Art and Craft of Economics and Management at Oxford: An Unofficial Introduction
Art and Craft of Economics and Management at Oxford: An Unofficial Introduction
- Bryane Michael, Linacre College
- Note: The following does not necessarily represent the views of Oxford University,
- her departments, or scholars.
- The master economist must possess a true combination of
- gifts ... He must be a mathematician, historian, statesman,
- philosopher--in some degree. He must understand symbols and
- speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of
- the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of
- thought. He must study the present in light of the past for
- purposes of the future. No part of man's nature or his institutions
- must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and
- disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible
- as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician
- Political economy
- Marxist economics
- “Post-modern economics”
- “Post-industrial economics”
E&M resources at Oxford and afield
- Economics faculty - next to St. Catz
- Said business school - next to train station
- Queen Elizabeth House (development) – next to Wok 22 restaurant.
- A range of other institutes (see internet for specific interests)
- Economics club, India club, business club, etc.
- London (IEA…)
- The computer centre and many colleges have statistics processing software (also see SOSIG and WinEcon).
- Critical – less model building than in US but more questioning assumptions, evidence, logic.
- Judgement – know what arguments to apply, when and when not to.
- Intuition building – “if you need to pick up a pen, you will never be a good engineer” (Bose)
- Prioritise – can get lost in info. Overload without clear strategy of what you are trying to accomplish
Key values (cont)
- Rigor – not just a pretty argument but uses lots of facts, evidence, and considers all angles.
- Fractured – no one Truth, no one right answer. Everything is arguable.
- Independence – less guidance than in US, Oxford is what you make it.
- Everything linked – ideas come from everywhere and infuse everything else.
- Fail to succeed – we learn most when we fail… keep at it.
- How to get to Carnegie Hall…
- Different preferences for every tutor, but…
- Writing style is key
- Less argument and more exploration
- Should cover the issues comprehensively
- But explore within a framework
- The one thing which unifies non post-modern economics and management is the use of analytical frameworks
- Less “creative” than in US
- some tutors tell you to write about whatever or use whatever readings you want.
- Best not to accept this…agree on a specific topic and stick to the assigned readings.
- I’ve never seen a tutor happy with an essay comprising own readings.
- Point is to determine what you know and think, not how creative you are.
- Criteria of argument is important (define terms)
- Longer is not better – there are “key” issues
- “touch the abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought”
- Make every word count
- Avoid things like “basically”, “in other words”
- Avoid hyperbole!
- innovation is the only hope for Malaysian economic growth
- we have entered a new era of knowledge...
- Be concrete!
- don’t string jargon together (promoting competitive advantage relies on key processes and skills)
- What does THAT mean?!?
- don’t simply state relations (investment determines output growth)
- It DOES NOT always. Show me, don’t tell... I want data, anecdotes
- If you can’t explain it to your 10 year old cousin, you probably don’t understand it yourself!!!
Skills you Should Already Have
- Unlike US universities, most tutors will not assign the following:
- vocabulary lists
- basic questions at the end of the chapter (for text books)
- Requests to compile annotated bibliographies of readings
- As a mature adult, you are generally expected to do this yourself.
- Saving time by failing to compile vocabulary lists, answer questions and summarise main points of readings is a false economy.
- Q: Why do Oxford students appear to stare out the window in libraries?
- A: They are thinking (!?!)
- About 50% reading, 50% thinking
- How to think
- Memorise key terms, theories and authors in your notes
- Make links “hum, Smith reminds me of Chandler on this point….”
- How could I use that in my daily life? (trust me, you can)
- Just like this 3D image, at first it seems like a lot of random information, but when
- You stare at it long enough, you see the underlying image (do you see it?)
- You will be tested on your ability to see “the image” in tutorials.
Model Based Thinking
- Models help define the main factors driving phenomenon we are interested in
Why model-based thinking is important
- Different assumptions result in different answers
- If you make the wrong assumption, you get the wrong policy advice, decision.
- Please always question what you curves look like!
Role of the Model
- model does not explain everything
- simply clarifies the issues
- Can conceal more than it reveals
- Remember the Al-Jazeera motto
- “If there is one opinion, there is another”
- You will be expected in tutorial to provide a balanced view
- No one viewpoint
- Though you should provide a “best” answer given the data
I can’t get motivated
Fluctuat Nec Mergitur
- Most students find the first
- 2-3 weeks very challenging and
- Don’t worry, you will get over it….
- The Oxford System requires some
- adjusting to!
- Remember Poe’s A Descent Into the Maelstrom (1841). The sailors escaped the whirlpool by keeping their sang froid and using their reason to find the way out.
Why is my course so difficult?
- Oxford has necessarily high standards
- The level of your tutorials is adjusted to your talent
- Average performance at high levels of difficulty better than exceptional performance at low difficulty levels
- If you would prefer an uncommitted, easy tutor, please let me know.
- Your tutor is your closest advisor and ally…but
- Stay focused on the question at hand during discussion (and keep tutor focused also).
- Stay calm – your tutor will “probe” your weaknesses (sometimes aggressively).
- Terms of reference – agree beforehand what you will learn for the term/year
- Agree on next week’s assignment – I find it helpful to write down and agree on a draft version of the essay before I write it to make sure I am giving the tutor what (s)he wants.
Relationship Management (2)
- Think before speaking – not like US “class participation” where say whatever. Must be well thought-out. Ask tutor for 30 seconds to think about your response if you need it.
- Keep your appointments – your tutors’ time in the marketplace is worth hundreds of pounds an hour.
- If the relationship is a disaster, you may switch.
- Tutorials are not the Spanish inquisition
- Bring materials you don’t understand to tutorial.
- Not a crime not to understand a difficult paper (maths)
- Is a crime to ignore it because very likely will be discussed in tut!!!
- Bring the book or paper with things not understood underlined
- Bring the whole paper with one big underline if you must!
Relationship Management: Culture Shock
- In America, your professor treating you informally may be an invitation for you to treat him/her informally
- It’s an informal culture
- Professor will keep distance if he wants you to also (address by last name)
- In EUROPE, this is not the case
- higher ups (academics as well as business) may treat you informally
- you may NOT generally do the same
- everyone has their place
- American ego or self-confidence is very distasteful
- If you commit lese-majesté, a European won’t tell you... but will simply stop taking students from your programme/profile.
- Family visits, seeing the baseball game is NOT an excuse to reschedule a tutorial.
- Double loop learning
- Observe how your tutor or lectures argue
- Observe how your readings reason
- Observe how you learn and ask if you can make it faster, more practical…
- Economics and Management is as much a way of thought as of content
Lectures to go to
- Check the lecture lists (you won’t be coddled)
- Here some other lectures for you to go to:
- General: http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/pubs/lectures/
- Development: http://www.qeh.ox.ac.uk/teaching/diary.html
- Economics: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/Events/events.asp
- Business: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/html/events_main.asp
- Oxonia: http://www.oxonia.org/events_2004.html
- Governance Programme: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~ntwoods/whatson.htm
- For light questions, advice on courses or career, feel free to contact me at 07815 652 209 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- I come from a managerial rather than (stodgy) academic background so I expect frequent calls!
- If you are interested in internships or research associations, please contact me. Some pop-up in Oxford from time to time.
- Thomson, William. 1999. "The Young Person's Guide to Writing Economic Theory." Journal of Economic Literature. 37: 157-183.
- Ten Principles Every Student should learn
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