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April 15, 2013

I would rank Thatcher alongside Attlee

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Photograph of Baroness Lady Thatcher at the University of Warwick
The First Lady: Lady Thatcher with Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya at WMG in 1990

As the nation debates the legacy of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, several academics from the University of Warwick have offered their perspectives based on their research and expertise.

Baroness Thatcher was no stranger to the University; she visited Warwick on several occasions. In 1988 she looked in on what is now the Warwick Crop Centre and in 1990, the Baroness opened the Advanced Technology Centre. During the latter visit she was given a tour of WMG by Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, WMG’s chairman and founder (see photo above). Lord Bhattacharyya paid tribute to Lady Thatcher in the House of Lords on 10 April 2013.

This Wednesday (17 April 2013), to mark Lady Thatcher’s funeral, Dr Martin Priceand Dr Anton Popovwill have a Knowledge Centre feature looking at the responses of the under 25s to Lady Thatcher’s death.

Price and Popov are not alone in offering a reflective analysis on the Iron Lady’s political career, with several academics writing blogs about Margaret Thatcher.

In ‘Margaret Thatcher and me’, Professor Mark Harrison addresses the personal passion she roused in others (on both sides of the debate) and, in a less personal analysis, looks at her economic legacy.

“In my heart, at the time, I was enraged by what Margaret Thatcher did. But now she belongs to history. In my head, looking back as an economic historian, I have to acknowledge the necessity of it.”

Good night's sleep
With Margaret Thatcher’s night time habits being a famous part of her routine, Dr Michelle Miller, from the Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing at the Warwick Medical School, has been discussing this and the importance of a good night’s sleep.

“Margaret Thatcher reportedly only slept for four hours per night. Our studies indicate that short duration of sleep is associated with a variety of chronic conditions and poor health outcomes, detectable across the entire lifespan. Sufficient sleep is necessary for optimal daytime performance and well-being.

“Accumulating evidence suggests that a good night’s sleep equates to at least six hours of continuous sleep per night but, within a population, there is a large difference in how much sleep people report, ranging from less than six to greater than nine hours per night.

“Long-term sustained sleep deprivation also exerts sustained and long-term effects on performance and cognitive functions beyond those of acute deprivation and poor sleep is a feature of dementia. However, although dementia is thought to affect around 800,000 people in the UK, prospectively, very few studies have addressed the question of whether disturbances of quality and quantity of sleep precede and can be predictors of subsequent cognitive impairment. We are hoping to explore these and similar questions in our recently funded ESRC study.”

Solution to the problems
Writing on the economics blog Vox, Professor Nicholas Crafts puts Margaret Thatcher’s political career into some perspective; explaining the economy she inherited through to the one that she left John Major and Tony Blair.

“Thatcherism was a partial solution to the problems which had led to earlier underperformance, in particular, those that had arisen from weak competition.”

And finally, discussing her political legacy, Professor Wyn Grant, Politics and International Studies, said:

“Of the 20th century peacetime prime ministers, I would rank Thatcher alongside Attlee in terms of making a difference.”

February 11, 2013

Rabbit–proof ring fence (Warwick Economics Summit 2013)

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Photo of a rabbit edging close to the camera

The banking sector ring fence: Is it ‘rabbit-proof’ or will ‘banking bunnies’ find a way to burrow underneath?

We are just a few days away from the sixth annual Warwick Economics Summit (WES) and buzz is growing around the announced guest speakers and the insights they will offer on subjects as diverse as fiscal policy, marketing and international development.

We’re keen at Knowledge Centre HQ to find out about George Osbourne’s recently ‘electrified’ ring fence. Are those that dare to approach it going to get a small shock, a warning to back off from going any further, or is the banking equivalent of Fluffy (above) going to be flash fried by a 1,000 metaphorical vaults coursing through its tiny bunny-banker body?

There will be a wider focus to the weekend beyond that of UK fiscal and monetary policy. The Summit is an international affair where students and academics from the University of Warwick, along with those from other institutions (both here in the UK and overseas) as well as guests from outside academia can listen to an eclectic range of inspirational speakers. Previous presentations have come from Lord Digby Jones, Business Ambassador at UK Trade & Investment; Professor George Akerlof, the 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economics Sciences; and Tim Harford, the BBC’s More or Less presenter and the Undercover Economist for the Financial Times. Tim gave an entertaining presentation on the economics of sex, alcohol and happiness two years ago.

Among those speaking this year are Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Home Civil Service and University of Warwick alumnus; Andrew Bailey, Executive Director and Managing Director of the Prudential Business Unit, Bank of England; Rory Sutherland, marketing expert and Spectator columnist; and Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who will give the keynote speech for the Summit.

The Knowledge Centre will be putting some questions to these speakers. We’ll aim to find out:

  • Is the balance right between fiscal and monetary policy?
  • What advice would you give to Mark Carney before he takes on his new post at the Bank of England?
  • What differences will we see, or would you like to see, in George Osbourne’s “year of change?”
  • What are your hopes for the Prudential Regulation Authority?
  • Are we going to flash fry Fluffy?

Tickets range from £45 to £99 for attendees, with the higher rate ticket price including two nights’ accommodation.

Further details of the Warwick Economics Summit can be found on the WES website or via the Summits’ social media channels.

November 13, 2012

What is in an acronym? WIDS 2012

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WIDS 2012 US_Navy Haitian workers Port-Au-Prince international airport
Haitian workers move cooking oil supplied by United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID) at a distribution centre at Port-Au-Prince international airport. Image c/o Wikicommons.

Higher education is full of acronyms – from HEFCE and BIS at the government/funding end through to the likes of ‘WBL’ and UWWO that students at the University of Warwick might come across during their time on campus.

Sometimes, once the acronym is spelled out, the purpose of the phrase or organisation is self-evident (WBL is work-based learning and UWWO is the University of Warwick Wind Orchestra if you haven’t already googled the terms). But over the past month there’s one acronym that keeps popping up at Warwick that I’ve struggled to get my head around. It’s ‘WIDS’ – the Warwick International Development Society. It’s not because the group’s badly named or that I’ve not come international development before, it’s just that the acronym and name cannot fully sum up all of the ideas and work that WIDS embraces. It’s a failing of the English language rather than a poor choice of name. WIDS is the student society equivalent of ‘Espirit d'escalier’1 or ‘Tatemae and honne’2. Sadly, the English language lacks a succinct term that fully sums up the work, aspirations and feelings involved in WIDS.

Think about it, what comes to mind when you say ‘international development’? Is it a mixture of:

  • Community-based development
  • Poverty reduction
  • Sustainable development
  • Self-sustainability
  • International relations

WIDS as a society covers all this but it does so much more. It:

The upcoming summit, taking place this weekend, is promoted as providing “an intellectual platform to discuss and present original means of tackling these diverse issues. [WIDS] strives to involve a range of speakers from varying backgrounds and distinct perspectives, as well as engage students from across the globe to form a truly international summit”.

If you take a look at the WIDS website, you can see that this year’s summit is clearly aiming high on the guest speaker front.

Jeffrey Sachs speaking at WIDS 2012Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute (left), Columbia University and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will be speaking to the summit via video conference. Professor Sachs, who is also co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, is one of the world’s leading economists and has been named as one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" twice. Amongst the many people who work closely with Professor Sachs is U2 frontman Bono. Speaking of Sachs, the singer said “In time, his autograph will be worth a lot more than mine.”

WIDS 2012 World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud MohieldinOther speakers at WIDS 2012 include the head of the World Bank Group, Mahmoud Mohieldin (left); Meghnad Desai, Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Labour Peer in the House of Lords; and Professor Alan Winters of the University of Sussex. The full list of speakers is on the WIDS website.

The variety of those presenting talks this weekend speaks very highly of the students involved in WIDS and their ability to both approach interesting speakers and convince them to give up their time in the hope of finding new answers to some very old questions.

Bengali famine 1943
Bengali famine 1943. Image c/o Wikicommons.

I’ll be attending the conference, running from Friday evening (16 November) to Sunday (18 November). Hopefully I’ll see you there but, if not, I’ll be producing an overview for the Knowledge Centre to accompany some audio-visual content from the Summit later this month.

1 Espirit d'escalier is a French phrase for the moment when you come up with the perfect verbal comeback but too late for it to be of any use.

2 Honne and tatemae are Japanese words for ‘what you choose to believe/publically display’ and ‘what you actually believe’ respectively.

May 06, 2011

What is the Future for Social Sciences?

The Festival of Social Sciences takes place on campus between Thursday 5 May - Thursday 26 May 2011 and the Knowledge Centre will be there to bring you the best from the seminars, lectures and discussions taking place during the Festival.

The aim of the Festival is to showcase the varied and innovative social sciences research taking place at Warwick, involving staff and students from the Faculty of Social Science, as well as other areas of the University and beyond.

Guest speakers include Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, the National Council for Civil Liberties who will be giving a public lecture entitled “Common Values: The State of Rights and Freedoms in Modern Britain”. We will be bringing a video of the talk as well as coverage of the keynote event: Former Registrar of the University of Warwick, Mike Shattock (1983-1999) will be joining current Registrar, Jon Baldwin and Professor Robin Naylor from the Department of Economics to talk about  “Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities”.  

We will be capturing Business Entrepreneur, Ram Gidoomal CBE's talk on “Sustaining Dialogue: Multicultural Societies Under Pressure" and The Academy of Social Sciences Campaign for Social Science roadshow that will be published alongside an article looking at the future of social sciences.

One of the festival’s themes is Early Career Research development and we have been speaking to Ben Richardson, Daria Luchinksaya, Ben Jacoby, Clara Ruebner Joergensen and David Webber about their work.  A number of them will be contributing reviews of other interesting events planned, such as a film showing of The Roots of Revolt in Arabic World today - an Egyptian film (with English subtitles) based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Alaa al-Aswani.

Prof Richard Aldrich from the Department of Politics and International Studies will be giving his presentation Landscapes of Secrecy following on from a recent conference looking at ‘The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory’. He is our expert for this theme and you will have an opportunity to put your questions to Prof Aldrich on the history of GCHQ, the CIA and international security from Monday!

With book extracts from the best publications across departments, our Share Your Thoughts page - as well as more interviews and articles - it is set to be a busy few weeks ahead. For full listings of the whole range of events going on, the programme is now online. To find out more about the events taking place during the Festival, visit the Festival of Social Sciences webpages.

April 15, 2011

Global Powers

The question of how to organise international relations in an increasingly globalised world is hugely complex. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring “Global Powers” on the Knowledge Centre and taking a look at global governance, democracy, international politics and economics. As all eyes turn to Buckingham Palace and Westminster on the 29th April, we will also be taking a look at the Royal family and the global influence of the British Monarchy.

On a recent visit to Warwick, Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Economics at Berkeley, gave two lectures looking at the emerging markets where he sets out the globalisation trilemma. He explains that the difference between nations increases the cost of global trade but one-size-fits-all institutional design is a troublesome alternative as countries resist the constraints of imposed norms.

Global governance where we have integrated markets governed at an international level seems to be emerging as the third, and preferable, option but this still requires managing the tensions of both transactional trading costs and restraining sovereignty. So how will this play out? Who will decide where the remit of global governance should end? How will nations come together and decide how the world should organise itself?

Professor Philip G. Cerny (Emeritus Professor of Politics and Global Affairs at the University of Manchester and Rutgers University) and Professor Jan Aart Scholte of Warwick got together before the most recent RIPE debate to discuss whether international relations, given the newly globalised context, should now be studied in the same way as domestic politics, where political decision making is understood as a hugely complex process in which individuals actions have impact and importance. Professor Jan Aart Scholte tells us more about his work in this area, asking “Why do we need a Global Democracy?”.

We go to Professor Stuart Croft to hear about how the integration of nations has proved successful in the case of the European Union, linking into the newly established GR:EEN project looking at where Europe stands in the emerging global order. And for those who are enthused by when the world comes together, we bring you news from Warwick's first China Forum and a host of podcast recordings from this year’s One World Week.

Moving on to look at difference, Professor Barry Eichengreen tells us about his work on the rise and fall of the American Dollar, arguing that the benefits the United States derives from the prominence of their currency provides them with an exorbitant privilege. And given the pressing importance of the political developments in the Middle East, Dr Nicola Pratt has agreed to be this theme's expert - we look forward to receiving your questions when the Ask the Expert page opens for submissions.

In addition, Dr Sascha Becker of CAGE, presents the findings from a working paper on the Hapsburgs empire highlighting how trust in institutions can persist as a long-run effect over generations. With all this and the Royal Wedding wedged in the middle, it is amazing that there is still more! Dr Justin Greaves welcomes us into the lecture theatre to get an insight into his teaching on pressure groups and how they are adapting. We also have an extract from The Sarkozy Phenomenon by Prof Nick Hewlett, Department of French Studies, that looks at the controversial and intriguing President and his role in global politics. 

The Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton takes place on Friday 29th April, and we’ve spoken to Prof Rebecca Probert of Warwick School of Law who tells us about “The Rights and Wrongs of Royal Marriage”. We’ve also asked our international alumni to tell us how the Royal Wedding is being reported in their various countries. What, if anything, do other nations find fascinating about a British monarch's marriage?  The peculiarities of antiquated British culture no doubt provoke intrigue for some and Warwick alumnus, Sarah Haywood, wedding dress designer and speaker at the forthcoming Alumni Knowledge Exchange Day gives us a rundown of etiquette expected of Royal guests. We will also be discussing “Why Kate?” with PhD researcher Samantha Lyle who will be discussing class, gender and education and how Kate found her Prince, all in a live chat on the site. 

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