Economics at SOAS: my experience as a postgrad student

SOAS; economics

I am Aogu Ishimoto and I am studying the MSc Political Economy of Development in the Department of Economics at SOAS, as a Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Programme (JJ/WBGSP) scholar. The JJ/WBGSP is a scholarship programme administered by the World Bank and funded by the Government of Japan, which awards full-scholarship for early/mid-career professionals to study development-related subjects in master degree programmes.

Before studying at SOAS, I was working for six years as a consultant in a Japanese think-tank. I engaged in research and advisory work on economic policies related to the development of emerging and developing countries, especially in Asian and African regions. I visited more than 20 countries for research, and exchanged opinions about development issues with people ranging from high-rank officials to poorest farmers. Through these experiences I became motivated to enhance my speciality in the field.

I did my undergraduate studies in international law and politics as a dual degree programme between Waseda University in Japan and Peking University in China. They unfolded against the backdrop of the global financial crisis and the remarkable rise of emerging countries such as BRICs, with China surpassing Japan to become the second largest economy in the world. These experiences stimulated my interest in the development of emerging and developing countries from the perspectives of political economy.

SOAS Library

Considering my academic background and professional experience, the programme at SOAS seemed ideal for me. SOAS has a long history and strong reputation in the study of development across regions. The MSc Political Economy of Development allows me to study development economics from a heterodox economics perspective and to select regional study modules.

Teaching of heterodox economics and flexibility of module choices are prominent features of the programme. I have learnt the theoretical and methodological basis of economic research from heterodox approach, and global perspective and basic theory of political economy. I am also taking a module of economic study of the Asia Pacific region, which provides theoretical frameworks of regional economic analysis and insight into latest issues. Additionally, I am studying macroeconomics and financial systems in elective modules. At the same time, the programme offers an intensive mathematics and statistics pre-sessional course, which provides opportunities for students without a strong academic background in mathematics and economics to proceed to more advanced quantitative analysis.

In the first term, I am learning methodologies for sophisticated survey design and financial and economic analysis, which gives me confidence in conducting economic research and analysis, and to expand my career opportunities as a development-related practitioner. Furthermore, the programme gives a comprehensive understanding of world development through looking at the latest issues of the world economy. The second term will delve into more specialised subjects including institutional economics, theory and practice of growth and development, and international finance. 

Lastly, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all the lectures are being delivered online. Although some opportunities, especially of interaction with other students, might have been lost, the programme has been delivered effectively overall. I express sincere appreciation for the efforts of all SOAS staff.

The JJ/WBGSP Scholarship

The JJ/WBGSP scholarship is open to nationals of Japan and World Bank member developing countries, who have at least three years of development-related work experience and pursue development-related careers in the future. Currently, the MSc International Finance and Development of the SOAS Department of Economics is designated as preferred programme for the scholarship. The JJ/WBGSP scholarship focuses on development-related studies, and is famous among professionals in the field. I heard of it through my experience in development-related work and obtained details from the scholarship’s website for application. 

Aogu is studying the MSc Political Economy of Development at SOAS as a Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Programme (JJ/WBGSP) scholar.

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