The Department of Economics at SOAS University of London is a leading centre for economics research, specialising in the study of developing and emerging nations.
Head of Department, Dr Ulrich Volz, explains how he first became interested in economics and what it is that makes studying economics at SOAS so special.
How did you first become interested in Economics?
“My father is an economist who worked in international development, so I got an early exposure to what one can do with economics, and in a way I followed in his footsteps. My family is from Germany, but I was born and partly raised in Sri Lanka. Hence, from my early childhood on, I grew up with an awareness of the grave differences in living conditions between rich and poor countries. My interest in economics basically grew out of questioning the reason why some societies are rich and others are not, and wishing to find out how to create the conditions for countries to escape poverty.”
What aspects of Economics currently most interests you?
“I am currently very much interested in how the financial system can be aligned with sustainable development in order to help achieve the much-needed green transformation to a low-carbon economy. That is, how can we redirect financial flows away from those that are environmentally harmful towards sustainable investments?”
Why study for an undergraduate degree in Economics?
“Economics is an exciting subject that helps one to understand how to address the pressing challenges of our times, such as tackling youth unemployment, poverty and inequality, food security or the transformation to a low-carbon economy.
What’s good about studying economics is that it provides lots of career opportunities.
“Our graduates have gone on to employment in a range of professional roles in both business and public sectors, such as international banking and finance, national governments in many parts of the world, international organisations and development agencies, non-governmental organisations, and academia.”
What is special about studying Economics at SOAS?
“The SOAS Department of Economics is the only economics department in the world where women number as half of its staff members. We have a vibrant research culture driven by staff working on a plethora of issues, but we specialise in the study of developing and emerging economies and our work covers an unparalleled range of countries and regions. We offer a pluralist and applied approach to the study of economics to our students.
“One of our goals is to ensure that all our students graduate with an excellent understanding of mainstream economic theory and gain a first-rate training in quantitative methods. However, we also encourage our students to develop a proper understanding of the limitations of mainstream theory. In so doing, we place great emphasis on introducing our students to the history of economics as a discipline and, importantly, to some of the alternative, ‘heterodox’ approaches to economic analysis. At the same time, the work of the department is fundamentally concerned with the application of economics to real world issues and real policy concerns. This is also reflected by the fact that most colleagues in the Department are regularly providing policy advice to international organisations and governments world-wide, something our students benefit from, too. As such, we encourage our students to develop a deep understanding of particular countries and issues, based on concrete analysis of history, institutions and political economy. This reflects a shared view within the Department that economics should be rigorous, reflective and, fundamentally, useful.”
The Department offers several innovative degree options for undergraduates. BSc Economics provides students with the training in microeconomics, macroeconomics and quantitative methods, which will enable them to pursue highly successful careers in an economics-related profession. The BSc Development Economics programme is distinct with regard to its application of relevant theoretical concepts to real issues in the countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. BA Economics and … combines economics with another discipline or language, including subjects from African Studies, Development Studies, Geography, History, Law, Linguistics, Politics, Social Anthropology, South Asian Studies, South East Asian Studies or the Study of Religions.
Dr Volz’s latest book Financing the Green Transformation: How to Make Green Finance Work in Indonesia explores challenges for developing and emerging economies for enhancing green financing for sustainable, low-carbon investment.