UWS economics students consult on community issues

Date: 27/05/2009

University of Western Sydney students from the School of Economics and Finance have completed consultancy projects for Fairfield and Parramatta City Councils to address key economic issues faced in each Council's area.

Dr Ingrid Schraner, from the School of Economics and Finance, says the unique Economics and Finance Engagement Project gives students the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to a real-life project.

"The 12 teams of third-year economics and finance students were coached by a Council staff member who worked with the students to produce a consultancy report that is of an industry standard," says Dr Schraner.

"The projects are very demanding on students' skills, dedication and time, and once completed, are of mutual benefit to both the students, Councils and the community."

The structure of the program gets students out of their comfort zones by 'pushing the envelope' of academic knowledge and contributing to improve the practices of industry. It also helps the groups to develop a structured approach to thinking about the process of learning itself, resulting in the development of students that are systematic lifelong learners.

One project investigated the economic impact the proposed carbon trading scheme would have on Parramatta businesses. Other projects examined themes such as: the statistical profile of the youth of Fairfield; the impact of town centres on the resident population; retail and commercial demand and a supply chain analysis of the Fairfield area.

Dr Schraner says the students develop skills and abilities to undertake a professional consultancy project, just as real consultants would.

"Learning about consultancy projects and how they can contribute to solving real economic complexities that have an impact on people in the community is the 'proof of the pudding'. The Engagement Projects test the relevancy of what students learn in their degree, emphasising our commitment to providing practical courses with strong theoretical foundations," she says.

Ms Julianne Christie, Senior Policy Advisor - Economic Development with Fairfield City Council, worked with the students for a day each week, over 13 weeks.

"The coaching of students has been very rewarding and the work that they have completed is of benefit to Fairfield City. The projects have enabled research to be undertaken to gain a greater understanding of economic issues affecting the City, the economy, its residents and workers," says Ms Christie.

Ildi Vukovich, Project Officer - City Strategy Unit with Parramatta City Council, agrees that the consultancy projects are a beneficial experience.

"Each group was keen to work with Council's policies and procedures to devise a report that has the potential to be implemented," says Ms Vukovich.

Dr Schraner says the reports, which are part of a philosophy of community engagement at UWS, will form the basis for Council actions.

"We hope that both Councils will employ a number of the students over the semester break through the University's Careers and Cooperative Education programs, and develop the consultancy reports into documents the Councils want to publish," she says.

The 12 student groups will present their final reports at the UWS Parramatta campus on Friday 29 May.

WHAT: Economic Consultancy Reports for Parramatta and Fairfield City Councils - Student Presentations
WHEN: Friday 29 May, 9am to 1pm (photo opportunity at 12:30pm)
WHERE: Building EG, Rec Hall
UWS Parramatta Campus, Corner Victoria Road and James Ruse Drive
Map: http://www.uws.edu.au/campuses_structure/cas/campuses/parramatta
Note to Editors: Media are welcome to attend the event and interview students at 1.00pm with their respective teaching teams.



Media Officer

Kristy Gleeson
02 9678 7085, 0414 018 498