Economics at Acadia: Our Mission
The Mission of the Department of Economics is to create an environment where students develop the skills and insights expected of a modern economist educated in the liberal arts tradition, where faculty actively engage in scholarship, and where an interaction is fostered that promotes teaching, research and service.
Acadia's Department of Economics currently offers a range of from the general BA with a major in Economics, through a variety of double major programmes, up to the BA (Econ with Honours). It also participates in Acadia University's Co-op Programme under which students can receive credit for work experience related to economics. The Department does not offer a Masters degree in Economics.
In each of its programmes there is a deliberate blending of theory with application that seeks to provide students with the analytical tools required for a deep understanding of economic relations and motivations, while also showing how and where these tools can be appropriately applied in the various economic, social and political dimensions of human society. The Department strives to achieve its mission not simply through the creation of an appropriate set of programmes that, in different degrees of emphasis, blend theory with application, but by galvanising their delivery with a commitment to individual student attention and high quality instruction, all in the context of Acadia University's technologically intensive learning environment.
While virtually all students who plan to enter university to major in, say, history, English, mathematics, or physics, have a good idea of what the subject is all about, the same is not always true about economics. Economics is seldom taught in high schools, and even when it is, the contents and emphasis often vary considerably to that delivered in a standard university programme. Accordingly, the purpose of this link is to provide a condensed overview of what the subject of economics is all about, why it is increasingly important in the modern world to have some measure of economic literacy, and why a degree in economics can be a very useful asset.
Historically, economics as a distinctive subject saw its task as to uncover the causes of poverty and wealth creation. This emphasis is clear in the title of the first, and possibly still the most famous, of all books on economics, Adam Smith's "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" (1776). An obvious and important determinant of this "wealth" is the quantity and quality of the resources available to the society in question. An equally important, though less obvious, determinant is the efficiency with which these resources are used to satisfy the needs of the individuals and the collective or community needs of society. The study of economics shows the efficient usage of resources to be a two-stage problem. First, one must assess the relative strength of individual and community needs, so that the most urgent command the first call on society's resources, which are, of course, limited. Second, one must deploy our limited resources so as to extract the greatest possible contribution to the satisfaction of our hierarchy of needs. The basic objective of modern economics is to study how these problems and tasks play themselves out in the context of a market economy. Throughout recorded history both resource constraints and needs have changed over time. For this reason, the prime focus of economics is not on describing these characteristics in a given society at a given moment in time: rather it is to investigate the process of efficient resource allocation, the methods which lead to the best use of resources. Accordingly, economics is truly more a method than a doctrine; a technique which helps its possessor draw correct conclusions.
Economics is important because utilising limited resources is such a pervasive part of everyday life. Whether it is an individual trying to figure out how best to spend her limited income; or trying to decide how, most advantageously, to allocate time between work and leisure; or a company trying to decide whether to keep a factory here in Canada or move it to Mexico; or the government trying to decide what part of its budget should be spent on education, what on health, roads etc, all will confront the basic economic problem of making choices in the context of limited resources. The broad reach of the economic problem means that the various news media continuously address issues that directly or indirectly have economic roots or implications. Accordingly an ability to appraise such reporting really demands some degree of economic literacy.The omnipresent influence of economic imperatives on human society has been has been long acknowledged, but perhaps nowhere is its recognition expressed so cogently as in the oft-quoted words below of J.M. Keynes, the leading economist of the twentieth century:
"...the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are rightand when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else."
John Maynard Keynes
A degree in Economics is a highly versatile qualification. Our graduates have an excellent track record in terms of securing employment. The most common jobs our graduates take up are in banking, provincial, federal and municipal governments, consulting and numerous private sector firms. Starting salaries for economics graduates tend to be very good. Our graduates also have an excellent track record in terms of moving on to graduate work. Our graduates include Rhodes and Commonwealth Scholars as well as scholarship winners to Oxford, MIT, the London School of Economics, and most of the larger Canadian universities. An Economics degree is useful for entry into numerous fields of graduate study in addition to MA or PhDs in Economics: the most common non-economics graduate programmes taken by our students are business, law, public administration, development studies and environmental studies.