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Economics

We asked the Economic fellows a few questions ...

What can you expect to study during the Economics course?

The Economics Tripos is a three-year undergraduate degree programme in Economics which consists of Part I, Part IIA and Part IIB. After three years of training in economics, you are expected to demonstrate an improvement in your analytical skills, which essentially refers to the ability to collect data, break down and analyse problems, and reach logical decisions.

Economics teaches you the analytical skills by showing you how you can apply them to various topics from economic growth, inequality, development, financial crises, corruption, minimum wage, religion, tax to even a pandemic such as Covid-19 within the realms of economic relevance. This demonstrates that economics is not only a subject of maths and statistics, as often understood by many, but also one with sufficient variety and breadth to suit most needs. This also means that economics is of most relevance for the real world and can prepare you to use your skills and knowledge in broader contexts post-graduation

How does the Economics Tripos work?

In the first year, you will be equipped with basic skills and knowledge regarding the main areas of economics through five compulsory papers. As you progress to Part IIA and Part IIB, you will be given more options to choose from so that you can delve into the subjects that most suit your interests. In the third year, you also write a dissertation with a topic of your choice using the knowledge on economic theories and statistical tools which will have been covered during your three years of training in economics.

How is the Tripos taught?

The Economics Tripos is taught through lectures, which then will be followed by supervisions arranged by your Director of Studies at Selwyn College. The supervisions are essentially small group sessions that usually consist of 2-3 students. In the process of working on problems set by your supervisors, you will be given the opportunity to explore your subjects in more depth, discussing your own work and ideas and receive constructive feedback.

Why is Selwyn a good place to study Economics?

The obvious advantage that Selwyn has over other colleges is its proximity to the Faculty of Economics and the Lecture Block, which is literally next door to College. On a more serious note, Selwyn is undoubtedly one of the strongest colleges in terms of the provision of high-quality supervisions teaching, which, as mentioned above, is a key element of the Economics Tripos. We are very lucky to have one of the largest and most capable teams of Economics fellows among all Cambridge colleges, including Leonardo Felli (Head of the Faculty of Economics), Oleg Kitov (Head of Undergraduate Admissions at the Faculty of Economics), Myungun Kim, Weilong Zhang, Kai Liu, Ken Coutts, Chander Velu, Ruohan Qin and Dmitry Petroukhin. The Economics fellows here at Selwyn are renowned for their enthusiasm in teaching, have received multiple University and Faculty awards for teaching excellence, truly care about students’ wellbeing and learning outcomes, and generally encourage students to expand their breadth and depth of knowledge.

In recent years, Selwyn has almost doubled its intake of undergraduate Economists, while simultaneously tripling the number of Economics fellows. This allowed us to ensure continuous improvement of teaching provision at College, resulting in substantially better exam performance of our students. Over the past three years, half of Selwyn Economists have received first class honours (compared to 30% across the entire Economics cohort), which allowed Selwyn to rank second among all Cambridge colleges in terms of exam results. This achievement was made possible because we have taken extra steps to improve the quality of teaching and learning outcomes of our students.

Our fellows have been involved in multiple educational projects and have developed a uniquely effective way of teaching Economics over the years. In the 2020-21 academic year, Oleg Kitov received a grant from the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund of the University of Cambridge to develop and implement a new teaching methodology in the Economics Tripos. In June 2021 this methodology received a prestigious Technology Enable Learning Prize from the Cambridge University Press. The main pedagogical innovation consists of a series of regular practice tests, mock exams, collaborative projects, and peer review tasks. By purposefully incorporating opportunities for reflective feedback and enabling learning autonomy, Dr Kitov has created a learning experience which fosters deeper learning while at the same time helping students to develop into independent, self-regulating and reflective lifelong learners. This methodology is unique among Cambridge colleges and has been unanimously endorsed by all current Selwyn students. It has helped them achieve outstanding exam results, including top marks in individual examinations across the whole Tripos cohort.

Students and fellows get ready for a garden party ...
Students and fellows get ready for a garden party ...

Furthermore, the college holds various events throughout the year, promising a wide variety of experiences for its students. It also provides the opportunity for students to mingle with students and fellows from other subjects. You will find Selwyn College is an inclusive and welcoming community that will ensure you a memorable experience for your three-year studies (and possibly more) at Cambridge.

Fellows in Economics

Recently, Selwyn College has significantly expanded its Economics team, adding five new members in the last five years, including the Head of the Faculty of Economics at Cambridge. With a total of eight Economics fellows, bye-fellows and teaching associates, Selwyn now has one of the largest Economics faculties among all Cambridge Colleges. The specializations of our fellows cover all areas of Economics, including Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Econometrics.

Oleg Kitov joined Selwyn in 2016 and currently holds college positions of the Robert Martin Fellow, a College Assistant Professor, and the Director of Studies in Economics. He is also an Assistant Teaching Professor and Convener of Undergraduate Admissions at the Faculty of Economics. Oleg holds degrees from the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick. Before joining Cambridge, Oleg was a James Martin Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School and a Lecturer at the University of Oxford. At Cambridge, Oleg has been a recipient of the University-wide Teaching Award for the Best Supervisor in the Sciences (2018), an Award from the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund of the University of Cambridge (2020), the Technology-Enabled Learning Prize from the Cambridge University Press (2021) and a high commendation for the Pilkington Prize, the most prestigious University-wide award for teaching excellence (2022). In addition, over the past five years Oleg has been nominated and shortlisted for the CUSU Student-led Teaching Awards multiple times in several categories, including best supervisor and best lecturer. His main research interests are in the field of econometrics, empirical macroeconomics, and income distribution. At the Faculty of Economics and at Selwyn, Oleg teaches courses in Mathematics, Statistics, Econometrics, and Macroeconomics.

Myungun Kim joined Selwyn in 2018 and is currently a College Assistant Professor in Economics. He is also the Director of Studies in Economics at Robinson College and a Bye-fellow at Lucy Cavendish College. He received a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Myungun was awarded the Best Teaching Prize for three consecutive years at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Cambridge. His main research interests are in the fields of macroeconomics and empirical micro-econometrics. He is currently working on a research project funded by the Productivity Institute, focusing on the UK productivity puzzle, aiming to explain it in terms of business model innovation. At Selwyn, Myungun teaches courses in Macroeconomics, Econometrics and Statistics.

Leonardo Felli joined Selwyn in 2019 and is currently a Professor of Economics and the Head of the Faculty of Economics at Cambridge, where he also holds the J.M. Keynes Senior Fellowship in Financial Economics. He is also a Fellow of Centre for Economic Policy Research (London) and the Centre of Economic Studies (Munich). Before joining Cambridge Professor Felli was the Head of the Economics Faculty at the LSE. Professor Felli's research has focused on microeconomics and in particular on contract theory. At the Faculty of Economics and at Selwyn Professor Felli teaches a course in Microeconomics.

Weilong Zhang joined Selwyn in 2021 and is currently an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics. He received a PhD in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, a MPhil in Economics, and a BA in Mathematics from the Renmin University of China. His research primarily revolves around investigating the impact of personality traits on individual decision-making processes, with a particular focus on labour market choices and household dynamics. Additionally, he demonstrates a keen interest in evaluating labour market policies. At the Faculty of Economics and at Selwyn Weilong teaches courses in Microeconomics and Labour Economics.

Kai Liu joined Selwyn in 2023 and is currently an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics. He holds a PhD in Economics from Johns Hopkins University, and degrees from Peking University and the University of Hong Kong. Before joining Cambridge in 2015, Kai was an Assistant Professor at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, Norway. Kai’s research focuses on applied microeconomics, specializing in labor economics and public economics. His recent work includes understanding mechanisms of the intergenerational effects of childcare and preschool programs, the impacts of maternal and paternal inputs on child development, impacts of education reforms on technology change and the labor market. At the Faculty of Economics and at Selwyn Kai teaches courses in Microeconomics and Labour Economics.

Ruohan Qin joined Selwyn in 2023 as a College Teaching Associate in Economics. He is currently a PhD student at the Faculty of Economics. Before joining Selwyn, Ruohan worked as a supervisor and admissions interviewer at Murray Edwards College and St Catherine’s College. Ruohan’s main research interests are in microeconomic theory, particularly networks and game theory. At Selwyn Ruohan teaches courses in Microeconomics and Industrial Organization.

Chander Velu is Professor of Innovation and Economics in the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) at the Cambridge University Engineering Department. He heads the Business Model Innovation Research Group at the IfM. Chander has an interest in innovation and technology management with a specific focus on exploring business model innovation due to the adoption of digital technologies and its impact on productivity. At the Engineering Department, Chander teaches courses in Industrial Economics and Strategy. Chander is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Prior to joining the IfM, he was a member of the faculty at Cambridge Judge Business School. Chander has worked as a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and Booz Allen & Hamilton in London.

Ken Coutts is an Emeritus Fellow in Economics and a past Director of Studies at Selwyn. He was a member of the Cambridge Economic Policy Group in the Department of Applied Economics and Assistant Director of Research in the Faculty of Economics from 1988 until retirement. His published works are in the area of industrial pricing behaviour and in macroeconomic policy. He lectured and supervised in macroeconomics.

Qualities we are looking for

In the undergraduate admissions procedure, we look for candidates who, whether already acquainted with the subject or not, possess the combination of skills which would allow them to draw the greatest educational benefit and intellectual enjoyment from the course: a natural disposition to think analytically, strong numerical skills, the ability to make use of intuitive and quantitative arguments in assessing an economic issue, and a genuine interest in economics. It was Keynes himself who – having pointed out the paradox of our discipline as “an easy subject, at which very few excel!” – explained it in terms of the mix of gifts required of a “master-economist ... mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree”.

Subject requirements

To apply to study Economics at Selwyn you should have a strong background in Mathematics but you need not have studied Economics formally.  A-Level Mathematics is essential and A-Level Further Mathematics is very strongly encouraged.  If you are studying IB, we ask for Analysis and Approaches for this course.  If this is not an option at your school, please get in touch.

Admissions Assessment - TMUA

As at other Colleges, applicants will be asked to take the Test of Mathematics for University Admissions (TMUA).  You must take the first sitting of the test, between 15-17 October. You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment.   The test is taken at your local Pearson VUE test centre.  Please see the UAT-UK website for full and further details.

Interviews

Applicants will have two or three interviews (one or two subject interviews of 20-30 minutes, and a general interview of 10-15 minutes). We do our utmost to make you feel at ease: the object of our meeting is to assess your intellectual suitability for the course, and we can do so best when you are sufficiently relaxed to think and construct an argument.

In the subject interviews we explore a candidate's ability to think logically about an economic or social issue and to obtain a view of the candidate’s mathematical aptitude. While factual knowledge and evidence of a genuine interest in the subject are positive elements, the focus of this interview is on the ability to explore the implications of certain facts and assumptions for the results of a particular line of argument. You may be given some preparatory reading or mathematical problems to solve beforehand, for discussion in your interviews.

You will also have a shorter general interview. This is intended to let us find out more about your motivation in applying for Economics at Cambridge. It is intended to give us a fuller sense of your aptitude for your chosen course, the maturity of your approach towards academic work, and your economic and other interests.

Admissions Statistics

Selwyn typically admits eight undergraduate economists in each new academic year; it is a sufficiently large intake to provide plenty of opportunities for debate and cooperation with College peers in your chosen subject. The ratio of offers to applications has varied over time, reflecting changes in the total number of applicants. Precisely because the distribution of applicants between Cambridge Colleges varies significantly from year to year, however, the offers-to-applications ratio can give a false impression. The standard required for an offer from year to year does not vary. It is more important to find a College where you will feel at home and thrive than to play a “numbers game” where the annual variations are statistically insignificant. Research has consistently shown that across the University, an applicant’s chances of receiving a Cambridge offer are not affected by choice of College.

February 2024