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Catechism versus pluralism: the heterodox response to the national undergraduate curriculum proposed by the UK Quality Assurance Authority

Freeman, Alan (2007): Catechism versus pluralism: the heterodox response to the national undergraduate curriculum proposed by the UK Quality Assurance Authority.

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Abstract

Paper presented to the 2007 conference of the International Confederation for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE), June 1-3, Salt Lake City, Utah.

This paper was authored by myself following consultations, and submitted collectively by the Association for Heterodox Economics, as a result of a consultation request issued by the QAA (Quality Assurance Authority) for responses to the ‘benchmark’ statement for the subject of economics. The benchmark statement seeks to define what will in future be considered the prescriptive standard for economics undergraduate teaching in the UK and in UK-certified institutions abroad. The QAA is responsible for the maintenance of academic standards in the UK and although a non-governmental body, plays a strong role in transmitting government requirements to the higher education sector. The benchmark thus represents the first attempt in UK history to regulate what is considered ‘good’ teaching in economics. It is a highly neoclassical and orthodox document and, it is argued in the AHE response, entirely lacking in a pluralist perspective. It represents an important landmark in that it sets out the consensus, among orthodox academics, of what the ‘mainstream’ consists of and how it should be taught. The paper presented at this session represents the consensus, highly critical, response of UK heterodox economists and social scientists to the QAA benchmark statement. It also contains a comparison between the economics benchmark and that proposed by other social sciences, which suggests that economics stands in an isolated position in its attempt to define its field of enquiry by means of a strict prescriptive orthodoxy.

Keywords: Economics Teaching, Pluralism, Heterodox Economics

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