UCD MA in Economics

I figure that some of you reading this blog may be interested in undertaking further study in economics. So this seems like a good place to provide some information about UCD’s MA programme in economics. Information about the course is available here, including an electronic version of our glossy brochure.

I suspect some of the economists from other universities may also wish to use the site to promote their programmes, so let me briefly indicate what I see as the strengths of our programme. According to RePEc, UCD is Ireland’s leading university for research in economics, so the modules are taught by highly qualified research-oriented staff. The programme has a strong research element to it, with students doing a research thesis, for which we offer significant supports in the form of personal supervision by a staff member and classes on research methods. Finally, the programme offers a range of module options in the second term, allowing students to take advanced core modules (effectively tracking those taken in the first year of international graduate programmes) or to take a range of more applied and policy-focused modules or a mix of both. This means that students can decide at the end of their first term which track they want to go down.

Anyone who has questions about the programme should feel free to contact me at karl.whelan@ucd.ie.

Update: Hugh Sheehy points out in the (surprisingly entertaining) comments that our MA site isn’t clear about fees. I’ll try to get that fixed but I can tell you from this that they are €5,400 for EU students and €10,800 for non-EU students. Hefty, I know, but less than other comparable programmes.

History of economic thought: back from the brink?

Bright undergraduates tend to enjoy courses in the history of economic thought — I know I did — but the field is in an even more parlous state than economic history when it comes to the hiring decisions of economics departments. After all, why spend time studying the mistaken theories of the past, when you can study the superior theories that have replaced them?

(OK, perhaps that argument doesn’t seem quite so compelling now as it did a few years ago.)

So I was interested to see David Warsh’s report from the AEA meetings which quoted James Heckman, no less, as making the argument for history of thought courses in Economics PhD programmes. It follows the launching of a blog which promises to “engage current financial news and policy debates from the standpoint of the classics of monetary theory.”

And Brad makes the pitch in characteristically understated fashion here.

Class Sizes Revisited: Denny and Oppedisano

While we are on the subject of what really matters for human welfare, many people expressed approval of the government’s decision to not allow class sizes to increase further. Kevin Denny has been talking about this issue for several years and basically arguing that the evidence on class sizes is mixed at best and that it is more of a teacher workload issue than a pupil welfare and performance issue. He has just put out a paper with colleague Veruska Oppedisano testing the effect of classsizes on pupil performance. According to his results, bigger class sizes are associated with better performance in the PISA data, even controlling for a wide range of controls and using different estimation techniques. I think Kevin would be the first to say that you should be careful about overinterpreting any individual data analysis but it certainly points away from any simplistic assertions about the effects of class-sizes.

Notes on Banking and Central Banks

I know this website attracts a lot of readers who are interested in banking and in monetary policy. Often, these people are regular members of the public trying to understand what’s going on in the world but starting out from a somewhat hazy understanding of the various technicalities. So (hopefully without being too patronising) I thought I’d point people towards the course webpage for my UCD module “International Monetary Economics.”

This is a final year undergraduate module that covers banking, financial stability, monetary policy and some issues in international finance. Probably most readers will find the material pretty basic but for those of you who would like to have some material to study, it’s intended to help those with a limited background get up to speed with current events in banking and monetary policy. The focus is largely international but Irish banks get the odd shout out. This is the first week of classes (out of a total of twelve), so I’ll be adding lecture notes and other material as I go along.

Constructive criticism of the notes is welcome. (Long deranged rants about fractional reserve banking are not.)


I’d say this little piece by Paul Krugman, and the associated note, will end up on lots of undergraduate syllabi. Liquidity traps are boring to teach, until you find yourself in the middle of one. From an Irish point of view, however, the key section is the following:

if some subset of the work force accepts lower wages, it can gain jobs. If workers in the widget industry take a pay cut, this will lead to lower prices of widgets relative to other things, so people will buy more widgets, hence more employment.

The point is that the Irish are just a subset of the Eurozone workforce, and that our GDP is the equivalent of Krugman’s widgets, whose relative price can be reduced. Krugman makes the same point in a follow-up post here. Of course, devaluation would be preferable to wage (and price) cuts: it would avoid the debt deflation and rising real interest rates which Krugman talks about. But it is not an option.