happily, this elicited an enthusiastic response.
|Members were asked to rate an extensive
range of knowledge and skills as "absolutely essential", "desirable" or
|Standard macro and microeconomics topped
the essential knowledge list together with basic data-handling skills
and knowledge of data sources (e.g. ONS; World Bank).
|Lower down the essentials list came
Money & Banking and Financial Economics, followed by Economic History
and International Trade.
|Further down came Cost/ Benefit
Analysis; Competition Economics; Behavioural Economics; History of
Economic Thought; Financial History; Industrial Development and Economic
|Econometrics came into this latter
category but less than 10 per cent of the poll regarded 'Advanced
Mathematics' as essential -on a par with Regional Policy, knowledge of
Accounting, Corporate Finance or Foreign Languages.
|'Analytical Skills' scored very high as
an essential skill, closely followed by Writing Skills. Also ranked high
were 'ability to apply economic theory to real world policy or corporate
issues' and 'ability to explain economic concepts to non-economists'.
Ranked considerably lower on the "essentials" scale was "experience of
undertaking a research project" and "collaborative working project
|Revealingly, comments about new
Economics graduates from survey respondents consistently mentioned poor
communication skills and lack of 'real world' or 'historical awareness'.