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Economics: What's going on?

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News created: 21 Oct 2010

Satisfying the curiosity and preparing for an interesting career

By Tony Bryant, Associate Professor of Economics, Macquarie University

tony bryant economicsEconomics is something everyone has experience with, whether they are aware of it or not. It's a part of our everyday lives whether it is when we are shopping, working and dealing with customers or buying shares.

Yet it takes those people who have a certain level of curiosity about how the "system" works to study economics at university level. These are the people who look at the supply and demand systems in our society, or perhaps in a foreign society, and ask the question: "What's going on?"

Those who have this curiosity want to develop a better understanding of all the inter-connections within an economy and an understanding of how one economic system might be more effective than another.

For people with this curiosity who are looking to study economics, Australia offers a unique opportunity to learn about this subject in one of the world's strongest and most internationally open economies.

Dispelling the myth

Telling someone you're an economist can draw some blank looks. It's not as straightforward as revealing you're a teacher or a doctor, because unlike those professions, many people don't really understand what an economist does or why she/he does it.

There is often a misconception that economics is a dry, mathematical discipline or that studying economics is irrelevant or trivial. However the experience of studying economics at an Australian university will quickly dispel this myth.

Economics the Aussie way

Since white settlement, and quite likely well before that, Australia has been a trading economy.  Partly for that reason Australian economists have made numerous outstanding contributions to International Trade Theory and Policy. Econometric Theory, along with Macroeconomic Theory and Policy are other areas in which Australian economists have made significant contributions to thought and practice. This is evidenced in part by the fact that Australia was not affected by the GFC as severely as the rest of the world, which was  in some degree due to the clear thinking and appropriate policy response of Australian economists and policy makers. These policy responses boosted the economy and stabilised the financial system at a time of crisis. It is this sort of experience that international students can learn from when studying in Australia.

Every economist has their passion whether it is for microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, health economics, environmental economics, financial economics, or growth and development; however, as a place of learning, a university has an obligation to educate its students on a broad range of economic topics so the student can develop their passion and expertise as they learn.

Many Australian universities avoid a narrow view of the subject and when researching university options in Australia, potential students are encouraged to consider how diversified is the portfolio of subjects that the school teaches.

Economics should be a lively debate about the best way to find a solution to issues plaguing a particular economic system. Are students encouraged to share ideas and challenge the systems that are already in place? This is the sort of education an Australian university can offer, one that not only provides an intellectual experience but also a deeply human experience, along with sound preparation for a number of interesting career possibilities.

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