Making Vox accessible to undergraduates: VoxEU Course Companions

The Editors 12 September 2014

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Tomorrow’s decision makers are sitting in today’s lecture halls. To paraphrase Keynes, they will soon be slaves of defunct economists – distilling their frenzy from academic scribblers. VoxEU aims to increase the likelihood that these “scribblers” will be leading economists guided by the latest research.

To this end, CEPR is launching a new publication series – VoxEU Course Companions. These are collections of carefully selected Vox columns matched chapter-by-chapter to a leading undergraduate textbook. The first one supplements Mankiw’s Macroeconomics text.

VoxEU Course Companions

The idea behind the VoxEU Course Companions is simple. Economics can seem complex and mysterious to students who have just started studying it. As exams begin to loom, textbook theories can remain abstract and elusive, detached from economic and political reality. By providing a recent and real-world discussion of the material in each chapter, the Course Companions should help make the material more concrete, more real.

Vox columns analyse economic phenomena as they happened while applying and comparing the suitability of competing economic theories. The hope is that students will learn better, and remember their lessons longer when they recognise terms and theories from lectures in current discussions. Vox columns provide good examples of leading economists’ thought-provoking perspectives on arguments that come up time and again in exam-style questions.

In a nutshell, the goal is to get good research-based policy analysis and commentary into the hands of a much wider and very important audience – undergraduate economics students.

This should be good for students by exposing them to cutting edge, policy-relevant analysis in an accessible form. It should also be good for lecturers who often have to struggle to show students that the subject matter is relevant to today’s issues. Finally, it should be good for the Vox column authors. If they are lucky, the thinking of tomorrows’ decision makers will have been shaped by their thoughts and research.

Are Vox columns too complex for undergraduates?

Vox columns are usually written with academics and economists in the government and private sector in mind, so they might not be immediately comprehensible to students who have just entered the world of economics. But Rome was not built in a day. Through gradual exposure to the style and language of the columns students become fluent even in this highly technical language – a sizeable advantage when the time comes for exam preparation. By the end of their study, students will have mastered the way vague and abstract concepts of economic theory are applied in the real world, and will have learned to make these applications them themselves.

Available on Kindle

We have decided to make VoxEU Course Companions available on Kindle (via Amazon) for very modest prices; while the columns, of course, remain freely available on VoxEU.org, the Kindle book is for convenience of readers and lecturers. Any proceeds will go to help defray Vox operating costs.

We hope that by making it easier for Vox columns to be used in undergraduate courses, we can further the overarching goals of CEPR and VoxEU.org – namely promoting ‘research excellence with policy relevance’ and getting this in the hands of decision makers (in this case, future decision makers).

References

Mankiw, Greg N. (2012), Macroeconomics, 8th edition, Worth Publishers.

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Topics:  Frontiers of economic research

Tags:  Course Companions, Mankiw, macroeconomics, textbook

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