Seeing the World through the Lens of Economics
Examination of any newspaper will demonstrate that more of the headlines address economic problems than any other topic. The importance and relevance of economic-related disciplines to the modern world led Michelle Chan to want to pursue the study of the subject at a higher level several years ago. ‘I was particularly interested in learning about the economic theories and their daily applications,’ she recalled. The Economics programme at CUHK caught her eye as economics has long been a signature discipline at the University since 1963, ranking in the top 46th in the world in the field of Economics and Econometrics, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017.
Further, Michelle noticed that while most Hong Kong universities have their economics departments housed within the business schools, economics is positioned as a social science at CUHK and has a much broader array of applications. ‘At CUHK, the Department of Economics is an integral member of the Faculty of Social Science. This structure makes it clear that economics is not just about applying the theories in business, but can be applied in numerous contexts,’ said Prof. Zhang Junsen, Chairman of the Department of Economics.
The programme provides rigorous training on the use of the economic theories and statistical tools for analyses related to issues of economic importance. The rigor of the training enables students to distinguish knowledge and phenomena that are merely new applications of existing economic theories from cases where existing theories cannot apply and further research would be needed. ‘This mind-set is necessary for our students to develop coherent analytical frameworks and the organic intellectual process in order to learn about the world more effectively and logically,’ said Professor Zhang.
When asked what she got out of the programme, Michelle said it taught her how to take data seriously. ‘I no longer take figures, numbers, statistics and estimates at their face value. Instead, I was encouraged to explore the meanings behind them. This training makes me feel more comfortable and eager to reveal the hidden messages behind the data. I realize the use of data in supporting my arguments and hypotheses is very important.’
To cater to each student’s career aspiration, a maximum of two of the following five concentration areas can be selected:
- Economic Theory—ideal for those who aspire to becoming good researchers or to pursuing further studies in Economics
- Financial Economics—for those who would like to work in the finance industry
- Business Economics—for students interested in the use of economics in business decisions
- Chinese Economy—the Department boasts a strong and unique faculty in the study of the Chinese economy
- Data Analytics—for students interested in the handling, modelling and analysing of big data, in order to draw vital conclusions and develop key insights
In addition, to achieve a balance between theory and application, the Economics programme emphasizes the development of key skills, especially mathematics, statistics and programming. ‘We offer a wide range of courses, workshops, seminars and conferences to enhance our students’ exposure and understanding of various subject matters. Distinguished scholars and professionals around the world are regularly invited to give lectures, thereby allowing our students to have a chance to meet and discuss economic topics with them,’ said Professor Zhang.
Michelle has made good use of the many internship and exchange opportunities available. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Census and Statistics Department of the HKSAR Government offer internships exclusively to CUHK economics majors. The Economics programme has a dedicated career officer to support the students’ career developments. The programme is also in partnership with three prestigious European universities—Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Universität Mannheim in Germany and University of Bath in the UK—in organizing exchange programmes. According to Professor Zhang, about a quarter of their students have had gone on exchange in overseas universities.
Like Michelle, students of the Economics programme are typically interested in examining human behaviours and social phenomena, and are committed to learning a coherent and rigorous analytical framework needed for such analyses. To recognize those admitted students with outstanding academic and interview performance, the Department has established admission scholarships for them.
The programme admits around 70 new students each year, and the career fields for its graduates are many and varied. ‘Quite a lot of our students go on to postgraduate programmes in economics. Some directly go to the PhD programmes in economics in the US. For those who do not pursue postgraduate studies, we hardly hear anyone having no job offers. A sizable number of students go to the banking and finance industry. We also have students working in other fields such as property and asset management, shipping, policy think tanks, the government, accounting, law, education, etc. The spectrum of jobs of our graduates is extremely wide,’ said Professor Zhang.
If you would also like to pick up the economic tools to explore the hidden side of everything, Michelle has this insider’s advice to offer: ‘This programme can be easy or hard, depending on your desire to learn. Most importantly, think about what you want to get before considering what others can give you. Four years of university life is short compared to an entire life, but big changes usually occur in those four years. Since everyone’s need is different, search for your own unique reason to convince yourself to become part of us.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018