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Surveying University Student Standards in Economics


  • Peter Abelson

    () (Department of Economics, Macquarie University)


In late 2003 and early 2004 the Economic Society of Australia surveyed the Heads of Economics Departments in Australia to determine their views on three main issues: student standards, major factors affecting these standards, and policy implications. This paper describes the main results of the survey, reviews the conduct and value of this kind of survey, and discusses policy implications for economics in universities. Most respondents considered that student standards have declined and that the main causes include lower entry standards, high student-staff ratios, and a declining culture of study. However some respondents argued that standards are multi-dimensional and that people may properly attach different weights to different attributes. Strong processes assuring anonymity to respondents minimized strategic responses, but may not have eliminated them entirely. However, these views are based largely on experience rather than evidence and a major finding of this paper is the need for more evidence on standards and on the factors that influence them. Most respondents favour a decentralised university-based approach to dealing with these issues, contending that centralised accreditation is inappropriate and that market forces would promote quality issues. In the writer's view, externally set and assessed exams as part of university examination procedures would lift standards and send out improved market signals.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Abelson, 2005. "Surveying University Student Standards in Economics," Research Papers 0501, Macquarie University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mac:wpaper:0501

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rod O'Donnell, 1992. "The Unwritten Books and Papers of J. M. Keynes," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 24(4), pages 767-817, Winter.
    2. McCloskey,Deirdre N., 1994. "Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521436038, March.
    3. McCloskey,Deirdre N., 1994. "Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521434751, March.
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    More about this item


    Universities; Education standards;

    JEL classification:

    • A20 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - General

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