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The school of Economics

The School of Economics at UCT is one of the largest departments in the University, offering tuition to more than 3 500 undergraduate students and approximately 100 postgraduate students. At UCT, as at universities all over the world, enrolments in economics classes are growing more rapidly than in any other discipline. This is not surprising: there exists ever broadening scope for students who have specialised or majored in economics during their studies who wish to pursue a career in the field. Economics is the study of economic life. It asks what, how and why goods are produced, and who benefits. Economics covers ‘micro’ subjects like the economics of the firm (profit maximisation, etc.) and ‘macro’ issues like unemployment, inflation and economic growth. Visit the schools website here.

Message from Head of School of Economics

South Africa faces enormous development challenges. Unemployment, inequality and poverty are unacceptably high. Economic growth has remained stubbornly low. As one of the leading Schools of Economics in South Africa, we have a responsibility to play a leading in dealing with these challenges through our academic research and our teaching. This is a challenge we take seriously.

Economics forms the foundation of any commerce-related degree at university, not only at UCT, but at universities around the world. However, it is more than just a tool to think about business. Economics is a social science. The discipline is grounded solidly in the analysis of the social and economic relationships that underpin societies. Economics is therefore of great relevance to the development and social challenges facing South Africa.

Economics has many dimensions. It speaks to a wide audience. At a macro level we ask the following type of questions: Why are some countries poor and others rich? What drives the high unemployment rates in South Africa? How do countries develop over time? What is the role of government in the economy? What causes recessions and booms?

At a microeconomic level we study the behaviour and outcomes of individuals and firms. A major strength of our School is the depth of our research using household level data to better understand questions such as: How do workers find jobs and how do firms find workers? What is the effect of government transfers on individuals within households? Why can’t the youth find jobs? Why are some industries dominated by one or two large companies (e.g. beer production) while others are characterised by a large number of small firms (e.g. furniture producers and building contractors).

One strength of economics is that it provides a theoretical lens through which to make sense of a complex world. But theory itself is only one part of the story. Within the School we emphasise the teaching of analytical and empirical tools to test whether these theories are consistent with the data. In this regard, UCT’s School of Economics has a number of affiliated research units that do cutting-edge research in fields ranging from environmental policy to poverty alleviation and development policy. Through this research we aim to better understand how the world works.

UCT economics degrees are very well regarded locally and internationally. Our postgraduate students are widely accepted into top international universities for PhD studies. We attract a wide range of students into our programmes from across Africa. Despite the financial crisis and the economic slowdown, a sizeable number of UCT graduates in Economics have found excellent employment opportunities in commercial banks, the South African Reserve Bank and asset management companies and consulting firms like KPMG, McKinsey’s and Genesis Analytics. Many graduates are also employed in a provincial and national government departments, while others have become researchers in universities, non-government organizations and multi-lateral organisation such as the World Bank.

Our role is to contribute towards the development of the student and society more broadly. We encourage you to participate with us in this challenge.

Lawrence Edwards, Director of School of Economics, University of Cape Town