Author Archives: sk558

CEAS – Small Farms: Decline or Persistence?

The two-day seminar ‘Small Farms: decline or persistence?’ was held on 26 and 27th June at the University of Kent, Canterbury. The seminar was jointly organised by the Centre for European Agri-environmental Studies (CEAS) at the School of Economics, the European Association of Agricultural Economists (EAAE) and the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE). The seminar raised big interest in academics from all over the world and representatives of international organisations – the EU, OECD, FAO and the World Bank. It attracted nearly 90 delegates from 26 countries, presenting more than 60 papers in the plenary, contributed papers and posters sessions. Julia Goodfellow – Vice Chancellor of the University of Kent, David Colman – President Elect of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, Csaba Forgacs – Former President of the European Association of Agricultural Economists and Sophia Davidova – Honorary Director of CEAS welcomed the participants.

The event proved a timely opportunity to re-consider recent evidence of the multiple roles – economic, social and environmental – of small farms in developed, transition and developing countries.

Selected papers will be published in Agricultural Economics, the journal of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, in a special issue devoted to the seminar.

The seminar benefitted from the sponsorship of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, supporting the participation of academics from low-income countries.

To read more about the CEAS Conference – Small Farms: Decline or Persistence, click here.

Workplace leaders need to set good example to inspire others

edward-cartwrightNew research shows that workplace leadership is only effective in inspiring high effort in a team if leaders persistently set a good example.

Although the University-led research found that workplace leadership did generally have a positive effect, this was limited and depended on the actions of the leaders, rather than of followers.

Principal researcher Dr Edward Cartwright, of the School of Economics, and researchers from the VU University Amsterdam and Osnabrück University studied workplace team behaviour with a particular focus on leadership by example.

The research found that in some groups, leaders who contributed a lot were able to succeed in inspiring high effort in followers, whereas in other groups where leaders made less effort to set a good example, work efficiency was no better than could be expected with no leader present.

Dr Cartwright said: ‘One of the surprising outcomes was the fact that leadership in itself did not increase average effort within a team. If leaders chose high effort, then this significantly increased the average effort of others. However, we found that leaders often did not set a good example. Indeed, many leaders set a bad example by choosing low effort.

‘We found that the reluctance of leaders to set a good example was based on the fact that it did not necessarily benefit them. From the leaders’ perspective, choosing low effort was the safe option.’

Their research also highlighted the value of incentives for team leaders to set a good example in the workplace. The findings suggest that incentives and rewards, such as bonuses, should be based on individual performance, rather than that of the team.

Dr Cartwright said: ‘If a team leader works hard and someone in the team lets them down, then they’ve lost on two counts. Faced with this possibility, they may take the easy option and not work hard in the first place. That’s why it’s important to reward leaders on the basis of their own performance.’

The study made use of what is known as a ‘weak-link game’. In this, 108 participants, split into small groups, chose a group leader, either randomly or selectively, and then undertook various exercises designed to measure efficiency of leadership in a work setting.

The research team also included Professor Mark van Vugt, of the VU University Amsterdam and a visiting professor at the University of Kent, and Joris Gillet, of Osnabrück University. The study can be viewed in the journal Economic Inquiry at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecin.12003/abstract

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Publicising high charitable donations can reduce giving

euros-squareNew research from economists at the universities of Kent and Gothenburg has shown that those charities and other fundraisers who publicise donations above a certain level risk seeing a fall in future donations.

Conducted by Dr Edward Cartwright of Kent’s School of Economics and Gothenburg’s Dr Amrish Patel, the research revealed that reporting donations using categories – for example more than £1,000 or more than £10,000 – can increase total donations. However, it also found that setting a high cut-off point at which donations are publicised can actually lead to a reduction in giving.

Dr Cartwright and Dr Patel used a ‘signalling model’ of giving to establish their findings. This model suggests that people donate in order to signal something positive about themselves, such as generosity or wealth. By reporting donations using categories, fundraisers can effectively extract a ‘fee’ from the donor for publicising the ‘signal’.

However, Dr Cartwright and Dr Patel found that finding the optimal ‘fee’ level is a difficult balancing act between encouraging some to give without alienating others.

Dr Cartwright said: ‘We found that great care is needed by fundraisers in deciding the cut off point for publicising donations. If the fee is set too high, for example, it can alienate even the most willing of donors.

‘These findings were a surprise as intuition would suggest that it’s best to set a relatively high threshold above which donations were publicised because this would encourage the most generous of donors to give more.

‘It turned out, however, that a low threshold can work a lot better as it motivates the less generous to donate without alienating the more generous. Given the counter-intuitive nature of our findings, it’s not clear whether fundraisers are using categories as well as they might be.’

‘How category reporting can improve fundraising’ (Edward Cartwright, Amrish Patel) is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization. The paper can be viewed at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268113000048
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Contact: pressoffice@kent.ac.uk

School continues to excel in University rankings

keynes-squareThe School of Economics has again been named as one of the top economics departments in the UK according to The Guardian University Guide 2014. The School has maintained its position from last year as 6th overall in the UK, and has also been ranked 1st for Teaching, 4th for Student:Staff Ratio and 5th for Satisfaction with the Course, and Feedback and Assessment.

Professor Alan Carruth, Head of School, said: ‘The School is very pleased to have held its position of 6th in The Guardian subject table. I would like to take this opportunity to thank colleagues and students for their dedication to teaching and learning.’

The School has also maintained its position in the Complete University Guide 2014 for a third year running, being ranked 3rd for Student Satifaction and 15th overall in the UK.

In the most recent National Student Survey (NSS), the School was ranked in the top five economics departments in the UK, for the fourth year in a row. Our student satisfaction rate stands at 95%, an increase of 2% over the last academic year. Individual scores include 1st for Organisation and Management (96%), 2nd for Teaching (95%) and 3rd for Academic Support (90%).

Click here for further information on our scores in the other national surveys.

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Further information:

The University of Kent as a whole has also done well in the recent rankings, now being placed among the top 20 universities in the UK in The Guardian University Guide 2014. For further information on the Kent rankings, click here.

New method for assessing future tree and plant disease risks

ash-treeA new method for assessing the impacts and risks of potential future tree and plant pest and disease outbreaks has been developed by Professor Robert Fraser, of the School of Economics, as one of the key recommendations of today’s (20 May) government report into biosecurity.

Professor Fraser developed the new methodology as one of ten experts from leading
universities sitting on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Tree
Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce.

The Taskforce’s final report includes a recommendation to develop a ‘prioritised UK Plant Health Risk Register’ – which suggests use of a new ‘horizon-scanning’ methodology developed by Professor Fraser – as one of its key findings.

Professor Fraser said: ‘My role on the Taskforce was very much one of looking ahead and finding a way of assessing impacts and prioritising the risks of future pest and disease outbreaks.

‘One of the Taskforce’s major objectives, as well as looking at ways the UK could strengthen its responsiveness and preparedness, was to find a way of assessing future economic, social and environmental impacts.

‘That way, we can more effectively plan how to prioritise our spending to tackle future tree and plant pest and disease outbreaks.’

The Taskforce was chaired by Professor Christopher Gilligan of the University of Cambridge, and reported to Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser. It was established following the incursion of the Chalara pathogen into the UK from the European continent, which killed many ash trees.

Robert Fraser is Professor of Agricultural Economics within the University of Kent’s School of Economics.

Read the Taskforce’s Final Report here.

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For further information or interview requests contact the Press Office at the University of Kent

Tel: 01227 823100/823581

Email: PressOffice@kent.ac.uk

Debate over ‘Boris Island’ set to continue, despite report rejection

planeProfessor Roger Vickerman, a leading specialist in transport economics at the School of Economics, says the debate over Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new hub
airport in the Thames Estuary will continue to ‘cast a blight over north Kent’, despite its rejection
in a new MP’s report.

The House of Commons Transport Committee warned that any new estuary hub airport would
entail ‘huge public expense’ and would also require the closure of Heathrow.

Professor Vickerman said: ‘I agree fully with the report’s findings that there is a need for additional runway capacity, that the urgent priority is for this to be part of a hub-airport strategy, and that the government’s current timetable for taking a decision is too protracted for the scale of the problem.

‘The most controversial aspect of the report is its clear recommendation for the expansion of Heathrow and its rejection of a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary. The main concern is that the report makes a clear case for a third runway at Heathrow, but if Heathrow is really to work in the long-term it needs a thorough re-modelling into a four-runway airport.

‘This would take much longer to achieve and it is on these grounds that the appeal for a completely new airport rests. The Committee has helped to narrow the realistic choices faced by the Airports Commission, but I suspect the Heathrow versus Thames Estuary argument will continue to rage – and cast a blight over large parts of north Kent – for some time to come.

Professor Vickerman is Professor of European Economics at the University of Kent’s School of Economics and Director of its Centre for European, Regional and Transport Economics. He is also Dean of its Brussels School of International Studies.

Economics student wins two Santander competitions

ryan-englandRyan England, a final-year economics student, impressed the judges with his convincing business idea, breath.loud, during the University’s ‘Big Ideas’ presentations on 21 March sponsored by Santander Bank.

Not only did Ryan win a fully-funded trip to the USA to represent Kent in the prestigious ‘Global Student Business Concept Challenge’, but also a fully-funded office in the Kent Enterprise Hub for one year upon graduation, support from a Santander business mentor and £500 to help with start-up costs.

Seven teams out of a total 46 applications from across the University were shortlisted and presented their business ideas to a panel of four judges. These included Gareth Anderson, Relationship Director at Santander Bank; Gill Smaggasgale, Partner at patent attorneys WP Thompson; Dr Gary Robinson, Senior Commercialisation Manager at the University; and Carole Barron, Director of Innovation and Enterprise at Kent.

Despite the tough competition, the judges were unanimous in their decision. Ryan’s business idea to customise and improve the appearance of asthma inhalers, with a view to aiding the acceptance of asthma among children, together with a well thought through business case, financial projections, presentation and competence during the question and answer session left the judges with no room for doubt.

Ryan said: ‘I can’t believe I’ve won. I am so excited about this fantastic opportunity and especially representing the University in Virginia in August. It’ll be a real privilege to go.’

The University has participated in the Global Challenge for the past three years and achieved the runners-up prize twice. If Ryan wins the ‘Global Student Business Concept Challenge’, he will receive a cash prize of $25,000. Ryan’s business idea will also be entered by the University in the Santander Entrepreneurship Awards later this year.

To find out more about business competitions and student enterprise activities, email thehub@kent.ac.uk.

School to lead three-year project on impact of secondary schooling in Bangladesh

bangladeshDr Zaki Wahhaj has won an award for AUD576,683 (c £380,000) from the Australian Government’s AusAID for ‘The Role of Secondary Schooling and Gender Norms in the Long-term Opportunities and Choices of Rural Bangladeshi Women’.

The project will investigate how the opportunity of secondary education for rural women in Bangladesh, made possible by the government’s gender-focused school subsidy scheme beginning in the mid-1990s, impacted upon their later lives, particularly in terms of decisions relating to marriage, childbirth, employment and investment in their own children.

Knowledge gained from the study can be used to make secondary schools in developing countries more supportive environments for adolescent girls. It will help to guide the design of adolescent development programmes – which now form a vital part of broader strategies for poverty alleviation and economic development of international development organisations and donors – so that they can complement the formal training received by adolescent girls in schools, or substitute for this formal training where girls are unable to attend secondary school.

The project will place particular emphasis on the transmission of gender norms in secondary schools – through the academic curriculum, the extra-curricular activities conducted with schools and the beliefs and attitudes of school teachers regarding traditional gender norms – to identify the role of these factors in shaping the future choices of female pupils.

The project will collect data on a random sample of 7,500 women who were of secondary school-going age around the start of the subsidy scheme, drawn from a nationwide census. The survey will gather detailed data on marriage, childbirth, employment, parental background and schooling history. In selected villages, the researchers will conduct in-depth interviews with the women, to obtain further insights about their attitudes towards traditional gender norms, and decisions regarding school, marriage, fertility and employment; to understand how access, or lack of access to secondary schooling affected their subsequent choices.

Zaki will be working with his co-investigator, Dr Niaz Asadullah, University of Reading, and a team of researchers based in Bangladesh. Zaki’s broader research focuses on the role of gender norms in household decision-making in poor countries, and on the role of social norms in the process of economic development; while Dr Asadullah specialises in the field of education in developing countries, with a focus on the education of women.

Launch of new MSc in Applied Economics and International Development

ox-ploughThe School of Economics is launching a new Master’s programme in Applied Economics and International Development for entry in 2013. The programme replaces the MSc in International Development, and provides core training in the application of economic principles to the problems of international development. The programme offers a breadth of choice in module options in the areas of international finance, trade and development, environment and rural economics.

For further information on the new programme, click here.