Has economics become an elite subject for elite UK universities?

James Johnston, Alan Reeves, Stephen Talbot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The decline in the number of UK universities offering undergraduate degree programmes in subjects such as sciences, mathematics, modern languages and humanities has been well documented and is now of real concern. It appears that economics may be going through a decline in new (post-1992) UK universities with many economics programmes having been withdrawn altogether. How market forces, government policy and other developments in UK higher education may have combined to stimulate the withdrawal of the undergraduate economics degree is explored in this paper. Data on the current level of provision and how this has changed over the last decade are presented. The study reveals how the economics degree, which until fairly recently was offered by old and new universities alike, appears to be expanding rapidly in the former but not in the latter. The withdrawal of economics undergraduate degree programmes from the UK’s new universities coupled with the fact that these institutions are the primary conduit through which under-represented groups are able to access the UK’s higher education system raises important questions about lack of equality of opportunity. The paper concludes by considering
the implications of polarisation of access to economics degrees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-609
Number of pages20
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2014


  • economics undergraduate degree programmes
  • programme retention and withdrawal
  • 'new' and 'old' universities
  • inequality of access


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