Bubble bursts on economist’s ‘alternative’ course

Lecturer’s contract not renewed after he set up out-of-hours module to broaden curriculum

May 15, 2014
Disillusioned: Sakir Yilmaz says ‘mainstream’ colleagues did not support his attempt to broaden economics curriculum

Source: Alamy

A lecturer who will not have his contract renewed at the University of Manchester despite helping to prepare an “alternative” economics course to meet students’ demands has criticised the “stubbornness” of some staff at his institution.

Sakir Devrim Yilmaz, a lecturer in macroeconomics in the School of Social Sciences, who had been teaching in the department for several years, will not have his temporary contract renewed when it expires in the summer, it has been revealed.

Earlier this academic year he was asked by the university to prepare a module covering alternative approaches to the economic crisis, after a student group – the Post-Crash Economics Society – called for the curriculum to better reflect non-mainstream economic theory.

But the course, called Bubbles, Panics and Crashes, was later rejected by the university. In response to this decision, Dr Yilmaz and the PCES offered the module across 10 out-of-hours sessions, on a voluntary basis. More than 50 students opted to attend, the lecturer claims.

In an email on a public forum to members of a Post-Keynesian Economics Study Group mailing list, Dr Yilmaz says that his experience over the past 12 months has left him disillusioned with the idea of working for a “mainstream” economics department.

“The stubbornness of the mainstream people in the department was incredible, as well as very nasty and non-scholarly at times towards me and the PCES,” he writes.

There was “immense pressure from some people within the department and the school of social sciences, and over 240 economics student’ signatures, for me to stay and [for] the Bubbles module to run as an official module”, he adds.

At the time of writing, 245 people had signed an online petition calling for Dr Yilmaz’s course to run.

Joe Earle, spokesman for the PCES, said that economics students were “greatly inspired by and grateful to” Dr Yilmaz. “His dedication to his students and his teaching is truly remarkable.

“Whatever the reasons for Manchester’s decision not to renew Sakir’s contract, we are greatly saddened by the news and feel that it sends out a dangerous message to any other lecturers thinking about sticking their heads above the parapet in the name of delivering a broader, more comprehensive economics education.”

A University of Manchester spokesman said that although the students’ petition and the Bubbles module had been considered “very carefully”, the institution had decided that it “did not fit well” with the current macroeconomic curriculum.

Dr Yilmaz’s teaching obligations, which include macroeconomic modules for first, second and third year students, would be met by colleagues on permanent contracts, the spokesman said. “We are now developing an ‘alternative approaches’ module which, from September 2015, would be taught by existing staff on permanent contracts.”

He said a new second-year economics module on financial crises, at Manchester Business School, would be available to economics students from September this year.

A second-year module on the economics of public policy would be delivered by renowned economist Diane Coyle, and two new politics modules on global capitalism would also be made available to economics students from September, the spokesman added.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Dr Yilmaz, Thanks for your comment. Although this article does focus on your position (as well as the petition for your module to be taught, and the eventual fate of that module), we have endeavoured to cover the wider issues of this debate both on this website and in the magazine. We have looked at the PCES and its campaign to change the curriculum (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/manchester-economics-students-withhold-nss-cooperation-over-curriculum-demands/2012235.article), its report on the issue (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/manchester-students-take-on-economics-curriculum-in-report/2012879.article) and published reader comments (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/letters/taking-the-crash-on-board/2013154.article) on our letters page. We will continue to follow the debate, which I'm sure will develop further. Chris

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