Monday, 21 February 2011 06:11

Wrap up, pack up

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Despite the long sessions, early mornings and the occasionally impenetrable economic jargon, I have enjoyed the WES. From the very first minute of the Summit I have seen my critical distance as an 'outsider' wither away with speaker by speaker. WES is a slick, professional experience but it is actually good fun! I have heard things I rarely thought could be economics – involving sex, alcohol and crime. I have exercised my laughing muscles. I have spoken to an Executive Director at the Bank of England and a man who single-handedly caused the collapse of a bank and who, if I remember correctly, personally owes £100 million.

All in all, there is just one thing I can confidently say I am not very happy with, and that is the weak, watery coffee given out during lunch. But then still, the biscuits were good. It's a tough call all in all. And to be fair, it's not very important.

So until next year's Summit I hope you take a look at the videos from this year. I hope you feel the spirit of the Summit and I encourage you to take a trip to Warwick – or to a similar student event –  as soon as you get the opportunity. You can go, either physically or through the online streaming that the WES has provided this year. No matter what you study, or if you study at all, "Knowledge is nothing without understanding". Events like the Warwick Economics Summit can help you along that road – it is there to inspire, motivate and bring young students closer to changing the world into a better place with their knowledge.

Photo courtesy of Constantin Postica

Ingvild Skarpeid has been reporting live for E&M at this year's Warwick Economics Summit, UK. 

This afternoon the Summit reaches its absolute climax, with Peter Backus finally explaining what I have been waiting for all weekend: "Why don't I have a girlfriend?" (Or rather in my case, why I don't have a boyfriend!) Take ten minutes to see his amazing talk here!

Paul Mason from Newsnight also makes a swift appearance this afternoon (for you non-British people, Newsnight is one of the most popluar and important news shows on BBC every night.)

Paul Mason of the BBC

In the last break of the WES I meet Joseph from Manchester who is sitting with some of the friends he has made at the Summit. I tentatively try to ask them how they are feeling after three hardcore days of meetings and seminars. Are they not tired? Isn't some of this really boring? Can you give me anything – anything – negative to say about WES?

"The Summit is amazing! It is no wonder that it's arguably the best economic student event in the whole of the UK." I look at Joseph's friends. They are nodding in agreement.

In my attempt to see if I can track down a disgruntled delegate, I corner three Erasmus students: Iva, Gerard and Léa. Coming from a foreign perspective they all agree on one thing. Iva, a Bulgarian doing her finance degree in Madrid explains: "The students here seem to be a lot more interested in their subject than at the universities we come from. I don't think that UK universities are better, on the contrary I think my university in Spain is better than my host university here in England, but the students here are so motivated."

And I have to agree – it is inspiring to see students putting together a weekend conference packed with policy experts, media celebrities as well as traditional academics. It makes me think that this is possible not only here, but across Europe and of course the world. What's more – if I am to believe the speakers I have talked to at the WES, it is important and beneficial to a number of disciplines to have international summits like this, even on an undergraduate student level.

Photo: L-R: Joseph (Manchester), Cheng (London), Medalynn (London), Nicholas (Birmingham) 

Ingvild Skarpeid is reporting live for E&M at this year's Warwick Economics Summit, UK.

Saturday, 19 February 2011 15:50

Patience is Good Economics!

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The morning at the WES starts at 10 am, with the Ramphal building slowly filling up with scattered and confused delegates waiting for the talks of the day. I manage to corner Andy Haldane, the Executive Director of Financial Stability at The Bank of England. Haldane is to my delight speaking on patience and economics, disguised under the rather dull label "Finance and Stability". 

Do you think conferences like this can help bring the economics discipline forward?

- "Yes, massively so! Such conferences definitely enhance the education of today's students. Moreover, if we're talking about the economic crisis, it is an international event that is best told from an international point of view – we can learn from events like today when we're all together."

And there certainly is an international focus at the WES, I realise as I am introduced to Bulgarian Nikolay and his Lithuanian girlfriend Vaivara. Nikolay, who grew up in South Africa, is arguably among the most veteran delegates at the Summit, having come to the WES for the past four years. He keeps on coming simply because he finds that "it is a brilliant occasion to freshen up my knowledge, apply what I have learned about economics to real world scenarios and to hear experts contradict each other publicly!"

Nikolay also seems to have an remarkable marketing talent: "The second I was here I managed to get 20 people from my university, the next I got 40! I have now completed my studies but we are still around 30 delegates from Manchester here. In fact, I think it is even more important to continue to participate in these kinds of events when you finish university. It is so easy to come into a habit of work-TV-work-TV… It’s so good to get out of this and get a mental stimulus that we take back to our daily lives."

So when do you plan on finally stopping to attend the Summit?

- "My plan is to continue to be here every year, at least as long as I live in the UK. In fact, I plan to continue to be a delegate until I become so successful that I can finally be a speaker here. The only thing that could stop me would be if I was to go back to South Africa!"

Nikolay, Vaivara and the rest of us head out for lunch, as Haldane disappears to the VIP suite. I want to leave you with this morning's message from Haldane, which is the link between patience and good economics: Check out this video from RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce), about the 'secret powers of time'.

While we're off to eat, this should give the rest of you some food for thought!

Ingvild Skarpeid is reporting live for E&M at this year's Warwick Economics Summit, UK.

Saturday, 19 February 2011 10:18

The Summit Kicks Off!

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We have already been greeted in the Chancellor’s Suite with a glass of wine (or two) when we’re welcomed into the first talk of the Warwick Economics Summit (WES).I’ve just been promised a weekend extravaganza by the Summit coordinator, andconsequently I’ve decided that I will indeed sit back and relax. (I’m a bit scared that I’ll be a little too relaxed here at the back, after all it is Friday night and we have been given free alcohol. )

But I actually cannot sleep through this, despite the dimmed lights here at the back ofthe Ramphal lecture theatre. Somehow the WES has found a set of people capable of making economics - even on a Friday evening - interesting. After one hour I have heard about the links between dating and alcohol, and which isbetter: commuting or sex? Tim Harford, or “The Undercover Economist”, promises to illuminate “boobs and booze” – again, after all it is Friday night. Tim has got my full attention.

The Economist’s prominent Editor Daniel Franklin tells us that five dustmen proved to be more right about the development of the world than a set of economists at, that’s right, The Economist. Hmm.

So far the WES is a lot of fun – the proof? At my perfectly placed position at the back of this dimly lit, hot-aired lecture theatre I have so far not seen a single person sink down in their seat and close their eyes (as is, let’s be fair, not unusual at these kind ofevents).

And as this day’s sessions of lectures ends, I already can’t wait to see tomorrow’s speakers. Until then, I would like to leave you with the wise words of Tim Harford: "No matter what you're doing - commuting or having sex.. It's always better with someone else."

Ingvild Skarpeid is reporting live for E&M at this year's Warwick Economics Summit, UK.

Main photo:Andy Chayton, RBS courtesy of Alexander Hogström

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