Getting into a top economics PhD programme

For many decades, graduates of Australian bachelor’s degrees in economics have been making the trek to the best PhD programs the world has to offer such as Harvard, Princeton, LSE. This is a testament to the quality of our undergraduate education. But to get into a top PhD program more is required than good training. Here are  some factors/advice I think are important:

1. First class honours in one of the top Australian honours programs; quite
often with a joint degree. If you don’t get a first class honours degree
you will probably be out of the running for a place in one of the top
ten PhD programs.

2. Letters from academics who are known at the institutions to which
the students are applying and who know how to write a  reference. It
makes sense to plan your honours degree by choosing a supervisor who
is internationally known, who knows academics in top programs, and who
has had some success  with placing students in good PhD programs.

3. Thesis Topic. You will probably need to do a solid thesis in the
honours year. Something that highlights your analytical abilities and
your potential to do research at the highest level. Don’t take
shortcuts do a thesis related to well known literature.

4. Well Written Thesis. In most instances you will be sending your
thesis with your application. Make sure that it is well written and
that the thesis is typographically appealing.

5. Top GRE scores. You’re going to have to do the GRE tests and do
well in them. You don’t usually need to do the economics GRE. You
should practice and my advice is for you to travel to Sydney or
Melbourne to do the computerized tests in November.

6. Advice from academics who are “in the know” about the US, and
hopefully have gained this knowledge from having spent time at an
international institution with a good program. When writing up an
application show it to someone who knows how admission committees

7. Send your applications to many places and keep an open mind. It’s
very unlikely that all the top places will offer you a place so you
should apply widely.

8. Offers start coming in  in early March. Stay on top of things and
check your email regularly. Some places may put you on reserve for
funding. They will need to know if you are still interested in them
and will probably contact you in April. The admissions process for US
institutions ends in early May.

9. Take the opportunity to visit. If Harvard and MIT offer you a
place, then you should try and visit them in April. This is not so
that you can negotiate a larger fellowship but it will help you decide
which institution you want to join.

10. Getting into a top PhD program is hard. You should start planning
early in your undergraduate degree.

Videos now available for “Who Owns The News?” seminar

Click Image for Video Album

Last week MBS hosted a public seminar on “Who Owns the News?” exploring the impact of the internet on the news industry. The event was organized by IPRIA, CMCL and MBS CITE. It serves to clarify the key issues and lays the groundwork for a discussion of these issues. I had fun and hope that the 110+ people who attended it did too.

Sam Ricketson, Professor at Melbourne Law School, chaired the event and did a great job orchestrating the Q&A session. Mark Davison from Monash spoke about changes in copyright law and expressed concerns over the “Hot News” doctrine, an approach currently being proposed by news organizations in the US to prevent others from copying their content. Stephen King outlined the economic issues and has posted his very thoughtful comments at

As the discussant, I described what I had learnt from Mark and Stephen and also tried to consider various options faced by a CEO in this industry. My pdf slides are at While my comments might have been perceived as pessimistic by Stephen and others, I am actually quite optimistic about the future of the industry, but mainly for individuals and  firms trying out innovative ways of gathering and delivering the news. I am however pessimistic about existing firms: if history has taught us anything, it is that many of them will struggle to adapt with these drastic changes.

The video recordings for “Who Owns the News?” are now available. I have posted them at Portions were removed to protect the identity of audience members. We thank the speakers for permission to share their insights online. Enjoy the show 😉

Profit maximisation

It isn’t every day that you see economics in action but thanks to AppCubby we have some interesting data on how to set price. AppCubby sell iTunes Applications including TripCubby, GasCubby and HealthCubby. Up until January 20th they sold these for $4.99. On the 21st, they dropped price to $0.99. This graph shows the outcome.
[DDET Read more]

Notice that quantity shot up by what appears to be 8 times but the initial part of this could be the coverage of the experiment. It then dropped down. But here is the kicker, despite the concerns about cheap apps not making money, even if you do not count the publicity around the experiment, revenue does not appear to have dipped. I think it is too early to tell whether the $0.99 price point is a bad idea. (That said, the hopes of using donations to fill the gap looks like a wash-out).

In any case, apparently the experiment is about to swing around the other way towards a niche strategy with the products rising to $10 a piece but with a Lite version included. Once again, this reinforces my belief that the most valuable commodity in the iTunes App Store is the data and I’m guessing Apple have access to this.

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