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Developing sceptical and inquiring minds
As Oxford Saïd nears its 21st anniversary later this year, Richard Whittington looks back on the Economics and Management classroom in 1996

It may be 21 years for Saïd Business School, but actually it is a quarter of a century since the launch of Oxford’s undergraduate Economics and Management degree. Then the degree was run out of a corridor above a restaurant in George Street. Now of course it is fully integrated in the excellent facilities of Oxford Saïd (students remark most on the food and coffee, but they probably appreciate everything else as well).

Whatever the location, the Economics and Management students have always been outstanding. The degree is regularly the most hotly competed for in the University, above even stalwarts such as Law and PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics). It also boasts one of the most diverse student bodies in the University in terms of international and social background, though gender balance is not so good. Students go on to a wide range of careers. Mine at New College have worked in consulting and investment banking (of course), but also in the charity sector, the civil service, policy work, school teaching, sports management, tech businesses and university careers.

It’s (usually) fun teaching these students in tutorials. The students mostly do traditional tutorial essays on a weekly basis, just like for Politics on a PPE degree. Right from the first year, their weekly readings come from the refereed journal literature. By the second and third years, they are dealing with research materials just about as if they were on a graduate school course. They are smart and motivated, and ready to engage in scholarly debate. When Professor Jay Barney – the most cited scholar in Strategic Management – visited in May to give a research seminar, undergraduate students joined faculty to hear his latest revision to his influential Resource-Based View.

The Economics and Management course is changing. There are now opportunities to do more case-based work, and there seems to be a trend towards dissertations – even dissertations related to prospective entrepreneurial start-ups. But faculty remain committed to the Economics and Management degree’s unique strength of an academically highly rigorous research-based course, aimed at developing minds that are sceptical, inquiring, and not afraid of tough materials. We are fortunate in having the kinds of undergraduates who can really take advantage. 


Richard Whittington

Richard Whittington View profile

Richard Whittington is Professor of Strategic Management at Saïd Business School and Millman Fellow in Management at New College, Oxford.

Oxford BA in Economics and Management

A stimulating undergraduate degree that sets out to examine issues central to the world we live in.