There are few subjects you can study which have such an immediate relevance to everyday life as Economics. Everybody’s lives are affected by it, and most decisions by governments are taken after they have consulted their economic advisers. The history of economic thought is very interesting, and a subject in its own right, but we only have to look at events since 2008 to see how deeply we are all affected by things that happen here and now in the world of Economics.

How amazing and bewildering it was to see prosperous countries coming to the edge of bankruptcy almost overnight, and to hear that major banks had collapsed. The aftermath threw millions of people out of work and made it a nightmare for them and their families to maintain their standard of living. And we have certainly not recovered from it yet, nor is there any real agreement about the best remedy for the problem. Governments spent more money than they had, relying on economic prosperity continuing into the future and producing the tax revenue that would pay for the debt, but suddenly it all stopped. People were poorer and could not buy things, so factories closed and businesses collapsed. The favourite path chosen by governments since 2008 has been austerity, simply saving money and hoping that the huge debts would become manageable in time. At the moment the jury is out on the success of this policy.

This is Economics, a subject that affects you as you go to the shops, as you go to work and consider what you are being paid, and as you decide on what you are going to buy. It has the strange quality of being a sort of science, in that it tries to identify laws, like those in physics, but also has to deal with the peculiar and the unpredictable in human behaviour. After all, no one, it seems, saw 2008 coming!

The UK is the place to study Economics, because many of the great figures in the subject lived and wrote here. Adam Smith, a Scott, is seen as the father of capitalism, laying out the principles in his Wealth of Nations. Ricardo and Mill were major figures in 19th Century Economics, and arguably the most important economic thinker of the 20th was J.M.Keynes, who revolutionized the subject by arguing that it is the responsibility of governments to interfere in the economy and control it through taxation and spending. With this background, university departments now deal with the most up-to date thinking in the field. If you look at, a course run in conjunction with the University of Plymouth, you will see the sort of thing you will be studying.

Most people who study Economics will be thinking of a career in finance or management, but of course you will gain a lot of transferable skills by studying the subject at degree level. There will be group work, oral presentations, essay and report writing, problem-solving, complex analysis of data and much use of IT. You need some maths, because mathematical modelling is now an important part of the business. But many university courses assume that you have no prior knowledge of the subject and will start you from scratch.

An Economics degree will give you a good basis for your career, but it is also of the greatest interest in its own right, helping you to understand the world you live in and the reasons why things happen in the realm of politics, welfare and society.

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