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Bursary Fund up and running

In the December 2013 Newsletter we introduced the Stellenbosch Economics Bursary Fund to sponsor future PhD students. We envisage a fund sufficiently large to enable us to finance the bursaries from the interest alone. The fund will be managed and invested by a small committee consisting of staff members and alumni who have investment experience. To be able to pay one student from the interest received on the investment, we need R4 million. Our current total stands at R1 050 000. Your contribution will entitle you to a tax rebate. For more information, please contact Sophia du Plessis at sophia@sun.ac.za.
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Lant Pritchett visits department

Prof Lant Pritchett from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a world expert on Economics of Education and on service delivery, spent a week at Stellenbosch in January 2014 as guest of ReSEP, the programme of Research on Socio-Economic Policy. He addressed a seminar on Growth Transitions and during two days of informal workshops at STIAS (Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies) he provided feedback on the research of ReSEP team members and gave presentations on education and on service delivery. Thereafter he met with smaller groups of researchers over two days to share ideas about research and policy in these fields. The highly successful visit was funded by the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences’ elite research fund that encourages internationalisation.
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Stellenbosch research informs wage subsidy legislation

Research undertaken by Neil Rankin, associate professor in the department, and colleagues at Yale and the University of the Witwatersrand informed the design by National Treasury of the newly launched Youth Employment Tax Incentive. This initiative aims to promote youth employment by allowing firms to claim back part of the wage of newly hired young people. Rankin’s research followed a group of young people over four years – some of whom were given a wage subsidy voucher – to establish the potential impact of a subsidy on youth employment. The study found that those in the wage subsidy group were significantly more likely to be in employment one and two years later. The research also showed that some of the concerns about a wage subsidy, such as it would lead to young people leaving school earlier and would result in substitution of older workers by younger subsidised workers, were invalid.
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A new approach to classroom learning

Creating and facilitating effective learning experiences for our Generation Z (post Millennials) students is a challenge. With Eric Mazur’s (Physics professor at Harvard) challenge (watch Confessions of a converted lecturer) taken to heart, we ventured out from our talk and chalk (and death by PowerPoint, the modern adaptation) comfort zones into the land of collaborative, student centred learning. In the International Economics classes of the second year course you will find (since 2012) students sitting in groups of three, solving questions from topical issues, using their smart phones/tablets to answer questions for immediate feedback and an interacting lecturer facilitating their learning instead of the (traditional) fifty minute lecture monologues that we are all familiar with.

As technology becomes more accessible in and out of the class rooms, blended learning (combining face-to-face interaction with an online learning environment) allows for choosing the most appropriate learning/teaching tools for students to realise each particular educational outcome. 

Does it work? The marks say yes. The students’ feedback is mixed. Even for this generation of students the learned patterns (old habits) are hard to break.
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Profile: Honorary professor Jac Laubscher

Jac Laubscher, Chief Economist of Sanlam for more than 15 years, is an alumnus of and former colleague in the department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, and currently also an honorary professor. He was the first South African economist to obtain the internationally recognized Chartered Financial Analyst qualification and his extensive experience in and knowledge of financial markets and the macroeconomy were regularly utilised to the benefit of postgraduate Stellenbosch economics students over the past 10 years.

Prof Laubscher is highly regarded as an analyst of the South African and world economy, topics on which he publishes regularly, and has often interacted with Government as a representative of organised business on economic policy issues.
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