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Economics students pitch their big ideas to city leaders at annual UCL conference

8 March 2018

UCL is hosting its fourth annual economics conference 'Explore Econ', which is a platform for students to present research ideas on some of the biggest life questions of today. 


The conference, taking place on Wednesday 14 March, aims to highlight the breadth and diversity of what economists really do, while encouraging students to initiate their own learning. 

At the conference, the undergraduate economics students will present either an academic paper or a poster presentation, in the form of an elevator style pitch to a panel of judges made up of economists from the Bank of England, the Cabinet Office and The Economist. 

The winner and runner up will secure work shadow experience at the Competitions and Markets Authority and international economics consulting firm, OXERA. 

Research topics that will be covered on the day include:

  • To what extent were investors' expectations of the renewable energy industry affected by the election of Donald Trump? 
  • Is soda tax the right way to deal with UK's obesity problem?
  • Economics of Space Exploration: Modelling a centralised property right regime in outer space
  • Do males self-select into more competitive environments in education compared with females?
  • Explaining drug market trends and the UK's alarming purity spike in cocaine

The Explore Econ conference, which is run by the UCL Centre for Learning and Teaching Economics, is part of a radical and pioneering approach to teaching economics, focused on employing active learning techniques. The new method known as CORE (Curriculum in Open-access Resources in Economics) introduces students to the best practice in economics today - as a social science addressing important economic and social problems. It teaches the tools of economics by beginning with contemporary economic problems including inequality, climate change, the future of work, and financial stability. 

"We encourage students to think about how things work or what needs improving in the real world, whether that's tackling inequality or environmental impact, and to realise that they have the tools to go and do something about it. 

"It's really important to change perceptions of economics - most people think economists are responsible for predicting the recession or economic crisis but the vast majority of economists are not working on macroeconomic forecasting," said Dr Parama Chaudhury (UCL Economics), Founding Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Economics, and Principal Teaching Fellow at UCL.

"We have been overwhelmed by the response from students, all of whom have demonstrated thinking outside the box. The students also gain employability skills which are invaluable - they complete their own research in a tight six week deadline, and they build their own groups and collaborations - it is truly self-directed learning," concluded Dr Chaudhury. 

Will Dallas and Dooho Shin, two second year economics undergraduate students, are presenting research looking at whether investors' expectations of renewable energy has changed since Donald Trump was elected US President. 

"Although Trump is known as a climate change sceptic, he also has some really pro-business tax policies, so we wanted to see how taken together this has affected investor decisions for renewable energy," said Dooho. 

Commenting on the experience of preparing for the Explore Econ conference, Will said: "The conference has been a really exciting challenge. On one hand it is really tough to do this on top of our existing coursework, but at the same time we have gained really great hands on practical economics experience outside of the theoretical teaching on the course."  

Both students cited their motivation for being part of the conference partly stemmed from the CORE teaching element of their economics degree run by Professor Wendy Carlin (UCL Economics).   

"CORE has really inspired us to actively get involved in the conference and to think about how we can play a part in answering some of life's big questions," said Will. 



  • Source: UCL

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Email: n.downes [at] ucl.ac.uk