Nice to meet you Noud van Giersbergen, can you tell us about your backstory and you current position at the University of Amsterdam?
I studied econometrics before the bachelor/master system. During my master's thesis, I became fascinated by doing research and pursued a PhD at the UvA under the enthusiastic supervision of Jan Kiviet. After a few years outside academia, I returned to the UvA to teach statistics, econometrics, programming, and later machine learning. I am now the programme director of the MSc Econometrics and also the coordinator of the master theses.
Could you tell us what the new change is for the MSc Econometrics?
The MSc Econometrics program contains four tracks, of which two are new. The two tracks Econometrics and Complexity and Economic Behaviour have been merged into Econometrics and Mathematical Economics. Moreover, a new track Econometrics and Policy Analysis is added.
What is the reasoning behind the merging of the two master tracks Econometrics and Complexity and Economic Behaviour?
Over time, students were increasingly interested in the other two tracks, Data Analytics and Financial Econometrics. As a result, the reduced interest in the other two did not justify the two separate tracks Econometrics and Complexity and Economic Behaviour. However, the number of courses students can choose from remains the same. Therefore, the only difference in practice is the track's name on the diploma.
How would you generally describe the outline of the new track Econometrics and Policy Analysis?
Given the increased interest in societal issues like environment, health, and sustainability, there is a greater demand for econometrics that has a more significant impact in the real world. This track is specifically developed for students who want to combine their interest in econometrics with their desire to address these societal concerns. Although econometric models and data science approaches remain essential, this track focuses more on integrating research findings into concrete policy suggestions with new courses like Health Econometrics, Environmental Econometrics and Macroeconometrics. As a result, it is more empirical in nature but nevertheless includes cutting-edge research on economic, environmental, and health treatments.
What makes this new track different from the other 3 master tracks inside Econometrics?
Econometrics and Policy Analysis focuses more on research designs than the other tracks. The research design is part of conducting causal inference: what is the path from cause to effect? Although this question is central at the beginning of econometrics, the increased interest in causal inference is also due to the advancement of machine learning and explainable AI (for instance, by the popular work by Judea Pearl with his "The book of Why"). Machine learning is used mainly for prediction, but in economics (from general economics to business), we want to evaluate policy interventions and understand the mechanisms driving economic phenomena. So, there has been a growing demand for rigorous causal analysis. Of course, this is all done using large-scale datasets, so data science (and machine learning) techniques are still important.
What are the career prospects like for this track, and in what aspect are they different from the career prospects for the other tracks?
Employers value graduates from all our tracks because of their strong analytical abilities and ability to properly analyse and interpret large datasets. However, graduates of our Econometrics and Policy Analysis track are specialized in assessing the efficacy and efficiency of economic policies, developing evaluation frameworks, and estimating the causal impact of interventions on various outcomes. As a result, they will be of great interest to governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as businesses interested in the effectiveness of advertising, marketing, and product innovation.
Students with which interests would you overall recommend this new track to?
I would recommend this track to students who are keen on doing empirical research to help with humanitarian and societal issues.
Is there anything else you would want to tell us about the reorganization of the master tracks inside Econometrics?
At the UvA, we are constantly refining the curriculum and courses by listening to our students, as well as our alumni and their employees. Although the programme is challenging, the MSc Econometrics at UvA is one of the most highly valued studies in both the business and public sectors. For more information about the MSc Econometrics and its tracks, you can contact me at N.P.A.vanGiersbergen@uva.nl