Tool 5: Example Curricula

A number of example bachelor and master programmes, made using the Economy Studies building blocks and the principles: real-world, pluralism and values.

This chapter provides examples of how economics programmes could look and be structured. Such proposals help make the debate concrete and bring out potential trade-offs. This is important because critics of current programmes often simply ask to teach more and more, without considering practical limits on time and content. Curriculum proposals help us to flesh out not only what could be added to a programme, but also what could be left out. In addition, these examples show how the building blocks of Economy Studies can be combined to form coherent programmes.

We present four examples in this book and three more on our website, all created through the Economy Studies design approach: two bachelor programmes, an economics major in a Liberal Arts & Sciences programme and four master programmes. These example curricula demonstrate how our building blocks can either be used independently or combined together into ready-to-teach courses.

This chapter is also intended to make clear once again: Economy Studies is not a blueprint of a single, ‘ideal’ curriculum. It is possible to design a wide variety of programmes with these building blocks, and it is our hope that they will be used for this. We firmly believe that the world is best served with a wide variety of economists. One size does not fit all.

Before going into our own example curricula, we want to shortly discuss a few prominent curriculum proposals that have inspired us. In 2010, INET published a curriculum proposal for UK undergraduate economics education. The first year of the bachelor programme would focus on width, with courses on the Economics of the Real World, philosophy of science, basic theoretical concepts and methodological tools in economics, economic history, the history of economic thought, and current debates in economics. The second year focuses on further developing students’ conceptual and technical competencies, with adjusted versions of the standard micro- and macro-economics and econometrics courses, and a course on the different languages and approaches used in economics. These “adjusted” courses would include ideas from other theoretical approaches, such as post-Keynesian, Austrian and behavioural economics, and pay more attention to the limitations of the dominant neoclassical theories. The purpose of the third and final year is to go into greater depth and apply economic concepts and tools to real-world problems. They propose to do this through the bachelor thesis, specialised elective courses and practically oriented case studies.

In 2014, the French economics student group PEPS made the case for pluralism by analysing existing French programmes as well as proposing an alternative curriculum. This 3-year undergraduate programme consists of courses on contemporary economic and social issues, key economic topics, normative economic questions, institutions, history of economic thought, economic history, and quantitative and qualitative research methods.

The same year, Jack Reardon presented a curriculum proposal in the final chapter of a volume he edited with Maria Alejandra Madi – The Economics Curriculum: Towards a Radical Reformulation (2014). The 4-year undergraduate programme starts out by delving into a diverse range of topics from the history of capitalist systems to philosophy, the history of intellectual thought, world literature, and quantum physics. The second year introduces the discipline of economics, different schools of thought, modelling, communicating, as well as the topics of finance, credit and money. The third year focuses on the topic of poverty and related issues, such as international trade and power relations, governments, firms and industry structures. The fourth and last year is organised around the issue of sustainability with attention to matters such as resource use, economic growth and climate policy.

In this chapter we build on the above work, by setting out how the Economy Studies foundations and building blocks could be used to shape economics curricula. Our suggestions differ from the above, in the sense that we do not propose one ‘ideal’ curriculum. Instead, we provide a number of example curricula that each makes use of the logic and ingredients discussed in this book, but at the same time are different from each other. We do not think there could exist such a thing as an ‘optimal’ curriculum that should be taught everywhere. Diversity of programmes is something to encourage, and we try to show the flexibility of the Economy Studies framework in this chapter. The variety between these curricula speaks to the great diversity of economists our society needs.

Beyond these “demand” factors, there might also be “supply” reasons for varying programmes, as universities have different specialisations in their research expertise. As Colander and McGoldrick (2010, p. 21) put it: “A program heavily endowed with historians of economic thought might wantto offer a rather different program than one with primarily game theorists and econometricians. There is room for much positive variation within the economics major; there is no one size fits all”.

We present four examples here in the book, and several more on the website, all created through the Economy Studies approach. The first two are 3-year undergraduate programmes, one more theoretical and the other more real-world focused. The third example curriculum is an economics major within a liberal arts and sciences programme (1,5 years worth of courses). The fourth is a one-year master programme in public economics. Online, we describe three more master programmes: one-year programmes in financial economics and on the climate crisis and a two-year research master in industrial economics.

These example curricula demonstrate how our building blocks can either be used independently or combined together into ready-to-teach courses. Building on the framework described in Tool 1: Pragmatic Pluralism, they show the idea of a ‘thematic course’, which teaches a pluralist range of theory around a single economic theme. The second curriculum also introduces the ‘sectoral course’, which starts from a specific economic sector and introduces a variety of theoretical insights and real-world knowledge on that basis. In addition, that curriculum demonstrates how other disciplines could contribute to a broader economics education.

The thesis is perhaps the element that is least fleshed out in these examples, so a word on that is in order here. We suggest that it could in many cases be less of a stripped-down academic research paper, and more of a concrete case study. The thesis would still be a piece of independent research, using the theories and methods learned during the preceding programme. The result, however, would be less suitable for a peer-reviewed journal, and instead more suitable as an input to a discussion between professionals, a decision-making body in a private or public organisation, or to feed public debate.

While these seven curricula are quite diverse, each of them is built with the same philosophy and three basic principles in mind, and makes use of the same ten building blocks. We deliberately made them fairly diverse, to demonstrate that the framework of Economy Studies enables a broad array of possible programmes. These are far from the only possible curricula that could be built from these principles and building blocks, they are simply examples. Nonetheless, we hope that they will help to inspire you in your own educational efforts.

Example Curricula: