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Highlights of the 2020 XMU Economics International PhD Proposal Defense and 3rd Year Paper Defense

     From June 20 to 23, 2020, the XMU Economics International Graduate Program organized the PhD proposal defense and 3rd year paper defense under the coordination of Andrew Pua and Wang Luhang. Over forty professors served as defense panelists overseeing the defenses spread across four days.

     Some points given by the defense panelists aim to improve the quality of student's papers. The panelists encouraged and engaged students in order to strengthen their writing and understanding of the subject matter so that their research would fulfill what the scientific community would expect from a PhD dissertation, which would not only be publishable in the future but would serve as the basis of their research program for their careers. To realize these goals, the XMU Economics International Graduate Program has initiated reforms in the rules and principles of PhD proposal defense and 3rd year paper defense. There were four key points of concern in these reforms: (a) ensuring accountability for both panelists and students (b) strengthening student engagement of panelists (c) matching, to the extent possible, the members of the defense committee to students’ research fields, and (d) sharpening panelists’ feedback to the students’ work. These four key points were articulated and were made part of the organization to ensure that scientific considerations are the only hurdles faced by PhD students.
    The reforms included the submission of a referee report from the student's supervisor clarifying the student’s research progress, the connection between their paper and their dissertation, the contribution of the student’s paper to the research field, as well as a proposed list of faculty members whose research may be closely related. The International Graduate Program Committee will determine the final composition of the panel, according to the supervisor’s recommendation and the submitted paper. In addition, panelists are encouraged to submit a referee report while the panelists are reading the paper in order to give comprehensive feedback for students’ further revision. Referee report writing guidelines were provided by the program committee.
     Apart from the reform, the whole defense organization is detail-oriented. In the first 3rd year paper defense session, preparations were made so that an Egyptian student with hearing difficulties will be able to participate in the defense and discussion with panelists. His defense can only be conducted online because of the COVID-19 epidemic. We also had to consider the potential instability of internet access, the time difference between Egypt and China. The program committee worked out several plans, borrowed devices from the school technicians, and arranged a separate test specially for him in advance. Finally, with the support of a variety of devices and software such as wireless video booth, tablet, paper, keyboard, Xournal, Yiouboard, etc. As a result, the defense committee and the student were able to communicate with almost no barriers.


      The XMU International PhD Program in Economics is a young program and has just been formally established from 2017. Although the training of PhDs has just started, the program is moving forward steadily by continuous exploration and self-assessment. With continuous accumulation of experience and feedback from students and faculty members, the program will hopefully make strides in the development of international academic talents in economics.

(School of Economics  Yang Song)