Author Archives: sk558

Grant success for economic history research

prague-squareDr Alex Klein, a Lecturer within the School, has been awarded a three-year grant of 1.1 million Czech Crowns (c £36,000) by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic for his research on ‘Economic Development and the Spirit of Capitalism in Central Europe: Protestant Reformation and the Economy
of the Czech Lands in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century’.

Recent economic literature has sought to resurrect Max Weber’s theory of a link between religion and economic performance, yet its findings lack robustness because they rely on aggregative data for entire regions or nations. The grant will enable Alex to improve on these approaches by focusing on the level at which religious beliefs are actually held and economic behaviour generated – the individual, household, and community.

The 1651 religious census and the 1654 tax register for the Czech lands recorded religious and economic characteristics for many thousands of individuals and households. Mid-seventeenth-century Bohemia is an ideal laboratory for exploring Weberian hypotheses, since it was characterized by huge religious variation immediately after the Thirty Years War. It also lies at a key economic juncture between pre-war economic dynamism and an increasing severity of manorial controls and heavy state extraction.

This project applies modern economic theory and econometric approaches to these extraordinary Czech data to improve our understanding of links between religion and economics.

HS2: What’s in it for Kent?

train-trackPlans for the next phase of the £32bn HS2 high-speed rail network have been unveiled and it could be good news for Kent, says the School’s transport economics expert Professor Roger Vickerman.

Commenting on today’s government announcement, Professor Vickerman said: ‘The Government’s announcement of the route for the northern extension of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds could be good news for Kent.

‘Whilst much of the focus is on the possible environmental effects of the route, a key element of the plan is that it includes a link from the new HS2 route to HS1. In principle this could allow high-speed services to operate from Ashford to the Midlands and North, boosting even further the integration of Kent into the UK economy.

‘This may be unlikely for various reasons, as the main focus has been on linking cities such as Manchester and Birmingham with Paris and Brussels. But the economics of these through services is likely to be marginal; they could be used however to boost services from the Kent stations to the continent with regional Eurostar services calling at the Kent stations.

‘At the same time experience of living with HS1 in Kent can allow a demonstration of how quickly new infrastructure can be absorbed without creating the devastation being predicted by some. The only depressing thing about today’s announcement is that the first trains over the new lines will not run until 2026 to Birmingham and 2032 at the earliest to Manchester and Leeds.’

Roger Vickerman is Professor of European Economics and Dean of the University’s Brussels School of International Studies.

Research could help shape new Common Agricultural Policy

sheep-farmerResearch from the School of Economics could help shape changes to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) being considered by the European Parliament.

Professor Sophia Davidova, Professor of European Agricultural Policy, is leading an international team of researchers looking at proposals for a new CAP package for the period 2013–20.

Professor Davidova is studying the value of semi-subsistence and small family farming to communities across Europe, using case studies in countries such as Italy, Portugal and Poland – as well as the example of Scotland’s crofters. Her colleague Dr Alastair Bailey will investigate the contribution of small farms to the rural environment and traditional landscapes.
Around 66 per cent of Europe’s farmers – 8 million out of total of 12 million – receive direct payments under the current CAP arrangements. Around 70 per cent of farm holdings in the EU area are less than five hectares. However, very small farmers are currently excluded from the CAP.

Professor Davidova said: ‘The research will consider the future of small and semi-subsistence farmers within the context of the CAP.

‘In many countries these types of farms have become more important politically because of their social value in acting as a buffer against pockets of rural poverty.

‘They also have a role in preserving rural communities and protecting traditional environmental features. The long tradition of family farming in many countries in Europe has contributed towards the maintenance of a living countryside, linked to local towns, with an attractive landscape and biodiversity.’

The research will evaluate the effectiveness of the proposals on the table for the CAP after 2013 and make recommendations on policy measures to enhance the capacity of small farmers across Europe to deliver public good.

Professor Davidova’s research findings will be presented to the European Parliament in May 2013.
For further information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema in the Press Office at the University of Kent
Tel: 01227 823581

Launch of new MSc in Agri-Environmental Economics and Policy

wheat-squareThe School of Economics is launching a new Master’s programme in Agri-Environmental Economics and Policy for entry in 2013. The programme replaces both the MSc in Applied Environmental Economics and the MSc in Agricultural Economics.

Sophia Davidova, Professor of European Agricultural Policy and the School’s Director of Graduate Studies, said: ‘There is a strong interrelationship between agricultural and environmental issues, and the School has developed this new programme to provide a more comprehensive learning experience for our students.’

For further information on the new programme, click here.

School’s transport economist highlights impact of high-speed rail for China

The School’s transport economist, Professor Roger Vickerman, presented his research on the wider economic benefits of high-speed rail in Europe on a recent visit to China.

Professor Vickerman, who is Dean of the University’s Brussels School of International Studies, was invited to talk at the prestigious Institute for Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy Sciences in Beijing to discuss mutual research interests.

As well as presenting his research paper, The wider economic impacts of high-speed rail in Europe, based on his current research into methods of economic appraisal for major transport infrastructure projects, Professor Vickerman had a meeting with the Institute Director and participated in a seminar discussing current research projects with the Institute’s research staff.

Professor Vickerman said: ‘High-speed rail in China has developed at an astonishingly fast rate and is leading to significant reductions in rail journey times in such a large country. It is clear that methods of approving new projects are very different from both the economic appraisal methods and the public consultation and parliamentary approval required in the UK.

‘Although the rail technology was initially imported from Europe, China has now developed a significant high-speed rail industry of its own. However, the pace of development may have been too fast as a serious accident in 2011 was blamed on poor quality control and corruption.

‘Plans to develop a network of up to 16,000 km by 2015 have been scaled back and speeds reduced on much of the network. Alongside high-speed rail development, China has also been investing heavily in airports, and again it seems that there has been a lack of a more formal national planning process.’

Professor Vickerman’s visit, at the end of November, is likely to lead to further co-operation between the University of Kent and the Institute. Kent is involved in joint research with universities in Hong Kong to explore the extent to which the European experience of high-speed rail can inform economic planning for high-speed rail development in the region.

School expert joins tree health task force

Rob Fraser, Professor of Agricultural Economics, has been appointed to a new national taskforce of experts looking at tree health and biosecurity. Rob is one of ten key academics making up the new independent Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce.

The Taskforce will bring a multi-disciplinary perspective to ensuring the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has ‘access to the most up-to-date and robust evidence in support of decisions on dealing with tree and plant disease’.

Professor Fraser said: ‘I’m delighted to be called on to play a role in this important taskforce. It was formed as one of several actions to emerge from a meeting of the government’s emergency committee (Cobra), which was chaired by the Environment Secretary in early November.’

The Taskforce is expected to deliver an interim report in early December 2012, setting out recommendations for Defra to consider, and a final report on its strategic view of the evidence in Spring 2013.

The Taskforce is chaired by Professor Christopher Gilligan, of the University of Cambridge, and will report to Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser.

Talk by Simon Hall, Bank of England

Wednesday 17 October 2012

city-squareBank of England head of macroprudential strategy, Simon Hall, is to give a talk in the School on Wednesday on “The Development of Macroprudential Policy in the UK”. Simon will also give some information and advice about internships and working at the Bank. The talk is on Wednesday

17 October at 6pm in KLT1. All students and staff welcome.

New lectureship post

city-squareThe School of Economics is inviting applications for a Lectureship in Economics. We are seeking a colleague who is capable of publishing research of international excellence in a suitable area of Economics, to complement the School’s existing research strengths and foster links and collaboration with appropriate internal and external contacts and organisations. To view the full job specification and details on how to apply, please click here.

School expert appointed to Defra’s Economic Advisory Panel

Professor Rob Fraser of the School of Economics has been appointed to sit on the newly formed Economic Advisory Panel to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The panel will provide advice, support and new research insights to Defra’s economists and policymakers. Rob Fraser is Professor of Agricultural Economics and has an international research reputation as a policy economist, specialising in both agri-environmental and invasive species policy design and evaluation.

One key issue for the panel is likely to be environmental regulation and its relationship with innovation, growth and business behaviours.

The panel will hold its inaugural meeting later this month.


Purpose of Defra’s Economic Advisory Panel

The role of the DEAP is to provide an independent challenge and support capacity to Defra’s economists.


  • To challenge, steer and strategically review Defra’s approach to economic analysis in specific areas
  • To provide new ideas and insights and connect Defra to cutting edge economic research
  • To provide advice as requested on specific economic issues
  • To advise on and critically assess how Defra collects and utilises economic evidence and advice
  • Individual members may also be asked to provide advice or support or be commissioned to undertake particular pieces of work on an ad hoc basis

School ranked 5th in UK according to NSS

keynes-squareThe School of Economics has been ranked in the top five economics departments in the UK, for the fourth year in a row, according to the 2012 National Student Survey (NSS). The School has a 95% student satisfaction rate, an increase of 2% over the last academic year. Individual scores include first for Organisation and Management (96%), second for teaching (95%) and third for Academic Support (90%).

Scores also remain high in other national surveys:

Head of School, Alan Carruth, said: ‘This year we have the largest cohort of undergraduate and postgraduate students in the School’s history. I am extremely pleased that the School has been recognised for continuing to improve on the quality of its teaching and the support given to students.’

The NSS is a national initiative, conducted annually since 2005. The survey is aimed at all final-year undergraduates in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as those attending 15 out of 19 HEIs in Scotland. There are 23 core questions, relating to the following aspects of the student learning experience: teaching; assessment and feedback; academic support; organisation and management; learning resources; personal development; overall satisfaction; and students’ union.

The NSS is organised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in partnership with the government and the National Union of Students, and is carried out by independent market research company Ipsos-MORI. Full NSS results are available at

Click here to read about the overall results for the University of Kent.