Embedding employability in International Economic Policy

Dr. Hany Abdel-Latif, Swansea University
Written for the Employability Skills Research Project, June 2019

The International Economic Policy module aims to equip students with a thorough understanding of the politics of the global economy and to develop awareness of how economic policy is developed and deployed in the international context. The approach adopted on this module encourages students to reflect and debate on a range of contemporary issues. The emphasis on the development of critical thinking is reflected in lectures and seminars as well as in the assessment.

Applying economics to real world context

Students are encouraged to reflect on real-world issues such as recent trade tensions, Brexit, financial crises, etc. Many of these issues are discussed thoroughly in both lectures and seminars. Students are encouraged to engage with and debate about these issues within a safe and healthy environment. For example, Students are asked to bring their devices to the lecture so they can participate in a variety of online activities. Such activities allow students to engage with the teaching material and to link economic concepts to current economic issues. This includes exposing students to real world data and how this can be used in understanding current economic issues.

I also spare a few minutes in the lecture in which I invite any student who would like to come forward to the front and use the microphone to convey to their fellow students his/her own ideas and reflection about the topics covered in the lecture.

To further develop the students’ abilities to debate and build sound arguments about real world issues, students are split into two groups during the seminar discussion. Each group of students takes one side in a particular debate and try to provide arguments and reasons for each position in the debate. Then, toward the end of the seminar, I tend to ask some students to switch their group and try to provide arguments that support the side of the debate which they initially opposed.

Simple classroom activities to put theory into practice

The module emphasises, from lecture one, the importance of understating the interaction between economics and politics in the real world. For example, to analyse a certain economic policy, it is not only important to understand policy preferences (including incentives and constraints) of different agents (economic analysis) but also the political context and role of power within an economy and on a global level. I encourage students not only to consider this in their debates and responses to class activities and discussions, but also to apply this in simple classroom exercises. For example, half-way through my two-hour lecture, I invite students to vote whether I should stop for a 10-minute break or carry on the lecture without a break. I then follow the voting outcome but encourage the group who lost the vote to campaign for their preferred outcome for the next lecture. This means they will need to understand the motives of both preferences, organise themselves and speak to their fellow students about why they should vote for their preferred outcome. Although it is a very simple exercise which does not take up much of the teaching time, it encourages students to practice what they have learned in a very simple but yet relevant situation.

I carry out the same exercise in all lectures and can see that both groups are active in promoting their preferences among their fellow classmates. I also encourage students to be open about the module and communicate their expectations. Using an online platform, students are asked to rate every lecture as well as to highlight what they like in the lecture and what changes they wish to see in the coming lectures.

Developing collaboration and presentation skills through digital assessment

The group coursework on this module requires students to write a 2000-word report and record a 4-minute mp4 video in which they respond to a question usually relates to linking theory to real world issues. For example, last year, students were asked to address the question: “Using specific real-world examples to frame your discussion, explain what trade wars mean, how these wars are linked to mercantilist/nationalist views and who are the winners and losers from trade wars.” In responding to this question, students used real world data and examples to explain the concept. They also focused on different form of power and how it is exercised in the global political economy. In addition, students were able to use real world data and recent literature to support their arguments.

Technology enhanced learning (TEL)

Lectures and seminars are complemented by a wide range of online materials either recorded by myself and posted online on Hanomics (my YouTube channel) or presented by experts and policy makers. I also broadcast my lectures live through Hanomics and/or Facebook. Last year, I started a hashtag on Twitter (#EcoSwans3) through which I (re)tweet news, videos, research, policy makers comments on current issues. Again, this helps students to link what they learned in the classroom with real world issues.

Skills developed by these activities

Skill/capability

 

Communication

 

Writing for academic audience

 

Writing for non-academic audience

 

Presentation to academic audience

Yes

Presentation to non-academic audience

Yes

Application to real world

 

Applying economics to real world context

Yes

Solving policy or commercial problems

 

Simplifying complex ideas/information to make them accessible to wide audience

Yes

Data analysis

 

Sourcing and organising quantitative data

Yes

Analysing and interpreting quantitative data

Yes

Fluency with excel

 

Fluency with statistical/econometric packages

 

Collaboration

 

Team-working with economists

Yes

Collaboration with non-economists

 

Wider employability skills

 

Flexibility

 

Creativity and imagination

Yes

Independent thinking

Yes

Can do attitude

Yes

Reliability

Yes

Resilience

Yes

Commercial awareness

 

Time management

Yes

Project management/organisational skills

Yes

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