Tag Archives: Economics

BEI Prizewinners 2021: Advice and Best Moments

Students receiving an award today from the School of Business, Economics and Informatics share the highlights from their time at Birkbeck and their top tips for success.

Today, postgraduate students in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics will attend their virtual graduation ceremonies alongside the friends, staff and supporters who have been cheering them on throughout their studies.

Today is all about celebrating their success, and from cutting-edge research projects to outstanding module results, our Class of 2021 are an inspiring bunch. We caught up with some of our Spring graduation prizewinners to reminisce over their time at Birkbeck and gain some words of wisdom for our next cohort.

Jay Lee – Best Module Result (Computer Science and Information Systems)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

One memorable moment is definitely meeting new friends from different countries along the way and hanging out with them throughout the year! An unforgettable experience.

What advice would you give to current students?

My advice would be remember not to leave things to the last minute, relax and enjoy your time here!

Katherine Stedman – Best CIPD Accredited Programme Student (Organizational Psychology)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck?

In the early days of my MSc we had to randomly form groups for one of our first group projects. I didn’t know many people on my course at the time but I’m happy to say that I met some of my greatest course friends through that first project. I wouldn’t have been able to do my MSc without them and I’m looking forward to celebrating with them today!

Thomas Obitz – Best Dissertation (Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

I was startled when I walked through the department for the first time and saw Hélyette Geman’s name on the door. I knew her books from my daily work, and I could not believe that the most admired name in commodities pricing and trading was teaching at the department where I was going to study. Her derivatives pricing and her commodities lectures were the most insightful I ever attended – she was one of the people who developed the theory, so she could explain the thinking behind it like nobody else. And she is an incredibly nice, open and helpful person.

Lucy Martin – Best Dissertation (Organizational Psychology)

What advice would you give to current students?

Do not underestimate the time it takes to complete a research project and dissertation. The earlier you can come up with a research question and start your literature review the easier it will be to complete.  At the point of write up, I set myself a daily word target to get through, this helped me keep on track in the last busy month before submission alongside my work commitments.

Richard Harrison – Honourable Mention for Best PhD Thesis (Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

Presenting my work at a seminar for fellow PhD students and staff. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming and even challenging questions were asked in a supportive way. Midway through the seminar I had a “Eureka moment” when I was asked a question that I had never considered before. It led me to a new and productive line of enquiry for my thesis.

Anja Pries – Best Overall Student: Corporate Governance/Responsibility (Management)

What advice would you give to current students?

The process of writing a dissertation can be challenging. You might find yourself struggling to find a topic or getting stuck with your research. I would definitely recommend talking to your fellow students about this. You could set up a group chat or meet at the library to work on your dissertations. Knowing that others were in the same position as me helped me to stay motivated.

 

Ibrahim Alsaggaf – Best Overall International Student (Computer Science and Information Systems)

What advice would you give to current students?

On a Master’s level, My advice is not to study hard as this is a must, but rather about a thing that most students find insignificant, that is module’s prerequisites. In order to make the most of a module, a student needs to be well prepared by assuring that they gain the required prerequisites knowledge at the start of a module. This will boost their learning curve instead of struggling to digest a theory that is based on prior knowledge. To conclude, my advice is to select modules based on their prerequisites and which of them a student has the required knowledge of.

Ero Papadima – Best Management Consultancy and Organizational Change Student (Organizational Psychology)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

My best memories at Birkbeck are with the people I met there, usually in one of the many study groups, sharing notes, anxieties and –importantly – snacks! My favourite moment was probably when seven of us were studying around a large table in the group study area of the library; all in different laptops and each working on our own assignment, yet somehow in complete sync, jumping from complete silence to suddenly bouncing off ideas and debating arguments for our essays – all seven of them. There was a lovely sense of belonging in that moment and great comfort in simply not going it alone.

Irina Sidorenko – Best Overall Student: Marketing (Management)

What advice would you give to current students?

I would encourage future Birkbeck students to stay curious and alert during the learning process. During lectures, I used to note even the smallest details that ignited my curiosity and dedicate some extra time to doing some further research around these elements. This is how I have discovered an absolute gem: Professor Olivier Sibai once mentioned in passing that he had attended a talk at the Museum of Brands and that if we had some free time he would recommend us to visit one of the talks at the Museum. I paid attention to his words and up until the Covid pandemic began I tried to never miss a talk at the Museum of Brands, as I hugely enjoy it. So, even the smallest thing, just one small detail mentioned at the Birkbeck lecture can show you a way of upgrading your knowledge and open up new horizons in your professional development.

It is also important to stay calm and not get overwhelmed with emotional pressure when juggling studies, often a full-time job and a long commute, social life and family commitments. It helps to keep in mind that you are in it for a marathon, not a sprint. Break up big tasks into smaller ones and remember: Viam supervadet vadens! (in English: The path will be overcome by the person who walks it). If you can dream it, you can achieve it; always!

Robert Superty – Best Dissertation and Best Overall Student (Computer Science and Information Systems)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

Celebrating with the other MSc Computer Science students after the last final in the first year. It was a tough set of exams and it felt like such an accomplishment to get through. Everyone was in such a good mood and it was a great opportunity to get to know people better outside of class.

 

Kieran Jones – Best Dissertation Mark and Best Overall Student: Management/Business (Management)

What advice would you give to current students?

Embrace what you’re passionate about and identify and tackle what you’re bad at. Like a lot of students, I enjoy learning new things which in my studies caused an undisciplined, unstructured approach. To tackle that I spent a lot of time planning. I organised everything from what I was going to learn that week, how I was going to learn, when and how I was going to write my essays and so on. By tackling those things, eventually you get better at what you’re bad at and you can do the things you’re passionate about even better than before.

Congratulations to all our spring 2021 graduates. We wish you all the best in your future careers.

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“Without Birkbeck’s disability service, I wouldn’t have finished my degree”

Ryan Wilson recently graduated with a First in BSc Economic and Social Policy, after overcoming a number of adversities, including leaving school with no qualifications and becoming seriously ill after a drug trial went wrong. Here is his #BBKgrad story.

Ryan Wilson

Ryan was born and raised in Islington and describes his background as “working class and economically deprived”. He came out of school with no GCSEs. In a bid to earn money, he took part in a drug trial in 2006 which went catastrophically wrong. Suffering multiple organ failures, as well as loosing parts of his fingers and toes, Ryan now faces his legs being amputated in the future. Ryan explains, “I felt at the time my whole life had been wiped away from me, and I’m still not over it and to be honest never fully will be. I had planned for years to become a plumber and could no longer pursue this career path due to my injuries.”

A few years later, in 2012, Ryan had a son. He describes this as a pivotal moment: “I just wanted to prove to my son that anyone can change their life circumstance if they try hard enough. I believe everyone has potential, just for a lot of people its untapped. I’d been wanting to study economics for a number of years but hadn’t had the confidence to and being a student was a different world to the one I knew. I started researching how to become an economist and saw I had to get GCSEs, A Levels and a degree. So, in 2012, I started studying for my GCSEs. I managed to obtain an A* in English and a B in Maths so I progressed onto study Economics A Level. I’d never studied so much in my life but my hard graft meant I achieved an A. I had the most amazing teacher, who encouraged me to apply to Birkbeck, saying that they’d consider my application.”

In 2016, Ryan started his part-time BSc Economic and Social Policy degree, alongside working as an independent prison monitor, ensuring the decency of prisons and humane treatment of prisoners. He explains: “I had textbooks glued to me throughout my degree and entered a wormhole of reading. I worked so hard and loved the lectures – my favourite modules were Economics and Public Policy, and Macroeconomic Theory and Policy. I struggled in my second year with studying for my degree and overcoming some personal hurdles, but the support I received from the disability team and the mental health service really increased my confidence and drive to succeed. Mark Pimm, the Disability Service Manager, gave me hope in a sea of uncertainty. He encouraged me not to quit and without him and his team, I wouldn’t have completed my degree.”

Ryan graduated in November, winning the prize for the best final year Economics and Social Policy student. Describing his future plans, he says, “I want to work in politics and next week I’ve got an interview for my dream job in the civil service, working for the Department of International Trade. I’m busy writing a book about my life journey and how policy impacts the lives of people. In the future, I want to get into motivational speaking because I want to help others and be a voice for the under-represented groups that I’m part of.”

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A place for new beginnings

Rajivan Rajamohan’s Birkbeck journey was fraught with personal challenges that brought him to the brink of giving up on his MSc in Economics. However, through will, self-care and support from friends and staff, last week he graduated. Here is his #BBKgrad story.

Rajivan Rajamohan

Rajivan Rajamohan

After completing a BA in Accounting and Finance from the University of Essex, Rajivan set about making his ambition to become an economist happen. The first step on his way to achieving his dream was completing a Graduate Diploma in Economics (GDE) to get him onto an MSc in his chosen area of study.

In 2016, Rajivan left his Wealth Management role at a bank in the City to begin his MSc at Birkbeck. Like many Birkbeck students, Rajivan felt the physical and mental demands of working full-time in a professionally demanding role while studying a subject that he didn’t have much previous experience in, “I had to work harder to fill the missing gaps in my knowledge, considerably more and quicker than most of my peers as my MSc was funded by myself with my full-time role as a Waiter for Nando’s”, he says. But that didn’t stop him diving headfirst into other commitments, taking the time to volunteer at Great Ormond Street Hospital and for Birkbeck’s Academic Panel on behalf of the Student Union, which earned him the ‘Birkbeck Colours and Honours Award’ in 2018.

It was during his GDE that Rajivan realised that the stress of exams was affecting him more than other students, with a fellow student urging him to seek help. Eventually Rajivan was diagnosed with the mental health condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which he discovered was triggered by exams. He explained, “While undertaking my GCSE exams at the age of 16, I went through unexpected and substantial trauma during the year of my final GCSE exams, which was not correctly diagnosed as PTSD for eight years. Due to the extremely delayed diagnosis, my PTSD was untreated and served to exacerbate the original trauma and exam-related anxiety.” Rajivan was able to begin treatment for his PTSD in the summer of 2016.

Being at Birkbeck meant that Rajivan could access disability support to help him with managing his rigorous and technically challenging exams for the first time in his academic studies, as well as receiving support from fellow students and lecturers who urged him to keep going with his degree, despite the challenges he faced.

Unfortunately, Rajivan suffered a further setback when he lost his creditworthiness due to a mistake made by a bank, meaning he could no longer work in that field, a huge blow as he had previously held roles in the financial sector. He said, “I am currently still seeking legal representation to take further legal advice and actions to rectify this error.”

Yet, now having completed his MSc, after three years, Rajivan can proudly declare that he has done it! “The support, kindness and compassion of my therapist, my Econometrics lecturer and a few of my friends from my undergraduate and postgraduate cohort helped me to stay focused and not to drop out of my degree.”

When asked what advice he would give to someone thinking of studying at Birkbeck, Rajivan urges you to, “Go for it and follow your dreams”. He believes the College’s flexibility is a saving grace, and the character of the students is fascinating: “it is only at Birkbeck where you meet incredible people with extraordinary stories and a whole community of individuals who have dedicated work ethics and a burning desire to reach their ambition.”

Rajivan’s concluding message would be to be kind and compassionate, to yourself and to others, because it’s not always clear what challenges people are facing, even if they project that they are coping well. He urges anyone taking up the challenge to “look after themselves with running, meditation and yoga because things could go unexpectedly wrong and when they do, always work with it and not against it. Be ready to look after your Mind, Body and Soul.”

Although his journey had its ups and downs, Rajivan recalled a quote that kept him going; “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”-Maria Robinson.

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Driving innovation in the UK through collaboration and the Industrial Strategy

Yossie Olaleye from the School of Business, Economics and Informatics reports on a recent conference at the Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR) on the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

Innovation and technological advancement lie at the heart of industrialisation. In November 2017, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published the UK government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper, which presents a ‘modern’ long-term plan to boost productivity across the country through innovation, infrastructure development, and collaboration. The Industrial Strategy focuses on the 5 foundations of productivity – ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment, and places – and the government hopes to encourage collaboration with industry, academia, and civil society to create an economy that works for everyone.

Various questions emerged from the debate around the white paper, including how the government will support science and innovation research, and how to drive growth and local inclusion across the country. These questions formed the basis of the all-day workshop on Innovation and the UK’s Industrial Strategy hosted by Birkbeck’s Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR) on 23 March 2018. The event brought together a group of policymakers, including Paul Drabwell, Deputy Director of Science Research & Innovation and Dr Rosa Fernandez, Economic Adviser on Local Business Growth at BEIS, industry experts such as Professor Birgitte Andersen, CEO of Big Innovation Centre, and renowned UK academics who travelled from Kent, Oxford and Sheffield to share their latest research and comparative perspectives on the Industrial Strategy.

The objective of the workshop was to explore the trends that led to the formulation of the Industrial Strategy, and the possible outcomes of implementing the Grand Challenges outlined in the white paper, focusing on innovation, collaboration, and local partnerships. While the workshop dealt with several topics, including the impact of Brexit on achieving the strategy’s outcomes, presented by Birkbeck’s Professor Klaus Nielsen, two key themes stood out: local, regional and national engagement to deliver on economic opportunities, and driving innovation through digital skills development.

Paul Drabwell opened the workshop by emphasising the government’s commitment to increase R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. He said that the UK “has world-leading science research, excellent universities, and innovative companies,” and it is these strengths that will drive the implementation of the strategy. Increased R&D funding will enable UK universities to continue to excel in international league tables, collaborate more with industry partners, and encourage innovation across the country, a theme which runs throughout the Industrial Strategy. Despite the UK’s strengths, Paul Drabwell noted that there are issues around local engagement in the country, which means that there is a crucial need to drive productivity and maintain a high level of employment. This is a challenge the government hopes to resolve through the £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund to improve intra-city transport links and promote local growth within city regions. Dr Rosa Fernandez expanded on this point with a presentation on the role of place in the Industrial Strategy, highlighting that the UK government intends to build on local strengths to tackle the issue of poor distribution of economic activity across the country.

A key question at the workshop was the role of research and the UK’s academic institutions in delivering the possible outcomes of the Industrial Strategy. We heard from Dr Keith Smith at Imperial College London who discussed the need for multinational collaboration to deal with innovation challenges across different industries, and Birkbeck’s Professor Helen Lawton Smith who presented research on the importance of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in addressing the challenge of regional inequality in the country. Professor Jeremy Howells from the University of Kent and Professor Tim Vorley from the University of Sheffield focused their presentations on the potential for business schools to convene and work with other social science schools to create solutions for the challenges of productivity and job creation discussed in the white paper.

The takeaway from this workshop was that collaboration – from government, industry, universities, and local communities – is essential if we are to achieve the ambitious objectives of the Industrial Strategy, as well as greater investment in research and innovation to support skills development.

One notable example of such collaboration is the Institute of Coding (IoC), which was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum 2018. Birkbeck is a partner in a consortium of over 60 universities, businesses such as IBM and Microsoft, and professional bodies, to tackle the digital skills gap in the UK through the IoC. By bringing together such diverse perspectives, the CIMR workshop stimulated debate and provided useful suggestions for how academics can work effectively with business leaders and the government to drive innovation in the UK through research collaboration and meaningful partnerships.

Many thanks to all who participated and attended the workshop.

Organisers: Professor Helen Lawton Smith, Professor Klaus Nielsen, Professor Jeremy Howells, and Dr Rupert Waters.

Further speakers:

  • Professor Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, State University of New York
  • Professor Åsa Lindholm Dahlstrand, Lund University
  • Dr Alexander Grous, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Dr Carl Hunter, CEO & Managing Director, Coltraco Ultrasonics Limited
  • Professor Ewart Keep, SKOPE, Oxford University Skills
  • Professor Slavo Radosevic, University College London
  • Professor Roy Sandbach, Northumbria University

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