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The LSE offers a world renowned Economics course, but then again I would say that because I am taking it. The staff responsible for the courses have changed in the time since I have started, but the fundamentals remain the fundamentals.
Before you start saying “tsk, the LSE is just a name, it’s not really a campus etc” this opinion is not really about that, the people there are still human and I don’t see having picnics on the grass at lunchtime as the most important feature of my degree.
In case you have no idea what the LSE is, I suggest you read one of the first opinions I wrote, it’s not the best opinion ever, but nor is it any worse than a lot of the stuff that appears here =P. Basically it is one of Europe’s to centres for Political Sciences which attracts a lot of foreign students, some people think it’s an acronym used by American students for “Let’s see Europe”.
The Economics degree is one of the most popular, along with the Accounting & Finance and the Law degree. I’m going to go into a bit about the Economics (Undergraduate degree) here and then some of the courses and what you can expect.
<First Year> You take the “famous” Economics B course and either a Maths course and two outside options, or two maths courses and an outside option.
<2nd Year> You take a microeconomics course, a macroeconomics course, an econometrics course and an outside option.
<3rd Year> You take 3 Economics courses and select from a few outside options, or 4 Economics courses.
Sounds limiting doesn’t it? Well I don’t think so, I feel that I have learned a broad range of things and don’t have the feeling of “I wish I learned something about marine biology.”. In my opinion, the system is quite good. The courses themselves are a little overrated in most respects, here’s why…
I shall give you my opinion on the main courses you may encounter during a typical Economics degree at the LSE
EC 102 Let’s start with the first year Economics course, you start off thinking you shouldn’t bother attending because you got A for you’re a Level economics course, wrong. The approach is totally different, and soon, you will get sick and tired of “indifference curves” and the IS-LM model, the course is very good, the teachers that taught me do not teach it any more so I do not know the current system. It won’t be the most interesting course you have, but this will form the basis to everything. The exercises are plentiful, and classes are often rushed to cover the material. This courses follows texts by Varian, Hirschlifer and Perlman.
AC100 Another one of the most popular first year courses, this is basically an introduction to accounting, it was fun learning the basics, but I do not think my comparative advantage is in managerial accounting and balance sheets and profit & loss statements.
EC201 This is a funny course, you leave the lecture room all happy for the wrong reasons. This is a 2nd year intermediate Microeconomics course. You take the first half of EC102 further and look at income and substitution effects, then stuff on the theory of the firm etc. This is not a popular course, but everyone has to do it, being in a crowded lecture theatre does not help. The 2nd half looks at issues concerning Public Economics and social welfare, learn about things like Robinson Crusoe’s production function, externalities etc. This follows a text by Katz & Rozen. The exercises are plentiful, and classes are often rushed to cover the material.
EC210 This course is the Macro counterpart to EC201. You are going to be sick of log differentiation, the Solow growth model, the Dornbusch model, the Keynesians, the Classicists, the Real Business Cycle Model, blah blah blah, this is a very difficult 2nd year course. But if you understand all this, you are very well set up for the 3rd year of your course. The exercises are plentiful, and classes are often rushed to cover the material.
EC220 This is the Econometrics course, not highly mathematical, just plug data into a programme for the classes, and know how to interpret it in an exam. 2 9am starts does this no justice, it is not an interesting course, but without it. You may be a little lost in your final year.
EC303 This is a course about the Economics of the EU, don’t let the name fool you! The first dozen lectures are fine, a little difficult but I enjoyed them. Then Alan Marin takes you through a bit about pollution (his specialist subject) and you learn about the CAP, the reasons for it and what it has achieved. It is not an interesting course, the classes are not stimulating, but if you are interested, I suggest you only turn up to the lectures.
EC315 This is a popular international course, the first half consists of models of trade, trade barriers etc, the second half covers the international side of things, following the book by Krugman & Obstfeld or Appleyard and Field.
EC321 This is where it get interesting, not a lot of people take this course, but this is the Monetary Economics course, the first half is about the demand for money and the existence. The 2nd part is taken by Professor Goodhart, he is the best lecturer I have had and this is one of the most interesting courses I have taken, you learn about interesting issues such as bank runs, the structure of interest rates, financial intermediation and EMU. This course is difficult, there is a mock exam, however it is also relaxed.
Unfortunately Professor Goodhart is retiring from teaching this year and you will not be able to share in his insight and enjoy one of the best courses as it is/was.
EC325 Another top course, a very relaxed one too. This is a course on Public Economics and the first half is taken by Nick Barr, he who is associated with a lot of government policy decisions and the World Bank. You learn about things from student fees to the market for insurance and lots of interesting stuff. Barr is one of the best lecturers. The second half concerns a lot of tax issues, a continuation of the 2nd half of EC201, with more policy orientated issues and a lot of budget line analysis.
++How good is it?
It depends on the course, I have given you a short outline, and as long as you have a good teacher you are okay. What are the chances of getting a good teacher? Pretty bad, there are lots of research students about whose first language is Italian (a lot of lecturers are too), and their priority is not you. The class sizes are around 20, but this could be higher if your teacher speaks fluent English.
The reading material access from the library is seldom satisfactory, but I have managed to get hold of 90% of the things I want, it just takes time. The exams are difficult yes, as one would expect, you always feel hard done by, but that’s life I guess.
Overall, this is a great course, at a great institution, it is a shame that the teaching is so rushed, but that is university life, stick around until the 3rd year, it is very interesting, especially if you are up for a challenge. If not then go somewhere else and learn less and enjoy your picnics on the lawn ;-)