5 things the London School of Economics taught me Reply

Michelle Groenewald reports from the LSE Winter School at UCT.

Having attended the London School of Economics Winter School hosted at the University of Cape Town this winter holiday, we (Michelle Groenewald and Caro Janse Van Rensburg) came to a couple of realisations about the world of Economics. This is a two week program where academic experts from LSE share their perspectives in fields ranging from economic challenges in Africa all the way to global poverty alleviation. Having recently returned from this enchanting experience we have a couple of insights to share.

  • People view the world very differently. Seeing as there were students from 27 different nations, a programme such as this provides ones with a unique opportunity to better understand a diverse range of people’s outlook on Economics. Seeing as the course we took specifically looked at Poverty and Development it was fascinating to note that poverty has a myriad of shifting faces. Whilst different countries struggle with different intensities and forms of poverty, it was heartening to see people from all walks of life, taking such a keen interest in uplifting the most vulnerable.
  • Heterodox economics is a thing. Whilst we are privileged at this university to have lecturers that teach more than that ‘the market will clear’, many students go their whole undergraduate lives knowing only about neoclassical economics. The lecturers at LSE were committed to outlining concepts within the mainstream framework, but more than anything they pledged themselves to emphasizing how many different schools of thought there were on a single topic. And so yes, one exam question did read: “To what extent have autocracies been better than democracies at alleviating poverty.”
  • A reading a day keeps the ignorance at bay. All throughout the course there are numerous prescribed readings for each day. During the programme, the wide and varied research from so many academics encourages one to read widely and to challenge your own deeply held convictions. Interesting to note too, is that much emphasis is placed on not just theoretical concepts, but rather on grounding these ideas in the real world and analysing specific, cases of where these events have actually occurred.

  • Nobel Prize winners are human too. Throughout these two weeks we looked at the work of great economists such as Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton. Refreshingly, critique and debate were encouraged even on some of the most influential work done by some of the most profound economists. It is this spirit of discourse that young academics are encouraged to constantly push the boundaries and redefine the way our generation should be thinking.
  • Academics let their hair down too. Deciding to embark on post graduate studies, one often hears the term “networking” being thrown around. This does involve having highly intellectual conversations over scrumptious dinners at some of Cape Town’s finest establishments. However, it also entails academics just having a generally good time appreciating the sights and sounds of all that South Africa has to offer. It is perhaps a lesson in recognizing the importance of fostering friendships first and being intellectuals second.

In short, this was a thoroughly enriching experience that we would advocate for any student. Considering just how interdisciplinary all the courses are, this experience does not even have to be limited to Economics students. Ultimately, if you want to be exposed to some of the best international academics in the comfort of your own country, this is two weeks you can afford to leave your dissertation behind for.

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