Early August typically sees cold temperatures in Potch and the annual Winter School for Master’s students in the School of Economics.
This year things were heated up with a focus on the context of the students’ research and a number of speakers who came to paint with that broad brush. Prof Saayman gave an overview of the history of economic thought (you have to know if your approach is new or neo-classical). Ed Kerby of LEAP at Stellenbosch spoke about economic history research and seven major themes in the field: Micro analysis, Living standards, Economic growth, Institutions, Monetary economics, Culture and Development Economics. Prof Raymond Parsons spoke about South Africa’s policies and political economy (particularly relevant now that the ANC’s NEC has called for a re-planning of the NDP). And finally Prof Andre Heymans gave an overview of research specifically in the Finance field.
Do your Master’s degree – get a black belt in Economics!
From 11 to 14 June Derick Blaauw joined Prof Rinie Schenck of the Department of Social Work at UWC in Port Elizabeth where fieldwork commenced as part of a joint research project on day labourers in South Africa. They were joined by 10 field workers, recruited from graduates of the Department of Social work at NMMU and the University of Fort Hare as well as the University of the Western Cape. The Monday was spent on training and fieldwork commenced on the Tuesday. More than 100 interviews were held with day labourers across the city during the week.
The fieldworkers reported that many of the respondents were hungry and did not achieve employment success more than once or twice per week. Real wages decreased since the previous survey in 2007/08 and competition for existing jobs increased markedly as well. Migration and the presence of foreign born migrants is a reality, bringing tension to the street corners. The research team encountered a Zimbabwean teacher on one of the hiring sites. This confirm the dire situation in Zimbabwe hinting to another wave of immigrants making their way to South Africa.
Some respondents indeed did not want to participate – a choice we as researchers obviously respected. After completion of the fieldwork a debriefing session was held where all the fieldworkers expressed their concern in terms of the socio-economic position of these vulnerable people. As researchers we can highlight their plight but the biggest challenge in future will be to offer some form of hope for those who have or are close to losing it.
The project is continuing, with fieldwork in East London and Cape Town next on the agenda in the coming months.
We have graduation ceremonies on campus this week and Magister Commercii, Master of Commerce, students graduated this morning. We are proud to list the students and the topics of their thesis.
The M.Com. in Economics was awarded to:
- Ilandi Bezuidenhout – The men by the side of the road: Determinants of the wages of day labourers.
- Du Toit Niemand – Analysing the spatial persistence of population and wealth during Apartheid.
- Mia van der Linde – An analysis of the polarisation of the South African labour market.
- Christelle Viljoen – An analysis of the economic geography of labour market outcomes in South Africa.
In Risk Management:
- Joubert de Villiers – The relationship between exchange rate volatility and portfolio inflow in South Africa.
- Hestia Stoffberg – Assessing the suitability of regulatory asset correlations applied to South African loan losses.
In International Trade:
- Chrislemien Groenewald – Analysing the effectiveness of trade facilitation in South Africa.
- Francois van Heerden – Identifying employment-intensive export sectors in South Africa’s services industry.
Congratulations to the students and supervisors.
The 2015 class of Master’s degree and PhD students are out there reading and reading and getting those research proposals ready. Our previous resources post gave a few writing tips to go along with what they are learning at the writing school. This post has a few more links to keep you thinking:
- Quartz had an interesting post that compares the style guides of Bloomberg News and The Economist. They throw in a few timeless rules at the end:
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
- We also discovered this post on policy vs academic jobs in Economics. The differences in jobs also speaks to differences in how you would write for these audiences. Students are often excited about making practical contributions with their research, solving some problem out there in the real world. But a good dissertation or thesis will convince and impress other academics: novel perspectives or methods are at a premium. These days the direction of effect is everything. It is worth reading the post and thinking about what you are pitching at the colloquium.
In the next post we will have a few presentation tips and tricks.