UNIVERSITIES The LSE has drafted in its biggest names to teach undergraduates about the major issues facing today's world, writes Lucy Hodges
This term, Britain's social-science powerhouse, the London School of Economics (LSE), is introducing an ambitious compulsory new course for first and second-year students taught by some of its most glittering academics and concentrating on the big questions of today.
Called "LSE 100", it attempts to take the college back to its roots in the 19th century when the Fabian founders Beatrice and Sidney Webb established the institution to contribute to the improvement of society by the study of its problems. Students will study questions such as "Is poverty history?" and "How should we manage climate change?" as part of a drive to broaden what they learn and give them the skills they need in the modern world. The programme will be in addition to their degree courses and will involve them in more work - though the students don't seem to mind this.
The LSE's director, Howard Davies, believes this will give students an extra string to their bow. "It's important for us to say that LSE graduates have experience in analysing and debating some of the big issues of our time," he says. "They not only have a real depth and analytical understanding of their subject area but this way we can ensure that they engage in issues of public policy, contemporary history, the economy and society as well."
The course is innovative in a number of ways. Students will be actively participating in what they learn through a mixture of group work, debates and writing exercises. And new technology - in the shape of clickers enabling students to give instant opinions - will be employed at the LSE for the first time.
According to Dr Jonathan Leape, the course director, the point of the new programme is to get LSE students thinking like social scientists. "No important issue can be fully understood through a single lens and this course aims to produce students whose intellectual grounding in their discipline is complemented by an understanding of different ways of thinking," he says. "In the current syllabus, for example, students examine statistical evidence on potential economic losses from global warming to assess the role of risk in managing climate change and use historical documents from the Kremlin and the CIA to analyse the failure to predict the end of the Cold War."
The first module on poverty was taught last week to a pilot group of 400 first-year students by the economic historian Professor Mary Morgan. …