Economics @ TERI - A lot more than Environmental Sustainability
After completing my Bachelors in Economics from Lady Shri Ram College (Delhi University), I enrolled in TERI School of Advanced Studies (formerly TERI University) for an MSc in Economics. TERI School of Advanced Studies (TERI SAS) was set up in 1998 by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), as a non-profit, research institute focussing on energy, environment, and sustainable development. The MSc in Economics offered at the school is provided under the aegis of the Department of Policy Studies. It also allows for specialisation in Environmental and Resource Economics. My first contact with TERI SAS dates back to my professor at LSR, an alumna of TERISAS. It was then that I came to know that a forward-looking university, with a niche research specialisation exists in India.
The curriculum design is progressive and unlike anything that the majority of Indian education system has yet embraced. Coming from DU, my idea of examinations and assignments was fairly challenged. Right from the first semester, the curriculum was dynamic and the evaluation was continuous. There were take-home assignments, presentations, open book examinations, term-papers, and even 24-hour exams! The focus was never to simply reproduce different chapters and readings in the exam but rather, on the analysis and understanding. Research software indispensable for an economist, like STATA and R, were made part of the curriculum and examinations. The program went one step further, ensuring that research essentials, such as referencing and citation were also imparted during the training.
The program is unique in the sense that it includes advanced graduate level exposure to mathematics, statistics, econometrics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, development economics, as well as an in-depth knowledge of policies, techniques, and concepts in ecological, environmental and natural resource economics. This makes the curriculum demanding, but enriching and insightful. A compulsory Master’s thesis is one of the most important components of the programme. Dissertations provide the perfect platform for applying the skill-sets developed in the course of three semesters, and to demonstrate research ability. I still remember how we were repeatedly told that perseverance is the key to writing a good dissertation, and how over the course of one year we were challenged over and over. From the proposal, to the progress presentations; every step is scrutinized by the faculty members as well as external experts. Not only that, a very high ethical standard is maintained where academic merit, based on originality of ideas is rewarded.
Distinguished academicians and leading professionals make up the faculty at TERI SAS. They’re actively involved with research projects from SANDEE (South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics), DST (Department of Science and Technology) and other agencies that regularly publish in leading Economics journals. They often publish books and papers in their field of expertise, apart from teaching courses at the university.
Apart from this, the faculty demonstrates a unique combination of being effective, professional, and approachable. The feedback that we received on assignments was comprehensive and often, line-by-line for each student. Faculty members, as guides to the dissertations, help students shape their ideas into a master’s thesis, even going to the extent of conducting mock-presentations to instill confidence among students.
Students over the years have received placements in the government, corporations, think-tanks, international organisations, civil society organisations and research institutes. Many students also go for higher studies, such as M-Phil or PhD, to enter the field of academia.
For those seeking corporate jobs, TERI SAS is not the easiest route as the skill-set provided by the course is research oriented. For research professionals however, TERI SAS graduates are at an advantageous position because of their experience in writing a thesis. In almost every interview I went for, I could sense the importance of being able to carry out research independently. In India most post-graduate students in Economics have usually not written a thesis as it feature of the M-Phil courses – and that is a big differentiator for TERI SAS.
The placement manager at the college also coordinates with various organizations across both research and non-research sectors to make sure students get what they desire. TERI alumni are working with coveted organisations like the RBI, UNDP, Accenture, as well as reputed think-tanks.
As someone who has always wanted to make her career in academia, this research –oriented course has been extremely instrumental in building my capacity. After applying to many opportunities in the course of one year, I ended up with multiple offers (contrary to general expectation) and was able to pick and choose what suited me most.
I will now be starting work as a Research Fellow with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, an autonomous research institute under the Ministry of Finance. More importantly, it is a profile that is tailor-made for my interests in Ecological Economics. Furthermore, as has been the case for many of our seniors at the school, the research experience is slated to be of immense help while applying for a PhD.
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About the Author
Having disciplinary training in Economics, with an inclination towards development economics, particularly sustainable development; Anuja Malhotra has worked on issues related to environment, development and the ecology. She is currently working as a Research Fellow on a UNDP project "Save the Himalaya" in NIPFP (Research Institute under Ministry of Finance).”