The Indo-Dutch Connection Luuk and Harro Interviews Headlining Thesis Slam-Dunk Accounting
February 2014, YEAR 23, ISSUE 2
The Battle for USE
Table of contents o Letter from the Editor…………………………….………...4 o Letter from the Board…………………………………........5 o USE votes Harro Maas…………………………………..…..6-7 o Luuking Good…………………………………….................8-9 o Delving into Research…………………………….………...10-11 o The Indo-Dutch Connection…………………………….....12-13, 16 o ECU’92 Pictures…...……………………………………......14-15 o DLC Brings Anthony Burgmans to Utrecht……………….17 o Headlining Thesis….....…………………………….……....18-19 o Fusion: Economics and Psychology……………….……… 20-21 o A Critical Take on Exchange Semesters…………………...22-23 o Slam-Dunk Accounting. …………………………….……. 24-25 o Hamburg Activities………………………………….……...26 o Life Hacks…………………………………….......................27
The ECU’nomist is published every quarter online, as well as printed in a circulation of 500 for members, patrons and external contacts of ECU’92. Thomas Huigen | Dea Tusha | Mithra Madhavan | Sofia Monshouwer | Lukas Molkentin | Annette Aprilana
Study Association ECU’92 Kriekenpitplein 18, Room 1.21 3584EC Utrecht T 030-2539680
www.ecu92.nl firstname.lastname@example.org Printed by flyeralarm BV
Letter from the editor Dear utility-maximising individual, If you are an appalled lecturer or student, let me explain the haka-front cover. ECU’92 polled USE students for the outstanding teacher and teacher talent awards. When the ballots were counted, and the battle for first place was settled in the categories outstanding teacher and teacher talent, Stephanie Rosenkrantz, Erwin van Sas and Harro Maas finished in the top 3 for the former, and Petar Angelov, Anna Salomons and Luuk Rietvelt were standing on the podium for the latter. With no further ado it is an honour to name Harro Maas and Luuk Rietvelt as the winners of these prizes, congratulations! We duly interrogated them to see what makes them tick, so turn to pages 6 and 8 to learn more about these gentlemen. After having introduced ourselves in the last issue, it is already time to look back at the last two terms of this year; in other words, time has flown! For some third years this means thinking about one’s future, more specifically the choices after graduation: postpone the inevitability of adult life by studying a master, or postpone it even longer by doing a bachelor in another field? Third years are often seen trying to rekindle their bond with lecturers who might write a letter of recommendation for them, and they are finally grasping the concept of the GPA, which they want to improve as soon as possible. But first they have to complete their Bachelor thesis, a topic which Sander Bouw writes about on page 18. Other students might be wondering about an exchange, an issue which we readily deal with in Gidde van der Ven’s experiences in Vienna on page 22. One development relevant to our committee is the survival of our layout editor, Mithra Madhavan, who went to Cambodia to work for a sustainability project and do good, only to be robbed of her Dutch residence permit while walking around a busy market. Luckily she made it back to The Netherlands in time to keep The ECU’nomist looking sharp, along with our Photoshop expert Lukas Molkentin. However, this unfortunately meant that her idea of writing about this project became difficult, as the article would probably have become a hate letter towards Cambodian society. Hence there is no article about an internship in this issue. Another development is the realisation that The ECU’nomist is still relatively unknown. When I approached a lecturer about writing an article for this issue, he seemed to wander off deep into his memory, trying to recollect that vaguely familiar name. Apparently he had seen our magazine lying around in Adam Smith, along with a whole stack of untouched issues. This worrying state of affairs means that we will have to do our best to aggressively promote the magazine better, but we also ask you the reader to share it with your friends, if you think it worthwhile. In this issue we see some recurring themes: Professors, exchanges and interviews. There is yet another interview which delves into the exciting field of accounting. So if you weren’t convinced by the interview in the last issue, here comes another opportunity to accept accounting into your life. We are vehemently told in the interview that it is not the case that accounting is boring. Check page 24 to read more about this controversial statement. Furthermore, Dea writes about the behind-the-scenes of journal publishing, and Annette about the economic ties between her home country Indonesia and its former master, The Netherlands. Last but not least is the external contribution from Elena Micajkova, who writes about the fusion between economics and psychology. A plethora of articles which will hopefully provide a welcome distraction from the data-world that is economics, so enjoy! Sincerely,
Letter from the board Dear Student, I hope you had a nice Christmas holiday and you can look back at a great 2013! We, the ECU’92 Board, started 2013 with a new experience, a full-time board year. We can say that so far we’ve enjoyed it tremendously and we are really looking forward to the coming activities. When we started our board year last September we didn’t expect it to be so much work, and at the same time so much fun. In August we made our policy plan with four policy focus points. During this year we will try to achieve all our goals. In March we will present our half year policy plan during the general meeting. Therefore, if you want to know if we succeeded in achieving our policy focus points so far, please join! Next to that, the last few months have been pretty busy with organizing activities for you. For example the first two Relaxcie parties, the Career day and the Buitex to Hamburg. All these activities we organize together with all our active members in different committees. The ECU’92 Board is already excited to organize new activities for you in 2014. At the end of January, ECU’92 will go on our very first ski trip with a total of 36 students. The ski trip committee will work hard to make this trip a success. The 36 brave souls will be skiing in La Joue du Loup, France. We expect that this ski trip will be the beginning of a famous yearly activity of ECU’92. In addition to this, there are also more activities to come. On February the 5th for instance, we will have a Prom together with two other study associations from Governance and Psychology. The theme will be Venetian Carnival. There is also the yearly Conference on February the 20th, who’s theme is ‘The Culture of Competition: The way to the top!’. For now, I wish you good luck with the preparations for your end-terms and if you need a study break, do not hesitate to stop by the ECU room for a cup of tea or coffee! On behalf of the ECU’92 Board,
Lisanne Hoekstra Chairman of the ECU’92 Board of 2013-2014
USE votes Harro Maas On 26 November I interviewed
USE’s most outstanding lecturer (according to an ECU’92 poll) Harro Maas. Most first years would know him from the course MDE, others from courses in Economic Methodology and Contemporary Economics, and yet others due to his dress-style (bow-tie). We settled for a coffee in his office, stacked with books on the history of economics. Uncharacteristically his bow-tie was absent. Q: Where did you grow-up and what is your professional background? A: I actually grew-up 500 meters from this office. My father was a General Practitioner who worked on these very grounds, when it was still an army barracks and he had to do medical assessments of the drafted soldiers. At 18 I left for Groningen, where I went to study economics, as well as philosophy from my second-year onwards. After completing my study in Groningen I moved to Amsterdam to start a Master in Philosophy as well as one in Economics at the University of Amsterdam (UVA). Studying two masters at the same time was quite normal at that time. After completing my Economics Master I went to teach economics at a high-school near Alkmaar. I was a part-time teacher because I still wanted to finish my Master in Philosophy, which I expected would take one more year. Instead it took me 6 years as I took a variety of courses in the social sciences
and of course I was teaching on the side. I transferred to another school and settled at a Montesorri highschool in Amsterdam, teaching full-time for nearly 10 years until 1997. A lecturer at the UVA approached me to teach some courses in the Methodology of Economics, which was a natural combination of my economic and philosophical backgrounds. I did this for about 4 years, still teaching part-time at school, until I received a sabbatical from my high-school to do archival research in Britain. This paved the way for my PhD thesis on the mostly unknown Stanley Jevons, a trained chemist who is now known as a political economist. Q: Why study economics and philosophy? A: It had to be a social science which used mathematics, and that was economics. However I was disappointed in the study. The lecturers fed us what they presented as facts, and that’s just the way it was. Questioning these facts was not really done. Of course an undergraduate needs to be taught the basics, but I also felt that we weren’t inspired to question the given facts. I missed a critical approach to economics, and so I turned to philosophy, where this approach was very much encouraged from the beginning. My philosophical background led me to economic methodology, and more in particular to the history of methodology. When I started my archival work it became a life-changing event as I didn’t
By Thomas Huigen
return again to high-school. It seems strange that an archive can do this to someone, but I felt that studying historical economic thinkers was my vocation, and I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. My attraction to the field lies in the investigative work required to uncover the thinking of people from another century. Q: How is your historical approach relevant to economics? A: History is important in showing how economic science has developed over time. We now may think it self-evident to mould an economy into a system of equations and then perform some experimental tests, but for a long time economists were quite hesitant about this. For them, it was not at all self-evident that economic phenomena were quantitative, or even quantifiable, and yet this did not mean that nothing could be said about the economy, or about economic phenomena. They only used different means and methods to express themselves. So in so far as history is relevant to contemporary economics, should we just peel off the garbage that we no longer can understand, to keep the mathematical quantifiable kernel? I am not so sure about that, and my hesitations are not just about the possibilities to misconstruct their arguments (which may be the most obvious thing going wrong in such an exercise). My 6
hesitation comes rather from the fact that we may misconstruct our present way of doing economics. If one thinks about the opposition that exists between two of this year’s Nobel laureates, Eugene Fama and Robert Shiller, on the efficient functioning of financial markets, then this is not just a question that can be decided in empirical terms. Rather, there are different ideological and political visions there as well and it serves an economist to be aware of these visions. I see it as part of my work to show how ideology and politics creep into what is presented as “objective” science. There is no such thing in the social sciences, and perhaps for the very simple reason that, in contrast with photons, the object of research talks back. So to understand what economists are saying, we also need to see the context in which this is said, and how this colours the meaning of their words (theories, methods, data).
teaching the course MDE in which I was given a lot of freedom by the faculty to fine-tune it. Q: How does USE market itself besides multidisciplinarity? A: Well that’s a very important marker. MDE is a very unique first year course in The Netherlands, as USE is the only faculty to teach it. Other faculties will either start with macroeconomics or microeconomics. I have nothing against this approach of teaching the tricks of the trade from the very beginning, but what I like about this multidisciplinary approach is that before you learn these tricks, you have to open your mind to approaches varying from psychology to biology, which can also be applied to economics. So the first-years are shown that economists can also learn from other fields. This openness does not exist in other faculties in The Netherlands.
Q: Why did you move from an established economics faculty at the University of Amsterdam to a very young faculty like USE?
Q: Why do you think you were voted as USE’s outstanding lecturer?
A: It was an important advantage that USE was a young faculty. At no other university in The Netherlands was there as great an openness to my approach to economics as there was at USE. At the UVA, where I had worked for 15 years, we had a great group of researchers in my field, however the group was always on the fringes of the faculty, and that has its limitations. We didn’t feel welcome in our own department, while at USE it’s a very different experience. I could teach a course in the history of economics during the bachelor, as well as
A: Well I teach to large masses, so obviously it is very difficult for a lecturer who teaches to 15 people to win this vote. Do I think of myself as a good teacher? Yes I think so, because I was also voted the best teacher in Amsterdam, as well as being voted the third best teacher another time. I have the teaching background from high-school and I know what it means to teach, which many people don’t. You have to be able to sense when people lose interest, and to aptly adjust gears to suit your audience. For a great many people it is difficult to change
gears, although I also struggle with this for large groups. Q: Finally, did some historical figure inspire the bow-tie? A: Oh yes! The first person who truly inspired me in economics was a professor at Groningen who was always wearing a bowtie. Together with other pupils of his we formed a small bow-tie group in honour of him, and we stuck to it. At some point when I started teaching myself, it became a sign of effort. I don’t wear lousy clothes when I’m doing a lecture because giving a lecture is important to me, so wearing a bow-tie gives off a signal to the audience that I take them seriously, and that I call on their attention. At least, I hope this is how they perceive it!
Luuking Good USE students had the opportunity
to vote for the teacher talent award. The close race between Peter Angelov, Anna Salomons and Luuk Rietvelt ended with the latter taking this coveted award. I interviewed Luuk to better understand what makes him tick. Q: What and where did you study? A: I studied here in Utrecht, Economics and Business. I did a minor in law and a track in business management and my major focus was in business. Q: Why USE? A: When I finished high school I was not sure whether I wanted to do law or economics. I liked many things and here in Utrecht I was offered to do both economics and business, combining it with law. Plus I also like Utrecht because it allows one to determine the study path one prefers, much like in America. Q: Did you consider yourself to be a good student? A: I really tried to read before the lectures, prepared for the tutorials and made sure I didn’t forget anything before the exam. I think I was a very quiet student. I was a student that sat there, listened carefully and had my questions from time to time. My talking skills developed
By Sofia Monshouwer
through the last couple of years as a teacher. Q: Why, once you graduated, didn’t you work in the private sector? A: First I had the feeling that not all the material that was taught to me I could work with. Second, when I was a student I was also teaching, it was fun. And third, I like working with students. Another main reason for my choice was that I ran into this job offer, and having talked to some junior teachers while I was a student, I saw opportunities in teaching first and then going to the private sector. Q: What kind of students annoy you the most? A: I don’t think I’ve run into that type of student yet. Though what annoys me is when a group doesn’t have its day. When they are not really responding to questions, because most often they are not prepared. Also when people give an answer, but do not know why. That makes it really difficult for a teacher. The ‘why’ is the most important question for the academic world. I don’t think any students in particular are very annoying, but I really get annoyed when students write in the anonymous surveys that they didn’t get a chance to ask their questions, that the material and book were too difficult, and that they didn’t like the effort require
ment. I want people to be fair. I want them to be honest and not just go with how they think things ought to be done without giving concrete reasons for why it is the case. We are in an academic world so one should speak one’s mind constructively, then we can do something. Q: Are you working on any research right now? A: Yes, I focus on what determines the performance of a first year student, looking at what kind of students we admit and finding characteristics within Utrecht university students that made them succeed. I am also involved in research for marketing with Peter O. van der Meer. We are working on a study which seeks to find out what competencies marketing managers are looking for in marketing students. After doing this research on the Dutch level, we want to take this to a more international level.
Q: Do you see a big difference between international and Dutch students? A: There is a different approach to studying between the different groups of students. I can see three groups: internationals who chose to be here and made a big investment to come to another country, Dutch international (also had liberty in choosing) and students following the Dutch bachelor. I don’t mean it in a negative way but there is a difference in the ambition level of some students out of these three groups to get the most out of their study.
Q: Do you agree with the future programme change? A: I am very happy with it, to have a more equal division through the first and half year of courses in economics and business. The tracks disappearing doesn’t really matter too much, it was more something to just help you in streamlining your choices.
for you guys, as well as my own development. I hope I can inspire you and help you to get further in life and of course to make you go further from the material we discuss. Q: Any advice to students? A: Always do what you like.
Q: Why do you think you were selected for the awards? A: I really don’t know. I don’t know what students appreciated so much about me. Still I think it’s the nicest complement one can get. I’m here
Delving into Research Prior to university, my knowl-
edge of the academic sphere and everything that it encompassed was very limited. I believe most of us have those first papers in courses like Multidisciplinary Economics to thank for introducing us to the kind of scientific research we are now familiar with. During the entire university experience we are asked to write and read papers on a regular basis. By the end of our Bachelor studies we know how to refer to literature in our own papers, and Google Scholar has become a trustful ally. But have you ever stopped to think about the “behind the scenes” of writing and publishing academic papers? Being part of a Research Master’s programme where “deconstructing” papers is a common task, has given me an opportunity, as well as an incentive to look deeper into the subject and identify some of the “hot topics” in the world of scientific research.
improve one’s research, but going through this filter successfully gives the paper a sort of accreditation.
Cracks in the system However, the process, although universally accepted and applied, does not always run smoothly. One of the main issues that researchers encounter is the time it takes to receive feedback. The time from submitting a paper for review to the actual publication varies quite a lot across different disciplines. Exact sciences like chemistry were found to have an average delay of nine months, while social sciences and business/economics took on average twice as long. This can be a great obstacle in the progress of science, because the longer it takes for articles to be published, the later they become available as literature for others to use and build upon.
By Dea Tusha
Even though such delays are common knowledge, scholars are expected to come up with published articles on a frequent basis. The pressure on researchers to publish regularly and in high-impact journals comes from the universities that hire them, whose rankings are based on the amount and impact of papers that their research departments produce. The impact of journals on the other hand is decided by how many citations its articles receive from subsequent research. One problem is that the most prominent journals are in English. Writing scientific papers in any other language severely limits its opportunities to be published and accessed by other researchers, thus narrowing down its potential audience. On the other hand, some argue that prestigious journals impose
If a scholar wants his or her paper to be of any impact and accessible to others, it needs to be published in an academic journal. In order to be accepted by the latter, the paper has to go through a peer-review mechanism, a process in which experts in the field scrutinise the paper and assess whether it is qualitative and relevant enough to be published. This involves rounds of reviewing and giving feedback, which can be highly beneficial. Not only is feedback from the leading experts in that certain field of study a constructive way to further
very strict acceptance rates, therefore streamlining and narrowing consequent research along the lines of the published articles. According to cell biologist Dr. Randy Schekman, a Nobel Prize laureate, who made his criticism towards this publication culture in an article for the Guardian, this impact factor of academic journals is “a deeply flawed measure, pursuing which has become an end in itself – and is as damaging to science as the bonus culture is to banking.”
probably right. In fact, this constant pressure on researchers to publish, known as the “publish or perish” syndrome, may have adverse effects. It is often the case that researchers, in order to keep a steady stream of publications, are forced to fragment and publish their work into smaller papers. Thus, they specialize into a certain niche where most of their work develops, because it is simply not affordable in terms of time and efforts to expand their area of research.
Publish or Perish
While most scholars agree that the current system has its flaws, there is controversy as to what alternatives could be superior. A great deal of both researchers and universities are pushing forward an argument in favour of open access journals. Their advantage is that acceptance rates are not as stringent, allowing for research to develop and expand more. Furthermore, open access journals are mainly based on online editions and they allow access to articles without the need for a subscription. This is beneficial for university libraries, which spend
Another Nobel Prize winner, physicist Peter Higgs, whose pioneering work on predicting the existence of the Higgs boson particle (commonly referred to as the “God particle” in mainstream media), accepted in an interview in December that he would not qualify as productive enough for the academic system nowadays. He believes that his very small number of publications after his 1964 major article would be a real issue for him to find and keep a job at a university today. He is
great amounts of money on subscriptions to journals managed by publishing companies. It also gives the wider public the chance to access scientific research without having to pay to read an article. However, there are those who find problems with this system too. Their main issue at the moment is accreditation: unless there is a turn in the culture that will lead the “top of the crop” of scholars to submit their work and peer-review for open-access journals, they would be collecting everything that was not accepted in other journals, with probably sub-par quality. Already some scientists have made a transition towards this system, but it is only the beginning. While science tries to figure out its way ahead, knowing the dynamics at play a bit better may give the rest of us something to think about the next time we look for that article with the most citations.
The Indo-Dutch Connection
By Annette Aprilana
Today The Netherlands is seen as
a flower and football-player exporting nation, heavily reliant on its big brother Germany for economic growth, and too small to truly affect global affairs. As most international students will be reminded by their Dutch friends, this was not always the case. The Golden Age of The Netherlands was a time when it was the superpower of the world, creating trade routes to the Far East, and bringing much wealth to the Dutch people. This led to establishments and colonies, of which my home country was one of them, Indonesia. Culture and economics are central themes in the relationship between these two countries. Most of the time, it is a rare occasion for Dutch people, or those with some knowledge of the Dutch language, to recognise that the words “koelkast” (refrigerator) or “handdoek” (towel) are in fact the very same words used in the Indonesian language, with minor spelling-differences turning the words into “kulkas” and “handuk”. In fact, there are quite a number of words that the Indonesian language has adapted from the language of its former coloniser. This is not surprising since Indonesia was a Dutch colony for more than 300 years. Although the Portuguese first discovered Indonesia and its vast array of resources in 1512, the Dutch established their settlement from 1603 to 1942, a period covering three centuries, until the Japanese invaded in 1942. The Dutch East
India Company (VOC) played a key-role in this relationship, as this first multinational monopoly was responsible for acquiring wealth from the colonies. Only later when the VOC went bankrupt in 1796 did the Dutch government formally acquire Indonesia. However, after the defeat of the Japanese in the Second World War in 1945, Indonesia declared independence. This declaration was met with force by the Dutch who wanted to keep a hold on their former colony, a move supported by the majority of Dutch citizens. Furthermore, Indonesia was an important source of income for The Netherlands, with 13,7% of the national income originating from its colony in 1938 (according to calculations by Jan Tinbergen). 100 000 Dutch troops were mobilised to Indonesia to quash the rebellion, leaving approximately 150 000 Indonesians dead in separate battles. In 1949 the Dutch gave in to intense foreign pressure to cease its military campaign and finally acknowledge Indonesia’s independence.
Islands of Exploitation Before the VOC set foot in Indonesia, the nation’s economy relied mainly on rice agriculture. The rice trade was evident between Indonesia and other surrounding Asian countries such as India and China and Indonesia had a flourishing economy. As soon as the VOC set foot in Batavia, current-day Jakarta, they took control of the Indonesian agricultural system and forced
the workers to work on plantations they had never worked on before: coffee, tea, tobacco and rubber, amongst others. Indonesian farmers had to sacrifice 40% of their harvest to the Dutch authorities, as well as 20% of their best land for producing crops needed by The Netherlands, resulting in the exploitation of the locals and severe famines. However at the turn of the 19th century, The Netherlands changed its stance towards Indonesia with an “ethical politics” approach. The Netherlands had an ethical responsibility to improve the welfare of the indigenous peoples, providing better education and paying them a fair wage. The eventual goal was to develop Indonesia into a modern economy. Still, Indonesians were subordinates of the Dutch, a fact which would later fuel the nationalism leading to its independence. Scholars were highly benefited since they had their minds opened to European liberal views. But for this very reason, ideas of revolt and of overthrowing the Dutch administrative forces were fostered. Thanks to this education, Soekarno, who became Indonesia’s activist leader, did not 12
hesitate to take advantage of the Japanese surrender to declare independence for Indonesia on August 17, 1945. He later took the position of the first president of the Republic of Indonesia.
Indonesia Today With a mere 69 years of independence, Indonesia is still relatively quite a young country compared to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, most Indonesians today donâ€™t hold a grudge against
Dutch people. Talks of brutal acts that occurred do still go on, although only occasionally. Many books by Indonesian authors depict the reality of the lives that Indonesians had to suffer due to Dutch occupation. However at the same time, Indonesians are proud to say that they shared a history with a strong European country. Some of the older generation folks who still had the chance to experience Dutch rule retain knowledge of the Dutch language.
Bilateral ties strengthened Today, Indonesia and the Netherlands have re-established their relationship in good terms. In fact, Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited Indonesia in late November 2013, bringing along representatives from more than 200 Dutch companies. Rutte and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched a partnership aiming to focus boosting at least 11 industries including, water management, logistics, education, energy, agriculture and infrastructure. Rutte hopes that
Indonesia will become the marketing base for Dutch companies to enter South-East Asia and in return Rotterdam will be the platform for Indonesian companies to enter the European market. The partnership is established in order to benefit both countries in the future economically and politically. More specifically, The Netherlands promises to help Indonesia through infrastructure developments, building a Giant Sea Wall to prevent tidal flooding in Jakarta, university partnerships, and the provision of clean water programmes. Hopefully we will soon see the progress of these two nations’ determinations in rekindling a relationship that started three centuries ago, albeit it a more equal one today. As Mark Rutte indeed affirmed at the Indonesia-Netherlands Business Dinner in Jakarta, “Indonesia and Netherlands want to move forward together”.
Fun facts – Dutch influence, Indonesian influence Culture: Indonesians have adapted the Dutch eating habits. Dinner generally starts at 6pm. Cuisine: It’s very common to find Indonesian dishes in Dutch restaurants as well as Indonesian spices in Dutch supermarkets. The most well known ones include Sate (Satay) and Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice). Language: The only Dutch spelling that the Indonesians kept was the “oe”, which is pronounced as “u”. The first president’s name spelled as Soekarno is considered as the “old spelling”. Generally nowadays, other Indonesian words that contain “oe” are simply replaced with “u”, (eg. Sukarno) and will still have the same pronunciation. Other words are actually still kept and below in the table you can find some of the words in Bahasa Indonesia that have been adapted from the Dutch language.
The DLC Brings Antony Burgmans to Utrecht By Elene Micajkova
Antony Burgmans is known
as the second most successful businessman in the Netherlands. During his 35 year long career his curriculum vitae could fill a book. On the 2nd of December he spoke to USE students about being the CEO at Unilever, a member of the Supervisory Board of ABN AMRO, as well as a member of the International Advisory Board of the Allianz AG. The DLC brought Mr. Burgmans to the Academic Building for a cozy Monday night lecture with a reserved hall suitable for around 60 guests. But the lecture apparently raised more attention than our committee had hoped for. With more than 140 people attending to hear the words of Mr. Burgmans, the committee had to switch to a bigger hall, so we moved to the Senaatzaal. Why this hype? Mr. Burgmans talked about the market, business, acquisitions he participated in during his career, but most importantly what makes a good leader. If we were to highlight points of what we heard, we would summarise as follows: First, love what you do, and be good at what you do. Second, look at your company not as how you want it to be, but as it is, so that you know what is it that you need to do next. And third, teamwork is important: no matter if it is with your partners, colleagues or competitors. Be able to hear what the other side needs to say.
Mr. Burgmans also discussed the strategies that he had come up with throughout his career as a leader. In fact, most of the students directed their attention to this topic as well. He answered questions about what you need to be to be successful, and how to make yourself a powerful figure for the position that you are leading.
The DLC will continue delivering wise people from the field of economics to the lecture halls of this city, and we hope to see even more of you in the future.
Our lecture ended with a great applause for Mr. Burgmans, but also for our professor Hans Schenk who took the floor for the final words of the lecture.
Headlining Thesis Banks have often been in the news for the last couple of years. They have been under fire for the large bonuses which they paid out, or have been taken over by national governments, or reach the papers because of large scale fraud, such as Barclays in 2012. What a lot of people do not know is that banks are also trying to get some of your money through ATMs, using socalled Dynamic Currency Conversion tactics (DCC). You might have encountered this yourself sometime, on vacation in a country outside the Eurozone. Local banks will try to trick you into choosing an unfavourable exchange rate, causing you to pay more euros for your Dollars, Pounds or Forints.
with Sven Vonk I wrote Together my Bachelor thesis on this topic, “Consumer Behaviour When Withdrawing Cash Abroad”. In the fourth period of this year a lot of students will start on the very last undergraduate project: the Bachelor thesis. Mostly in pairs, with a student who took the same approved optional minor.
Ten weeks of finding literature, doing research, using Stata and making references. You will get to know the inside of Spinoza, Adam Smith or one of the UU libraries like never before and, oh boy, will you be happy once it’s over! But in the end it will all be worth it, as you will (probably) graduate and obtain your Bachelor’s degree. For Sven and I, the thesis period started somewhere in April 2013, when we had the chance to register for a topic. We saw one topic explaining the situation above, and since there was no data available on this topic, we would have to obtain this ourselves. This was quite appealing to us and so we decided to write our thesis on this topic.
We started around May and since we knew that we would have to obtain the data ourselves this was one of the first things we started thinking about. We figured that we would need to get in touch with people who would encounter different currencies. Tourists seemed a suitable target group. We first wanted to go to Schiphol to inter-
By Sander Bouw
view Dutch people who would go abroad, but since downtown Amsterdam is teeming with British and American tourists we decided to go to the Museumplein. We created an iPad application which simulated an ATM cash withdrawal and we approached tourists to make a fictitious cash withdrawal on ‘our ATM’ which featured DCC. In this way we created a sample of 166 observations.
Scamming Tourists To clarify how DCC exactly works, observe the screen which we showed our interviewees. On the ATM a consumer is going to withdraw € 100. He can choose to accept this without conversion, in this case the consumer’s home bank (in the UK for instance) will convert this amount using the actual exchange rate (1.16 £/€). In this case the transaction would cost a consumer £ 86.19. The other option is to accept this with conversion. This is where the DCC comes into action, as the local bank will convert this amount, only using a mark-up of 5% on the exchange rate (1.105 £/€) which is displayed above. Accepting this would cost a consumer £ 90.50. Although there are probably some transaction costs when letting the home bank convert this amount, accepting with conversion (choosing for DCC) is generally more expensive, especially when withdrawing
larger amounts. Our data suggested that there is no relation between the height of the mark-up on the exchange rate and the choice which consumers make. In other words, banks can use unfavourable exchange rates and consumers will still accept this. Banks make quite a lot of money like this, and in 2008 a British financial institution estimated that DCC costs British consumers about
£5m a month, as was reported by The Guardian. Quite an interesting conclusion and definitely something which, especially tourists, should be informed about before heading off to a country using a different currency.
Dirk Gerritsen and Coen Rigtering advise people to pay/withdraw money in local currency for larger sums of money, say more than € 100. On an ATM this would mean accepting the withdrawal without conversion. This does not mean that you will receive a different currency, it means that your home bank will convert the withdrawn amount. So next time you are at an ATM somewhere in Budapest or Istanbul, keep this in mind and think wisely about your decision. Furthermore, if you are going to start on your thesis in a few months, in a year or at some point in time please remember that a simple topic such as withdrawing cash from an ATM can be interesting enough to write a Bachelor thesis about, it is even interesting enough to have it published in a journal. Good luck!
Going Public Using our data, our supervisors Dirk Gerritsen and Coen Rigtering published an article on this topic in the Dutch journal Economisch Statistische Berichten (Economic Statistical Reports). This was immediately picked up by the Dutch newspaper ‘de Volkskrant’ and even made it to the frontpage of ‘de Telegraaf ’ on Saturday January 11th. For about ten years DCC is known to be used not only in ATMs but also in hotels, shops and on web shops. DCC is provided as a service to consumers, as they immediately know how much money will be drawn from their account. 19
Fusion: Psychology and Economics By Elena Micajkova
Economics teaches us how to re-
spond to the behavior of people, individuals and the market. It teaches us ways to organize and form strategies to perform plans and acts on the market, and how to create plans with a market value which will bring benefit to us. Whilst reading a variety of economic papers and analyses, you have a high chance of coming across comparisons or uses of psychology elements in the explanation of economic models. These two studies collided some decades ago to help us better understand the behavior of economic actors. Perhaps the greatest reason why economists turned to psychology for answers was because it often turned out that economists had struck upon cases which did not go hand in hand with the presumption that people are rational individuals, and that they always act rationally. So psychology helped explain parts of the undefined error terms of economics with regards to human behavior. These studies work well together, and implementations of the benefits to the explanatory power can be noted in the works like Prospect theory (Kahneman
and Tversky, 1979) or intertemporal choices (Ainslie, 1975), which are only a few of the many that apply the relation between these two studies.
What is it all about? These studies both have two starting points: the observed choices of individuals, what you can see with the naked eye; or what can be concluded by examining the person visually or verbally. But about a decade ago, a new approach came along. The slowly emerging neuroeconomics has recently gained popularity among economists, from researchers which test economic theories with neuroscience techniques, to the application in real life economic strategies mostly focused on marketing departments. In 1871, William Jevons hesitated that people will ever be able to measure one’s feelings and emotions, but today’s technology has refuted his beliefs as not only can it predict, but it can find where they are occurring using fMRI, and measure their intensity with a skin conductance response or can even influence some basic motor function. You may not recognize these technologies, but
the point is, they exist. And yes, economics can and does use them.
Observing the unobservable Sure it’s pretty cool and amazing to watch a brain making a decision. You watch the brain respond in one region, neurons releasing electrical charge on the left side, then to the right, and then somewhere to the cortex. It’s like a live stream of all the neurons, or any action that we make. But the difference is that this live stream takes on the micro level of decision making – the action potentials and the releases. A behavior can be observed, a feeling or a state can be asked for, and a plan can be made accordingly. The accuracy of these methods in both economics and psychology has long been in the error term in many researches. Many scientific analyses tell that people deliver information in a pattern, and we often try to fit our answers in the given formulas. We even behave and try to behave and react according to some patterns, 20
and that is our behavior which can be observed. But the once unobservable could give us a whole new perspective on these behaviors. A reaction in the amygdala can tell fear; an action potential release in the insula could say that we are not comfortable with a situation. This gives the possibility to answer questions which could never before have been answered. Partnering with this science, economists are open to a new set of questions and answers. A better view on the reliable information can be set out with the help of this science. We
could observe an individual’s experiences more accurately, gain more information, make rational choices, or at the very least have a grip of the person’s behaviour.
The Ultimatum game In search of finding a suitable example that can explain both neuroscience and economics, I came across the ultimatum game. The game, often used in economic experiments, can also serve the purpose of providing possible ways to describe behavior, as observed
on the neural level. To refresh your memory, the ultimatum game involves two players, the proposer and accepter, where the proposer is given money that he needs to divide among the two according to his choice, and that choice of division needs to be accepted by the opponent so that the division is accepted, and the benefits are received.
What’s the use? Many have asked the question: Will this change the way economists think? Will they change their approach to macroeconomics, the financial world or business strategies because of these results? Probably not. Well, at least not in the short run. But neuroeconomics has advanced the study of economics by giving more accurate and scientifically valid responses to behavior. Economics can use neuroscience to examine the causes of phenomena, and not only observe them. It gives a new perspective to this science, and a better approach from a smaller and more effective level. It advances, and simplifies the way we resolve and prove things. We can see the benefit of neuroscience now, from small scale research to comparing theories to the emergence of neuromarketing, we can see how neuroscience slowly finds its place in economics.
A Critical Take on Exchange Semesters
By Gidde van der Ven
Around the time the next in-
stalment of the ECU’nomist is published, USE students will be bombarded by emails from the Exchange Office. A synopsis of these messages reads as follows: “Are you interested in studying abroad? Here’s a list of partner universities!”. Studying abroad is the way to go, widening your perspective on the world and adding to your experience in numerous ways. Even though most students would agree the marketing strategy of the Exchange Office could use a modern touch of shine and product placement, the office manages to coordinate a successful exchange program.
Diverse Opportunities Lots of students investigate diverse opportunities and end up in every corner of the world.
Recent research from a labour and education institute from Maastricht has concluded that the job market is worsening in the Netherlands. Even graduates from ‘safe’ programs like economics and law face increasing difficulties in finding adequate jobs in the Netherlands. Reasons can be found in the relatively high number of graduates looking for a job, compared to the sluggish economic growth. Most students have to apply for hundreds of vacancies, only to end up with a temporary contract, mismatching their level of education. Not surprisingly, students are rapidly finding ways to distinguish themselves from the masses in order to increase their potential in the job market. Honour’s programs, committee work, board positions, second bachelors, internships, sidejobs and of course exchange semesters are just a number of options. With this in mind, I set out to interview international students at
the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), where I’m taking classes this semester. The WU recently moved onto a brand new campus (pictured) and is currently managing the largest faculty of economics in Europe. Next to that, Vienna hosts a large number of incoming exchange students due to the fact that no less than 4 major universities run extensive exchange programs with it, totalling over 10.000 international exchange students in Vienna.
International Scene It might not be a secret that most exchange students are primarily interested in having a good time abroad. The students I interviewed either listed it as their main priority, or included it somewhere during the interview. This is probably the reason why
the ‘international scene’ in Vienna is flourishing: events organised by organisations like the Erasmus Buddy Network are wildly popular, forcing students to line up hours before the start of the subscriptions to these events. Additionally, venues in downtown Vienna offer reductions on entrance fees and drinks for exchange students.
Flipping Burgers Interestingly enough, most of these students agreed that part of their motivation was based on the fact that the job markets were worsening in their countries as well. Compared to other European job markets, the perspectives in The Netherlands seemed not to be as bad as it might look like right now. A geography student from France noted that the frightening image of a graduate flipping burgers in a local fast-food joint was becoming a regular sight in Bordeaux. However, answers to the question why most exchange students seemed to focus on spending their grants on beer rather than put effort into their studies, given their motivation, were harder to obtain. A small majority noted that the courses offered in Vienna were easier to pass compared to their home universities’ courses, which allowed for more leisure (a phenomenon I observed as well).
world-wide job market. A large number of students seemed to be aiming at jobs in other countries, using their experience abroad as a basis for their applications. Of course, the exchange department at the WU promoted exchange semesters using this argument as well, saying any addition to your CV can add to your potential. These arguments are generally true, but fail to encompass the essential content of the program itself. Two HR graduates working at the Austrian head-office of Procter & Gamble took a similar critical approach. I managed to squeeze in a few words after a company presentation at the Vienna ‘Karrieremesse’ (career fair). They strongly advised not to focus on an exchange semester only, since companies were growing somewhat suspicious of the benefit of exchange semesters. Next to that, P&G’s strategy for their local markets explicitly underlined hiring local graduates only, since these knew the market and local culture way better than
any other applicant. In contrast, according to their statistics, most employees working globally at the corporate head-offices were from a more diverse background, which does somewhat increase the long-term outlook. Unless you’ve successfully completed an exchange program at a major, renowned institution, going abroad is regarded as a positive addition to your potential, but only to a certain extent. So in case you’re really trying to bump your CV up to a higher level, check for other options before diving into an exchange semester. However, regardless of the question whether an exchange semester will secure you a job later on, it’s still rather good fun. It takes effort to prepare for it but pays out tenfold, and since the future of the European Erasmus program is somewhat unclear due to funding issues, the phrase ‘now or never’ seems quite applicable.
CV Upgrade? Does an exchange semester really work? According to the majority of students I interviewed in Vienna, you won’t only increase your personal experience but can also increase your potential in the 23
Slam-Dunk Accounting A few weeks ago I received the
news that another interview had been organised for The ECU’nomist, one with an organisation called NBA. A Google search revealed tall pigmented men throwing a ball in a hoop. Adding .nl to the search revealed an entirely different world, the mystical world of The Netherlands Institute of Chartered Accountants (NBA in Dutch), the Dutch professional body for the 20 000 practising accountants in The Netherlands. Their mission? “To assist accountants in fulfilling their crucial role in society, both today and in the future”. I spoke with accountant Soufia Ettaher, an ambassador of NBA, to learn more about the organisation.
that I worked at the finance department of Unilever, and currently I work at the finance and planning department at the University of Leiden. Q: What is NBA all about? A: The NBA is an advocate for accountants, helping accountants fulfill their function at a high quality. They also provide courses for our qualification, as well as technical advice on laws, and advice to companies if they have specific questions about accountancy. If an accountant has received either the AA or RA qualification (includes university training) they are subscribed to the NBA and can therefore use their official title.
Q: Could you talk about your professional background?
Q: What function do you have at NBA?
A: I studied accounting at a Hogeschool, after which I furthered my practical skills, receiving my AA qualification (an internationally recognised accountant). During high-school I was good in mathematics and analysing figures, but before I started studying I didn’t really know what an accountant was. A friend of mine said that I was good with numbers so accounting was something for me. I became more informed about the study and realised that it also deals a lot with people, another factor which attracted me. After my study I worked at the likes of Deloitte and Ernst&Young, where I had clients which I advised on financial matters, as well as some auditing. After
A: As a NBA ambassador I communicate with students about what accounting is, mostly because during my study I felt that there was little information about it. I also sometimes advise companies at Open Days, so it’s a very diverse job. I work on an order-basis, so NBA contacts me to sometimes give lectures to students. Q: On the NBA website they talk about “improving the social authority of accountants” and “the debate with society”. What do they mean by this? A: It’s a bit related to the trust society has in accountants, a subject which is always a hot-topic.
By Thomas Huigen
If you look at the news there’s always some accountant firm getting bad publicity, and that obviously creates a bad image for the accounting occupation. So NBA also tries to improve the reputation of accountants, as well as improving society’s trust in accountants. This is also my role as an ambassador, to start a debate with society about the role of accountants. Q: Do you think the reputation of accountants has been tarnished? A: What’s new? You only have to turn on the news and again you hear something about accounting misconduct. We’re very vulnerable because if something goes wrong with a business, accountants are always the first to be questioned why they didn’t see anything unlawful. But we try our best to improve our reputation. Q: Did the NBA feel that it needed to change the way accountants work, to stop more of these incidents from happening, or did they feel that engaging the public would be enough to improve their reputation? A: That’s a very difficult subject. I think disciplinary law forces accountants to abide to good conduct, but that’s not to say that all individuals will do so. Some individuals spoil it for the rest, just like in any other occupation. 24
Improving the integrity of individuals is a much more difficult target than to provide accurate information about accountants to society, which is a much more reachable target. Q: What makes a good accountant? A: First of all, you need to know what the client wants, and that’s very difficult for a lot of accountants. They have their tasks, but don’t really listen to their clients, a mistake because each client is different. An accountant who doesn’t listen to his clients is an accountant who is unnecessary for the client.
Q: Why do you think there is this perception that accounting is boring? A: I think this a stereotype form the past. Accounting today is very different. I don’t have the impression that people still think that it’s boring. Q: If accountants were to suddenly be wiped out from the planet due to an accountant specific bacterium, how would the world look like?
A: I would say chaotic. We bring structure to figures and specialisation to where it is needed. Auditing is also very important to combat dishonesty in business. Our job is to provide transparency to external parties, without this companies wouldn’t be able to trust one another. Q: Any advice to students with accounting ambitions? Ask a lot of questions during an internship to understand what options you have in the financial world, and whether it’s something for you.
Hamburg It has to be one of the best Euro-
pean cities to visit for a wonderful experience, not just for the food and drinks but also for the very fashionable shops that have everything for everyone. This year for our awesome Buitex weekend trip we decided to go to the North of Germany. We departed early in the morning on Friday when the journey kicked off with roughly fifty people on a cozy bus full of enthusiasm on our way to the Hanseatic city. After quickly freshening up, and getting sorted out into rooms at the A&O Hostel close to the city centre, we went for a diverse lunch whereafter we went for a shortened tour to climb the St. Michealkirche. We started the first night by having some free time and self-organised
dinners to a place of everyoneâ€™s own choosing, after which we met up and traveled by metro to see the fireworks at a popular Christmas market. The night ended at the famous Reeperbahn, Hamburgâ€™s nightlife area, where the Beatles became famous! On Saturday after a great city tour around the famous harbour we ended up in the city centre where we had the chance to do some shopping, self-exploring, visiting museums, and of course eating some more! There is a lot to see and that required a lot of energy. Speaking of energy we were pretty much exhausted and took some time to rest out before we had a dinner with the whole group after which we had the Crazy AC Party! We were all having a blast and got incredibly drunk with the best of
By Peter Kock spirits. Again, the night ended at the Reeperbahn where we all went to a club for some German partying. We were supposed to go to a planned famous fish market on Sunday morning at seven, but we all had such a long night and no one was brave enough to wake up for that. We left the great city of Hamburg at around noon again, reflecting in the bus on the immense experience we all had together as a group. It was an unforgettable experience. Peter Kock Chairman Activities Committee 2013-2014
Life Hacks Smartphone in a cup Are you a heavy sleeper? Are you always tired of snoozing past your alarm? Use the ‘smartphone in a cup’ trick to dampen the volume! No longer will you miss any lectures because you overslept or because you did not hear your alarm!
Efficient lectures As economists you want to spend your time efficiently. Therefore, let someone else record a lecture and save time studying by listening to these recorded lectures at twice the speed. Probably sounds funnier as well!
Perfect presentations Giving a presentation is probably not the problem, but the questions always kill you. Approach a friend to ask you a question that you already know the answer to and suddenly it looks like you really know your stuff!
Fan Favourite: Discount on UU coffee This lifehack was published last year as well, but due to the overwhelming positive responses we will publish it again. If you re-use your cup at the coffee machines you find across Utrecht University, or bring your own cup, you get a € 0.11 discount on your drink! Imagine the amounts of money you save on a yearly basis by doing this!
Published on Jan 28, 2014
The ECU'nomist is a magazine published by the Editorial Commitee, on behalf of Study Association ECU'92. Study Association ECU'92 represents...