Quantitative methods reform


in Oxford

Quantitative methods reform I just attended a meeting of the Graduate Joint Consultative Committee (GJCC) that was focused on reforming the statistics course for next year. For those not up to speed, the quantitative methods section of the M.Phil in International Relations was considered disastrously bad by almost all the students and faculty. On the basis of a petition signed by 27 of the 28 people in the program, as well as many personal complaints, a major overhaul has been commissioned. I still have my doubts about whether a faculty so dismissive of statistically-based IR can provide an adequate introduction in eight weeks, but with luck the new course will be dramatically better than ours was.

Mostly, the suggestions seem to be quite good. Yuen Foong Khong is chairing the IR Working Group on Research Methods, and the major change being suggested is to reclaim more of the quantitative methods teaching into the department, rather than relying on relative outsiders. The plan calls for cutting the number of STATA workshops from six to two and introducing some short problem sets that involve the kind of computation we had to do on the exam, but hadn’t ever done prior to it.

The most important thing is that there is broad recognition within the department that this year’s quantitative methods training was unacceptably bad. I would call it a major blot on an otherwise excellent program.

On Monday, these recommendations will go to the Graduate Studies Committee. Apparently, it basically need to be hammered out before the end of the term, if it is going to be substantially different next term. For the sake of those who will enter the program later, let us hope that the review is extensive and effective.

I have a handout detailing all the proposed changes that I can lend to anyone who’s interested.

  • This announcement has me thinking about the Kilimanjaro climb I want to do in summer of 2007.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben May 3, 2006 at 8:03 pm

There was a GJCC today? Think that passed me by…

Milan May 3, 2006 at 11:53 pm


There was indeed, though not all that much happened. If you want a copy of the proposal from Dr. Yuen Foong Khong’s group, I can convey one to you somehow. That said, you could probably get it more easily from Marga.

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