To Become Professional Economists, An Undergraduate Degree In Economics Is Not Necessary

In an email interview to BW Education's Waqar Ahmed Fahad , Prof Indradeep Ghosh discusses the expansion plans and vision of Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics.

Q. What attracted you to the subject and what keeps you interested?

When I graduated high school in 1993, I wanted to study a subject that had both analytical and narrative components to it. This was because I was good at math but also loved literature. It was also the heyday of India’s brush with economic liberalization for the first time in 40+ years. This particular constellation of reasons led me to Economics, which I had never studied before, and I fell in love with the subject almost immediately. 

I remain interested in the subject for some of the same reasons that I started studying it. I continue to love the unique blend of the analytical and the rhetorical that Economics affords. But of course, over the years, as I have matured intellectually, I have come to appreciate the subject from a much deeper perspective as well. Economic reality is live reality, unfolding around us every day, populated by conscious, sentient human beings and animated by their willful and self-interested actions, and this is simply an enormously exciting reality to study, understand and narrate, because it seems to have a life and will of its own, continuously engaging us through surprise. At a mundane level, Economics is about life itself, because the material basis of well-being is the foundation for all higher forms of well-being and so the study of Economics is intrinsically interesting and challenging.

Q. Which Economist has influenced you most/do you have an Economist hero? Why?

Since I love Economics for its unique blend of the analytical and the rhetorical, I have to say that the Economist who has most influenced me has been Deirdre McCloskey. She is not very well-known outside the discipline, but her work nevertheless shines the greatest light on not only the subject matter that the discipline attempts to explain, i.e., the social reality of markets and states, but also on the state of the discipline itself. So, McCloskey is an Economist’s Economist, in many ways – a terrific analytical thinker, and a terrific writer as well. 

Q. Tell us a bit about MDAE and your role as Dean.

I have been with MDAE right from its beginnings, and all through, I have held fast to the belief that MDAE is not just the best at what it does, but perhaps the only academic institution that does what it does. We train Economists to go out and work in the world, and this requires helping students to go beyond the textbook and really engage with the world of corporations and markets and policymakers in both domestic and international contexts. As such, our curriculum is a unique blend of theory and practice and our entire program is designed to situate students in the real world, right from the very start. Unlike most other academic institutions that offer post-graduate training in Economics, we are market-facing and our location in Mumbai helps us a great deal in that regard. Our students are not just learning Economic theory but interacting with practitioner Economists from government, business and industry, all the time. This is what makes our program unique and special and it is also why our placement record has been such a roaring success even in the short time that we’ve been around (since 2015). 

In my role as Dean, I oversee all academic affairs at MDAE, including faculty recruiting and appointments, course curriculum, course delivery, assessments, and any and all issues that come up for our students during their learning process. I am very insistent that all our faculty take the task of teaching and mentoring our students very seriously, because it is through excellent teaching that we can help our students evolve and prepare them for the exciting but challenging world of Economics practice that they are aspiring to be a part of. I also liaise closely with the administrative staff and especially our COO, Mr. Karan Shah, on placements-related matters, so as to ensure that the curriculum is responding effectively to the needs of corporates that recruit from MDAE. Finally, I work closely with the Academic Board and the Board of Governors on matters relating to the medium-term strategic vision for MDAE as it looks to grow and establish itself as a premier institution for Economics higher education in India. 

Q. With students from MDAE holding high profile and creative positions in domains like banking, fin-tech, analytics, do you think this will encourage more young people to go into economics?

Yes, of course. It is not just that MDAE is placing students in these high-profile and exciting jobs but also that such jobs are beginning to grow in number and are beginning to seek the kinds of skills that our program is designed to cultivate. 20 years ago when I went to college, most of the interesting, creative positions in entry-level management went to MBAs and CAs. However, today the Indian economy is so much more sophisticated and so much more connected to the rest of the world that the need for well-trained Economists is becoming more and more apparent among corporates, think tanks, foundations, quasi-governmental institutions, and government. This is the reason that more and more young people should feel enthused to study Economics, as it will really open doors to a very wide range of interesting and lucrative job profiles in the years to come. 

Q. A recent Wall Street Journal article stated that despite rising profiles of women in Economics, women still trailed men in academia, do you think this is the case? If so, what can be done to encourage change?

It varies from country to country. In India, I do not think that it is so great a problem as it is in the West. After all, we have many high-profile practitioner Economists in India who are women (Arundhati Bhattacharya, Usha Thorat, Isher Judge Ahluwalia, and Pranjul Bhandari, to name only a few), and most of our Economics professorate in Indian colleges and universities is also female. At MDAE, too, we routinely attract more women than men, with the former typically representing about 60-70% of each year’s incoming class. 

Q. How are the admissions looking? What are the demographics of students opting for the course?

This year’s admissions is looking great. We are looking to welcome an incoming class of 50 students, and only a few seats remain to be filled. We are attracting students from all over the country – New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Jaipur, Gandhinagar, Bhubaneshwar, Indore, Pune, Chennai, and of course, Mumbai – to name just a few cities. We are attracting both women and men, the former in slightly larger numbers. We are attracting students from a variety of backgrounds – arts, sciences, social sciences, engineering – so that our classes tend to be rich in diversity of perspective. Indeed, we believe that in order to become professional Economists, an undergraduate degree in Economics is not necessary, and our curriculum is designed to upgrade and upskill students from all backgrounds and make them job-ready in a year’s time. Most of our students are freshers but also a small number of them are coming to us after having worked for a couple or more years. The latter category is looking to our program to switch career tracks or launch themselves into more favorable salary trajectories even if they will return to the same industry that they came to us from. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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