CSASP Oxford and Lahore School of Economics Exchange Programme 2016
2016 marks the second year of the Contemporary South Asia Studies Programme and Lahore School of Economics exchange programme. Oxford welcomed two 'recognised students' (studying for PhDs at LSE) in January; and in March Professor Matthew McCartney along with three doctoral/postdoc students from Oxford and one graduate of the MSc in Contemporary India programme attended the 12th Annual Lahore School of Economics International Conference on the Management of the Pakistan Economy.
Here are some of the reflections of those involved in the exchange programme:
Experience at Oxford
"To be able to spend a month at a vibrant university like Oxford is such an amazing opportunity. For one thing, there is a lot of diversity of interests in the economics department and people are very generous with their time and feedback should you make the effort the approach them. If you have results you want to discuss, or even an idea that is half-formed, you will find that discussion with some of the professors or even students will be of great use in developing it into an idea that can be implemented.
Personally, one of my main aims was to present the results from a research project I’m working on at one of the forums available. We were able to do this in the form of a presentation in three forums - once, to the DPhil Firms and Development Reading Group; second, at the CSAE Economics Workshop; and third, to a lively bunch of MPhil students at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies. As a result I obtained interesting feedback from academics coming from diverse backgrounds. I was also able to discuss the results personally with Karlijn Morinsk, a post doc at Oxford; Stefano Caria (Lecturer); Rocco Macchiavello and Anandi Mani (Warwick). Due to the feedback I have received, I now have a clearer view of the data analysis that needs to be done and how to present the project in a way that would be of direct interest and relevance to policy makers and academics alike.
Seminars at Oxford are always a learning experience - you get to interact with researchers who are completing high quality and relevant work and some senior researchers such as Adnan Khan and David McKenzie that you would not get the opportunity to interact with ordinarily. While at Oxford, I was able to attend seminars by the Department of Economics, workshop and lunchtime seminars by Centre for Research in African Economies and the Contemporary South Asian Series. I was also able to attend lectures of non-academic interest such as a talk by the author Elif Shafak at Mansfield College and a documentary on prominent politicians of the subcontinent by one of the DPhil students at Merton College, Amar Sohal. Secondly, I was able to also complete a lot of pending work with co-authors based at Oxford.
While at Oxford, I was also able to take some time off at the weekends and tour the beautiful neighboring towns. Trips to the Cotswolds, London, Hastings, Warwick, Leamington Spa were just a convenient bus ride away and made for an interesting month in the UK.
I am very grateful to our hosts at Oxford, the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, Wolfson College, Professor Matthew McCartnery; and the Lahore School of Economics for this amazing opportunity! We were made to feel right at home while in Oxford. This is an excellent initiative that gives much needed perspective and exposure to students in Pakistan and I hope it continues to grow.
I’m very hopeful that, other than personal growth, it will lead to useful collaborations and research in the future!"
- Farah Said (recognised student, 2016)
"To be in Oxford was a wonderful experience for me, in fact it was like a dream come true. After coming back it seemed like one month wasn’t enough to explore such a vibrant and diversified university. For the month that I stayed there, I was able to attend multi-disciplinary lectures and seminars in various colleges of Oxford. One of the best things was that I got the chance to meet lot of people in my field which enabled me to develop ideas for my PhD research work. Also, I highly acknowledge the way various lecturers at Oxford as well as researchers and post doc students took time to help me formulate ideas for my PhD research work.
Lectures and seminars at Oxford were undoubtedly a learning experience for me. I was able to meet researchers from Oxford as well as from other renowned universities such as Peter John, David McKenzie and Adnan Khan that I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise. Also, I had a chance to attend a book launch at Green Templeton College by Professor Helen on ‘”How Social Media Shape Collective Action?’ and a student talk on the ‘Global Tax system’ at the Blavatnik School of Government. It was indeed a learning experience that opened my mind to a new educational environment.
Life at Oxford was also absolutely amazing, walking through the city you can feel the history behind each and every campus and its beauty. While I was there I had a chance to visit the circular dome of the Radcliffe Camera that is one of the most distinctive landmarks in Oxford and the Botanic Gardens which are one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world.
Travelling from Oxford was also very convenient. I was able to go by bus and spent few hours at central London visiting some famous places, Bicester Village to do some shopping, and Warwick University attending a PhD conference.
I am very grateful to our hosts at Oxford, the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, Wolfson College, Professor Matthew McCartney and our college Lahore School of Economics for arranging such an amazing visiting scholar program for us. I hope it continues and both the institutions successfully contribute in the area of economic research."
- Rabia Ikram (recognised student 2016)
Experience in Lahore
"My name is Yuge Ma. I recently finished my DPhil from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, and where I am now doing a postdoc. My work focuses on the urgent tension between climate change and economic development in big developing countries, such as China, India and Turkey.
I became interested in Pakistan mainly for two reasons. First, coming from Beijing, Pakistan is probably one of the most talked about countries in China today, especially since the two countries signed up to a series of strategic economic and political cooperations in the 2010s. Second, I spent about two years studying and working in India, where both Pakistan and China were among the most talked about countries. The entangling histories and the fascinating yet uncertain collaborating opportunities between China, India and Pakistan motivated me to visit Lahore.
On this trip, I got opportunities to interact with academics, policy makers and business practitioners from various sectors. This year’s Lahore School of Economics Annual Conference was about technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, which is very relevant to what I am doing in the field of climate change and sustainable growth. I got the chance to hear about the latest research, business and policy practice not only in traditional industries, such as textiles and automobiles, but also in the emerging digital and sharing economy. The many conversations with both undergraduate and graduate students also gave me a fresh and dynamic picture of the economic and living diversity among young Lahoris.
One of the most eye-opening experiences in Lahore was visiting the Urban Unit, a publicly-owned company working in urban planning and management. I was impressed to see the advanced and holistic GIS based data system on infrastructure, social and economic development in Punjab, that is built and managed by the Urban Unit, and serves the Chief Minister and various government bodies. The discussion with the GIS and Environmental specialists opened many horizons of potential research collaborations. We all believe that research can help to make better use of data, and eventually help to improve evidence-based policy and governance. I hope this is just the beginning of our conversation.
Last but not the least, the hospitality of the Lahori people and the beautiful city with its vibrant culture and delicious food made my trip an unforgettable experience. With the rich foundation laid down by this trip, I eagerly expect to weave more new stories between Pakistan, China and India."
- Yuge Ma (postdoc, Environmental Change Institute)
"For me, Pakistan has always been a place of great mystery and intrigue. As a British-Indian student, I grew up with many stories and imaginations about Pakistan in my head. The chance to actually visit the Lahore School of Economics was an important opportunity that forced me to challenge some of the simple assumptions commonly held about Pakistan and its people. The initial nervousness about this trip soon gave way to a series of ‘Oh it’s not that different’ moments once I was in Lahore, and finally to a ‘Oh, I’m going to miss it ’ feeling when it was time to leave. I travelled to Lahore from Delhi, which is where I’ve been living for my PhD fieldwork, on a bus that is jointly operated by the Indian and Pakistani governments. Transitioning through the iconic Mughal Red Fort in Delhi towards the emotionally charged Wagha Border and finally reaching Pakistan made me think about the vast history the two nations share that ironically divides them today. Coupled with this, the sirens blowing around our bus and the shielding presence of a moving police convoy, made me feel like a celebrity on the move! Bearing both Pakistani and Indian flags, the bus become for a moment an emblem of shared geographical, historical and sociocultural commonalities between the two lands. At the same time, it remained a spectacle, a sight for many people on the streets to wave, smile, take photos, look confused or just watch in awe. I looked into their eyes and wondered if they were confounded by the ordinary or the extraordinary, just as I was. This exchange trip to Lahore became in more ways than one a culmination of these myriad feelings."
- Shannon Philip (DPhil student, ODID)