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Reforming University Economics

by Frank Stilwell on October 24, 2014

Students struggling for improved courses in economics deserve strong support. They have recently formed an international network to coordinate their efforts: this is the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics (ISIPE). An activist from one of the most prominent groups in the UK is currently visiting Australia to strengthen personal links with students here. He is Christian Scholz from the University of Manchester Post-Crash Economics Society. Christian has been giving talks this week at Macquarie University and the University of Melbourne.  Next week he will be in Sydney, giving talks at the University of Sydney, the University of NSW and the University of Western Sydney.  The University of Sydney session is a public event where he will be joined by other speakers, Frank Stilwell and Emma Bacon.  Full details of the event are below.

‘Studying the Economy. Reboot. Political Economy’

A forum on the international challenge to conventional University Economics education


Christian Scholz,

UK student activist who is a coordinator of ‘the Post-Crash Economics Society’, currently visiting Australia

Frank Stilwell,

author of Political Economy: the Contest of Economic Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Emma Bacon

Former political economy student who has since worked as an organiser for United Voice, the Finance Sector Union and the Greens.

Tuesday 28 October


Carslaw building, lecture room 275, University of Sydney

Organised by ECOPSoc

Admission free

It is at the University of Sydney that the most well developed alternative to mainstream economics education already exists, so there should be a lot of interest. The Political Economy program there is possibly the most comprehensive program of studies in ‘alternative economics’ anywhere in the world. Its existence is the result of successful struggle for improved economics education, in which students, supported by some of their lecturers in the Department of Economics, pressured for course reform. Faced with intransigent Professors, the reform movement became a movement for a separate stream of courses where alternatives to the narrow mainstream curriculum could be studied.  Following numerous demonstrations (one of which is pictured on the masthead banner of this website), the University authorities reluctantly conceded to the pressure. The Political Economy courses have been running for nearly four decades and over 15,000 students have studied in them.

Many other universities have experienced waves of student and staff struggles of a similar nature.  An important wave was initiated in France a decade ago, giving rise to the movement for post-Autistic Economics. More recently, the global financial crash that began in 2007-8 led to an even bigger wave of dissent.  The GFC showed that the real-world economy does not behave as mainstream economics theorists and teachers imply it should.  Students were often perplexed that the economics curriculum continued with ‘business as usual’ as if nothing much had changed.  Dissatisfied students at Harvard walked out of the lectures by the leading neoclassical economist, Greg Mankiw.  In the UK, University of Manchester students got organised to press for course changes, forming the Post-Crash Economics Society.  Similar developments started to occur at other UK universities.  And now the movement has gone international.

All interested persons are welcome to come to the University of Sydney event on Tuesday 28 October to find out more of what is at issue and what can be done.  Media inquiries can be directed to frank.stilwell@sydney.edu.au

For information about other events in Sydney at which Christian Scholz will be speaking , contact Peter Kriesler at UNSW (p.kriesler@unsw.edu.au)  or Neil Perry at UWS (neil.parry@uws.edu.au)

Frank Stilwell
Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney, co-ordinating editor of the Journal of Australian Political Economy (JAPE), and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

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