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Manchester Metropolitan University

UOA 34 - Economics and Econometrics

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

Introduction

 

The Department of Economics at MMU, located within the Faculty of Humanities, Law and Social Science (http://www.hlss.mmu.ac.uk/economics/) has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to research in economics and has submitted its research to the Economics and Econometrics Unit of Assessment in three previous RAEs, from 1992 to 2001.  

 

Our broad objectives since 2001 have been to improve the quality of research, to increase the proportion of our academic staff engaged in research activity and to provide a supportive and constructive research environment for postgraduate students and academic staff at an early stage in their careers.  Our emerging focus is upon theoretically informed applied and policy-related research. 

 

In reviewing progress, the most significant change to our research culture has been the changing composition of our staff base.  Research outcomes have been influenced by the need to develop a strategy for renewal and sustainability in response to generational change and the departure of successful researchers to posts elsewhere.  Their success is a reflection of our enduring research culture and environment, and our strategies of supporting and developing the potential of young researchers to build capacity for the future.  The early career researchers that we now have will be in a position to publish within the next five years.  The proportion of staff engaged in some form of research activity remains at 74%.

 

There are 19 academic staff (including 2 fractional posts) in the Department, of which 14 are engaged in research activity, including 4 in the early stages of their academic careers.  Between 2001 and 2007, members of the Department have produced, either individually or collaboratively, 48 refereed articles, 28 book chapters, 1 authored and 2 edited books, 7 published conference proceedings papers and 36 discussion papers.  We have a 100% PhD completion rate with 4 PhD formal conferments to date, and a further conferment imminent.

 

Research Structures

Research across the University is supported by the University’s Research, Enterprise and Development Office (RED), and a network of ten Research Institutes established and funded in 2003.  The RED Director provides strategic management for, and coordination of, all research and enterprise activity in the University, including the Promising Research Fellowship scheme, the central allocation of Research Institutes’ annual budgets, the production of research bids, the allocation of university-funded studentships and the overall management of postgraduate research studies. The RED Office also provides a well-established staff development programme, which includes an induction programme for new staff to provide key information regarding the University’s research infrastructure and strategy, and its research degree processes and procedures.

 

Research Institute membership provides access to research support and inter-disciplinary networks, while at departmental level the Research Advisory Board contributes to the development and review of research strategy, postgraduate student progress and recruitment, and provides advice to the Head of Department, as budget holder, on the use of available funds for research purposes.  It is the Department’s policy that teaching loads for new staff should be significantly below the average, and that there are no administrative responsibilities during the first year, preferably for longer where feasible.

 

The Department provides full financial support for staff and research students for conference attendance where there is demonstrable benefit, with no restriction to UK conferences only.  For example, papers have been presented at international conferences in Australia, USA, Crete, Dublin, South Africa, Tunisia, Denmark, Germany, and Italy.

 

Research Activity

In order to sustain and develop our research culture, we maintain an Economics Research Seminar series, which involves contributions from within the Department and academics from other institutions.  The Discussion Papers in Economics series is also an important part of the process of disseminating our research.  Twenty five papers have been produced since January 2001 and from 2003 onwards these have been made available online via the Department’s website.  They are also available on the searchable MMU Open Access Repository, e-space.  The seminar series and discussion papers are all fully funded from departmental resources.  Additionally, the journal Economics Issues was edited in the Department from 2001 to 2004 and whilst managed in the Department was put on a firm footing, under the editorship of Professor Leslie, with the process of submission and review modernised.  

 

There are no formal research groups as such but there are shared and overlapping interests amongst the Department’s researchers.  The research interests of the Department encompass microeconomic theory, political economy, development economics, foreign direct investment in developing countries, the history of economic thought, issues relating to European economic integration, exchange rates and monetary union, regional economics and economic forecasting.   

 

There is an active group of three development economists (Cleeve, Ndhlovu, and Dearden).  The publications for Cleeve and Ndhlovu show their collaborative work, as well as their external collaboration, particularly in the case of Ndhlovu who is a member of a team researching ‘Decent Work and Livelihood Strategies’ in South Africa, involving researchers from the Universities of Florida, East Anglia and MMU.  Dearden’s work on the EU’s external development policy is submitted to UoA50.  During the assessment period, there have been two PhD enrolments and completions in the area of development economics, one fully financed by a competitive University studentship (fees plus full bursary, to match ESRC bursary levels).  There has been one recent enrolment involving a new member of staff (Witchard).

 

Four individuals are active in the area of European integration (Zhang, Zis, Dearden and Syrrakos: not submitted).  The publications of both Zhang and Zis reflect work on European monetary integration and also demonstrate external collaboration.  There have been two PhD students in this area, with one completion to date.  One (Syrrakos) was financed by a University studentship and is now a full-time member of staff.  The second was partially financed by a studentship and completed in 2006.

 

The research of two members of staff (Zhang, Albertson) is focused on forecasting.  Zhang has collaborated extensively with Professor Artis at the University of Manchester Regional Economics Centre, currently in the area of forecasting regional GVA.  Albertson works with Jonathan Aylen of the Manchester Business School.  Both our members of staff contribute to research activity through general econometric support to others, in addition to their own research activities.

 

The history of economic thought and political economy are areas of research interest and include the work of Steedman, whose research also encompasses microeconomic theory as shown in RA2.  Staff regularly attend and contribute to annual conferences of the UK and European Societies for the History of Economic Thought. The annual UK conference took place at MMU in September 2001, organised by the Head of Department (Vint) and the History of Thought Newsletter continues to be edited by Professor Vint. There has been one PhD student in this area, who is now a member of staff (Day).

 

Much of the research submitted for assessment is applied and policy related.  Engagement with public bodies and users of research can be seen in the cases of Cleeve, who has provided policy advice to the Government of Sierra Leone relating to mining policy and social security needs, and Ndhlovu who has made presentations to government agencies, such as the Ministries of Agriculture and Labour in South Africa.  Zhang has provided research to the Asian Development Bank on business cycle leading indicators, and two of the papers submitted by Albertson are of direct relevance to the steel industry.  Albertson has also collaborated with researchers at Manchester University on a project (Climate Change and the Visitor Economy) on behalf of a number of partner organisations including Sustainability North West and the NW Regional Development Agency.

 

Staffing

The University has invested in four new members of staff in the Economics Department, who are all at an early stage in their academic careers - two in 2003, one in 2005 and one recent appointment in 2007.  All have been, or are enrolled as, PhD students during the research assessment period.  Glass has recently completed his PhD in the area of transport economics (University of Leeds), Syrrakos has submitted his thesis on the transition from EMS to EMU and Day is in the writing up phase of his PhD on the political economy of Thomas Hodgskin.  The most recent appointment, Witchard, has recently enrolled at MMU researching fair trade.  All four have not yet reached the stage of achieving published work in the eligible assessment period, although Glass has publications forthcoming.  All four receive systematic advice and support from the more senior members of the Department and, with the exception of the newly appointed, have been supported for conference attendances in Prague, Athens and the University of Essex.

 

Professor Ian Steedman retired at the end of 2006, but continues to work within the Department as Emeritus Professor with a formal fractional contract of 0.25FTE.  He continues to provide invaluable research leadership.

 

Staff changes have seen the departure of six full-time academics in post at the time of the last RAE - three due to retirement and three to take up posts elsewhere- one at the University of Bath (Abbott) and two at the University of Swansea (Leslie, Watson).  Four of the six were entered in the last RAE.  A member of staff appointed during the period was an active researcher with a publications record, but he subsequently chose a career outside higher education.    

 

Staff not submitted in RA2 contribute to the research environment in various ways, through participating in seminars, and undertaking administrative duties.  In particular, Tomkins, submitted in 2001 but not in 2008, continues to make a valuable contribution to the research culture.  She has overall responsibility for research students in the Department, is the Chair of the Faculty Research Degrees Sub-Committee, represents the Faculty on the University Research Degrees Sub-Committee and is a member of the University’s Institutional Audit Working Group.

 

Research Students and Studentships

Since our original decision in 1992 to admit research students we have maintained a 100% completion rate, and are on track to achieve five completions during the current assessment period.  We have deliberately maintained a small cohort of PhD students, aiming to recruit on average one PhD student per year.  All our PhD students during the period have been, or are, from the UK or the EU with UK qualifications, and three have been in receipt of University funding.  During the assessment period the first PhD student to complete was Lindley, admitted during the previous period and researching labour market discrimination.  A further three completions followed: Commosioung in the area of science, technology and innovation and sustainable development; Paito researching non communal modes of production in Uganda; and Alexiadis researching convergence clubs and externalities in regional growth in Greece.  Syrrakos is on the point of completion awaiting approval of the ‘minor amendments’ suggested by external examiners and Day is in the writing up phase.  

 

Research Student Support

We ensure that research students are fully integrated within the research culture, to promote their success and to maintain the academic vitality of the Department.  This includes the provision of office accommodation and IT facilities in the Department wherever possible.  With the exception of one student who, because of individual circumstances was unable to take advantage of this facility, all our research students have been accommodated in this way, allowing continuous interaction with their supervisors and other staff.  There is also designated accommodation and computing facilities for research students provided centrally by the Faculty.  To ensure focussed support and foster successful completion, no member of staff has the main supervisory responsibility for more than one student, and all students have at least two supervisors.  The University quality assurance procedures ensure that each student has a formal Annual Review of progress and development, carried out by an independent reviewer.  This procedure, included in the University’s response to the QAA Review of Research Degree Programmes, was identified by the QAA as a model of its kind. 

 

PhD students are funded by the Department for conference attendance and all students are expected to participate in the Department’s seminar series.  Opportunities to gain experience of teaching are available for students (if they are not academic staff), but hours are limited, with none expected in year one.

 

Economics research students are also able to connect with a wider network of research students in the Faculty, through its Graduate School.  This was formally established in 2004.  There is a Faculty induction and generic skills development programme, and the University also provides a Research Student Development Programme throughout the year, including a day-long induction programme, and a University-wide one day postgraduate conference.  Two of our students have made presentations to this postgraduate conference.

 

Employment

Dr Joanne Lindley, who completed in 2001, is now employed in the Department of Economics at Sheffield University and is an established researcher. The position of three others who have formally completed is as follows: Paito is currently working as a mediator in Darfur, Commosioung has gained a position at the University of West Indies and Alexiadis is a researcher in the Ministry of Rural Development and Food in Greece and has already produced a number of published articles, (including one with Tomkins).  As noted above, three other PhD candidates (Syrrakos; Day; Witchard) are now employed as members of staff in the Department either embarking on or at an early stage in their academic careers.

 

Research Strategy

Over the assessment period the Department has been undergoing a period of transition.  In reviewing progress towards meeting the objectives laid down in 2001, there has been success in some areas.  We have been able to attract PhD students with a greater variety of research interests, and our completion rate to date remains at 100%.  Whilst maintaining the proportion of staff engaged in research activities, the process of transition has resulted in a lower proportion of staff entered in this submission, but the progress of the early career researchers suggests that they will develop a sustainable publications record in the coming years.  

 

Future Objectives and Strategy

Our broad aims are to seek continuous improvements in the quality of research, to increase the proportion of our academic staff engaged in research activity, and to build research capacity for the future through the development of new researchers.

 

We recognise that our research interests in the past have been, to some degree, overly diverse.  This is partly a consequence of successful external collaborations which have, however, diluted the extent of internal focus and collaborative efforts.  Therefore, to ensure and promote the sustainability of our research environment our future strategy will be to:

-         support our early career researchers to produce publications in the next five years

-         encourage internal collaboration, both within the Department and within the wider University

-         consolidate and develop research areas where we have strength.

 

ESTEEM INDICATORS

Ian Steedman’s book Consumption Takes Time is the outcome of the invitation to present the Graz Schumpeter Annual Lectures.  Extracts from a book review by William M Wadman in the Manchester School (2002) 70(5) pp 731-734 summarise this work as:  “A tour de force on the role of time in microeconomic consumer theory.  It is a concise, brilliantly written book….. it represents a powerful, new model of consumer behaviour…The implications of the new model are likewise extensive and profound”.  An issue of Metroeconomica, 54(1) February 2003, contains a Symposium on Steedman’s book, and includes three invited papers.

Work has been underway since 2006 on a Festschrift volume in honour of Steedman’s contribution to economics, to be published by Routledge and presented to Professor Steedman in May 2008.  The editorial team are Paul Samuelson (MIT), Heinz Kurz (University of Graz), Neri Salvadori (University of Pisa), Stan Metcalfe (University of Manchester), and John Vint (MMU).  Paul Samuelson is a contributor, and specifically requested to join the editorial team.  Contributions have been provided by economists from universities in the UK, USA, Australia, Germany, Austria, France, Germany and Japan, including Negishi, Kemp, and Winch.

 

Professor Steedman has been invited to be the keynote speaker at an international conference in Greece (Department of International Trade, Technological Educational Institute of Western Macedonia, Kastoria, Greece).  He is a member of the Editorial Board of Metroeconomica, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought and Associate Editor for the Cambridge Journal of Economics

 

Two development economists (Cleeve; Ndhlovu) have been responsible for editing a special double issue of International Journal of Social Economics on Strategies for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, 2004 Vol 31, Nos 1 and 2.  Both have been closely involved in the International Academy of African Business and Development (IAABD) for a number of years.  Cleeve has been a Reviewer/Track Chair since 1999, and Ndhlovu since 2000.  Cleeve was awarded the prize of Best Presenter award (2005) for his paper “The role of human capital in the inflow of FDI to Sub-Saharan Africa” at the 6th conference in Tanzania, 2005.  He was also given the same award at the 2006 conference in Ghana for his paper “Institutional impediments to FDI inflow to Sub-Saharan Africa”. This same paper also won a second best paper award for its practical applications in Africa.

 

Cleeve has provided policy advice to the government of Sierra Leone.  In 2004, he was invited by the World Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone to advise on the “New Mining Policy” in Sierra Leone, which is now in operation.  He has also acted as external consultant for the National Social Security and Insurance Trust, a government organisation in Sierra Leone.  The pilot survey, for which he had overall responsibility, on Priority and Social Security Needs, was completed in June/July 2007 and is now the basis for a nationwide study by the International Labour Organisation.  Further, he has been invited to participate in a study by the Sierra Leone Government on the country’s health care provision.

 

As part of the collaborative research on ‘Decent Work and Livelihood Strategies’ in South Africa, Ndhlovu has made presentations from 2005 onwards to a number of organisations in South Africa, including Business Partners (Durban), Durban Investment Promotion Agency (DIPA), ILO (Pretoria), Ministry of Agriculture (Durban), Ministry of Labour (Pretoria), National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC, Johannesburg), and Strate Ltd, Stock Exchange (Johannesburg).

 

Ndhlovu was organiser for the Decent Work Session, XVI ISA World Congress of Sociology 2006, in Durban, South Africa, in July 2006. He is also an Executive Committee Member for the Association of Heterodox Economics (since 2000) and was a member of organising committee of the 4th annual conference of this association, which was held in Dublin, July 2002.  He has been a member of the Editorial Board of Journal of African Business since 2005 and was an Assistant Editor, Economic Issues 2000-2004.

 

Zhang was invited (with J Zhuang) by the Asian Development Bank to research leading indicators of business cycles in East Asia and to give a presentation in Bangkok.

 

Albertson’s joint paper (with J Aylen) on markets in ferrous scrap has been named by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining as winner of their Williams Award.

 

Collectively since 2001, the staff whose research is included in this submission have refereed papers for the Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Cambridge Journal of Economics, The Manchester School, Journal of History of Economic Thought, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, History of Political Economy, Empirical Economics, Economic Systems Research, International Review of Applied Economics, Regional Studies, Economic Issues, Journal of Developing Areas, Journal of African Business, International Journal of Social Economics, Metroeconomica, Journal of Management Mathematics, Journal of Modelling in Management, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, Journal of the Operational Research Society, and the International Journal of Forecasting.

 

Leslie (Category B) was appointed to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body from March 2005, and was a member of the Civil Service Selection Board for Fast Streamers until 2004.  He is a rapporteur for the ESRC and was examiner for the ESRC PhD competition in 2006 and Editor of Economic Issues from 2001 to 2004.