Jobwatch: High-fliers welcome

November 21, 2003

There has been a flurry of vacancies in economics departments as universities bolster their strength for the next RAE, from a heavyweight chair at Cambridge to PhD studentships at St Andrews. Steve Farrar reports.

Economists are in demand as university departments strengthen themselves before the next research assessment exercise in three years' time.

Posts have been advertised by at least eight institutions in recent weeks - four in this edition - with positions ranging from graduate teaching assistants to one of the most prestigious chairs in the field.

The retirement of economics Nobel laureate Sir James Mirrlees in September has left the chair of political economy at Cambridge University vacant.

This post has previously been held by economics giants such as Alfred Marshall and James Mead.

Robert Rowthorn, chairman of the faculty of economics and politics, said the recent recruitment of leading Finnish economist Seppo Honkapohja to another chair showed the faculty's ability to capture top-flight academics in the face of competition from the US.

Further chairs might become available if the faculty gains new funding, while Sir James will continue as emeritus professor.

Cambridge is also recruiting three economics lecturers, with a team being sent to the American Economic Association meeting in January to identify potential candidates.

At Exeter University's 5-rated economics department, two chairs are vacant following the departure of previous incumbents for posts in London.

Gareth Myles, head of the 18-strong department, wants the new recruits to help boost his high-flying team up to a 5* at the next RAE, but admitted the task of recruiting top economists was getting harder.

"There is a shortage of people and a lot of chairs are vacant at the moment," he said.

While lucrative salaries in the City and the US lure away many potential candidates, the flow of expertise from Europe has also slowed to a trickle as economics departments in countries such as Spain and Italy have rapidly improved following reforms.

Exeter is looking to bolster its department further by recruiting graduate teaching assistants, whose PhD fees and living expenses will be paid in return for up to five hours' teaching each week.

The recent recruitment of two young economists to chairs and the creation of a Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis has also made a number of PhD studentships available at St Andrews University.

Jagjit Chadha, formerly at Cambridge, and Charles Nolan of Durham will help the 4-rated department climb above its academic rivals as the new centre begins to provide a focus for researchers. This will revolve around modelling the entire economy from first principles in a way that could provide a useful tool for policy-making.

PhD students will be able to attend a series of research-led seminars and get the opportunity to spend some time in the US.

Meanwhile, the London School of Economics is advertising for a lecturer in economic history and four postdoctoral positions.

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