UCL delivering economics training to staff at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
The latest training by the FCDO to constantly advance its department’s economic skills and knowledge is being successfully delivered by UCL’s Centre for Teaching and Learning in Economics (CTaLE).
2 March 2021
In our globalised world, FCDO officials’ sound understanding of local, national and international economics is key to successfully shaping UK foreign and development policy and our cross-border relationships. That’s why in July 2017 the then FCO published a re-tender for their Economics for Foreign Policy course.
And in a significant win for the university’s Economics department, UCL won the flagship contract to train FCDO staff, here and around the world, in economics. The subject matter ranges from how different markets and exchange rates operate to the economics of climate change and macro-economic crises.
In September 2020, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) were merged to create the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), uniting development and diplomacy in one new department.
The FCDO pursues the UK’s national interests and projects the UK as a force for good in the world. It promotes the interests of British citizens, safeguards the UK’s security, defends UK values, works to reduce poverty and tackles global challenges with our international partners.
Bespoke, practical and real-world ready
The bespoke course, which is aimed at FCDO staff who are not generally economists, was devised by UCL’s Centre for Teaching and Learning in Economics (CTaLE).
This is a team dedicated to researching, implementing and evaluating active teaching and learning strategies in economics. They help students become well-trained economists, ready to face and overcome the challenges of the 21st century; particularly those who have gone on to careers in government, private industry and policy-making.
‘We are giving FCDO staff the capability to operationalise knowledge in a way that is useful in their posts,’ said Prof Parama Chaudhury, academic director of the programme. She continued, ‘We’re introducing learners to cutting edge research and they will be equipped with the knowledge of the most reliable and current analysis on pressing issues, and what experts in the field are presently recommending in terms of policy.’
The programme is managed by UCL Consultants (UCLC), a part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise. UCLC provide a gateway between UCL expertise and the external world, managing the academic consultancy process. Simplifying the process for both academic and client stakeholders, UCLC provide commercial, contractual, course design, and project management services.
Alexis Raichoudhury, FCDO Economics Unit, agreed with Parama. They commented, “Since its inception in 2017, the programme has continued to successfully equip our staff with the practical economics skills and knowledge they require as part of a world-class foreign and development ministry”.
Popular programme design
The Economics for Foreign Policy (EFP) course is delivered via online learning.
The design of the programme is largely asynchronous to suit staff out in the field who might have to undertake their learning at the end of an already busy day. It includes video on demand, with teaching broken into bite-size 20-30 minute sections, plus live interactive webinar sessions.
What’s more, learners are able to go at their own pace and participate from wherever they are in the world. They are encouraged and empowered to develop their own learning and economic skills by being pointed to publicly-available databases and resources where they can build on what they are taught.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were also a number of workshops undertaken - in London, New Delhi and Washington D.C.
Improved engagement and completion rates leads to extended contract
In August 2019, discussions between UCL and the client were held on how to improve the course. This led to the development of a new course structure, seeing learners enrolled on the EFP programme for a shorter time and with a more immediate focus on being able to apply their learning to their current and/or future roles.
The course is now split across three levels: Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced, with learners enrolling for four, six or eight weeks respectively. Learners are able to choose their certification level based on their required depth of understanding. There are a number of modules to choose from along with short mandatory learning in data and methods. Key modules include: The Economics of the Environment, Macroeconomics Crises, the Economics of Globalisation and Development Economics.
As a result of these changes, engagement and completion rates improved significantly. UCL’s contract was extended - at first to October 2020 and then for a further 18 months to March 2022.
Despite the new course’s pilot cohorts having to take place during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been minimal impact on the programme or its benefits. This is largely due to the blended design of the programme, with a focus on asynchronous learning opportunities. To complement this, a series of interactive online workshops with experts in the field were devised for the end of the eight-week programme as a culminating experience and to help consolidate a learner’s understanding on a specific topic area.
Enhancing UCL’s reputation for excellence in economic teaching
The contract with the FCDO has been a triumph for UCL's Economics Department, which is the top-ranked Economics research department in the country and has won worldwide accolades for its innovative teaching of introductory economics based on the Curriculum Open-Access Resources in Economics (CORE) project. The Economist magazine described the project as an ‘overdue overhaul’ that gets students to tackle economics in the real world.
Bjorn Christianson, Head of Business Development at UCL Consultants Ltd (UCLC), said, ‘This contract is a wonderful opportunity for UCL, the top-ranked Economics research department in the UK, to share its knowledge at the heart of government. It also provides a great platform for UCL's innovative teaching methods.’
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
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