Engaged in an international game

By Albert Jan Hummel - May 7, 2016 - -
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Interview with Andreas Pick, TI’s new Director of Graduate Studies

First of all, congratulations on your appointment as TI’s new DGS! For those who do not know you yet, could you please briefly introduce yourself?

Thank you! I was born and brought up in Munich, studied economics in Germany and Ireland, and got a PhD from Cambridge. My research mainly focusses on econometrics. Now I live in Rotterdam, a city that I have come to quite like, as it feels like a large city without the large city hassle. It also houses Erasmus University, where I am Associate Professor at the Department of Econometrics. Additionally, I have a part-time position at the research department of DNB, the Dutch central bank.

Regarding your new position, please tell us what motivated you to take up this challenge.

Graduate education is a highly rewarding part of university education. At TI, we educate some of the brightest minds of each generation, many of which will be the future of research. Also, TI and its MPhil program increase the international visibility and recognition of the economics departments in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. So when, after receiving tenure, I felt it was time to increase my contribution to the functioning of my academic environment, the opportunity of being involved in the graduate education at TI was too good to pass up.

Looking ahead, do you have any specific goals in mind? Which challenges do you expect along the road?

The first goal for a person in my role has to be “do no harm”. My predecessor, Massimo Giuliodori, has done an outstanding job as DGS; the TI MPhil is one of Europe’s best graduate programs and was called “world class” in the recent Kapteyn review. So, whatever I do, preserving the quality and reputation of the program will have to be my most important aim.

“A few specific issues occupy my mind: cooperating more closely with the business departments, increasing the number of female students in the program and achieving even better placements for PhD graduates.”

However, Europe’s university landscape is changing at an enormous pace, with more and more graduate programs appearing. TI will need to run, just to stand still. All that said, there are a few specific issues that occupy my mind.

The first is the plan to cooperate more closely with the business departments of the three universities in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Dennis Fok is taking the lead in this development. While this is a tremendous opportunity, we need to ensure that the quality of the current program will be maintained— if not improved.

Another issue on my mind is the number of female students in our program. Over the last few years, TI managed to have a share of about thirty percent of women in the program. I would like to increase this share. One obstacle is that we are short of female applicants. In particular, we see very few Dutch female applicants. A reason for this may be the low number of female academics in economics at the three TI faculties, which may lead female students to the unfortunate and false conclusion that research isn’t for them. We therefore need to find ways to make research an attractive choice for talented female students.

“The Dutch way has always been one of openness. We need to use this to our benefit and remain internationally competitive on all levels.”

The third issue is the placement of our graduates after their PhD. In recent years, TI started offering training for job market candidates, and recent placements suggest that this has been a successful initiative. The quality of our students makes me believe that we can achieve even better placements.

You did your graduate studies in Cambridge, which has an outstanding graduate program. How do you think you can use the knowledge you acquired during your time as a graduate student to benefit TI?

At TI, we are engaged in an international game. We attract students from all corners of the world, we compete with the best international graduate programs, and we aim to place our PhD graduates at the best universities and research institutions worldwide. All of this suggests that an international perspective won’t do any harm to someone in my role. The Dutch way has always been one of openness. We need to use this to our benefit and remain internationally competitive on all levels.

Previously, you mentioned that you are also affiliated with the Dutch central bank (DNB), which— in many ways— is an important research partner of TI. Do you expect some positive spillovers from this cooperation?

In recent years, central banks around the globe have increased their focus on research, including using the output from research to guide policy. I believe that this is an excellent development. DNB has historically been one of Europe’s most research-active central banks, and employs a number of TI alumni in its research department. Close cooperation between TI and DNB is certainly mutually beneficial.

You have worked with Allan Timmermann, who will deliver this year’s TI Econometrics Lectures: Forecasting Financial Time Series. Are you looking forward to this year’s Econometrics Lectures?

The TI Econometrics Lectures, like the TI Economics Lectures, have been given by amazing speakers over the past years. TI owes a special thanks to Herman van Dijk for organizing the Econometrics series with such extraordinary success for so many years. Philip Hans Franses and Dennis Fok have taken over the organization of the lectures, and the first TI lecturer they invited, Allan Timmermann, continues the list of outstanding econometricians who have given the Econometrics Lectures. Allan, who is also a Cambridge alumnus, is an outstanding econometrician and a brilliant teacher. I have no doubt that the students will be delighted with and inspired by his lectures.

In five years from now, under what circumstances will you be satisfied? In other words, what goals would you really like to see accomplished?

I will be happy if TI remains one of Europe’s leading graduate programs in economics, if I manage to arrange and enjoy a string of great TI lectures (and I am extremely excited about the TI lectures that we have managed to arrange for the next years), and if the MPhil students enjoy their time here and thrive as researchers after leaving TI.

TI Director of Graduate Studies Andreas Pick is associate professor of econometrics at Erasmus University. His research currently focusses on forecasting and model instability.

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