Khushi Kakrania, a Laidlaw Scholar at UCL, on her research: "How Good Is Your Degree? A Conversation Between Students, Academics and Employers."
In the research project, we ask how students considering where to study, employers sorting through potential graduate hires and the government deciding on how to best fund universities can evaluate the quality of an Economics degree. In the light of the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and its subject-focused evaluation of degrees and universities, the contributors to this volume consider what it is that universities should be aiming to deliver when they design their degrees, including both content and assessment methods, and based on this, how we can measure whether this attempt has been successful.
We have created an interactive and first-of-its-kind e-book in order to influence a new way to think about evaluation in education. The e-book has the potential to start an impending conversation around improving the standard British Economics undergraduate degree which can go a long way to improve policy decisions. The value of an Economics degree has a trickle-down effect on the state of the economy and quality of life.
Where did your passion for this research originate?
Understanding the economy as an integrated part of an increasingly complex society has never been more important. The role of labour is being questioned by automation. Our understanding of ownership and property is being challenged by the digital economy which is rising at an exponential rate due to the pandemic. The sheer insensitivity of governments regarding climate change forces us to rethink ethics in designing economic policies.
Economics in universities is narrow, uncritical and detached from the real world. Inspired by the Rethinking Economics campaign, I decided to apply for this research project to gain a comprehensive understanding of strengths and weaknesses of the Economics curriculum. I strongly believe that the shortfalls of the contemporary economics education feeds into policy, which negatively affects the everyday lives of the general public. I was motivated by the purpose of the project to provide a virtual and open-access platform to students, academics and employers to start this much-needed conversation and bring about meaningful change.
Insights on leadership:
Currently I’m serving Enactus UCL as its VP and Wellbeing Officer. I have participated in various consulting team projects. Over time, I have learned that the best way to get work done is not through words of encouragement and strict deadlines, but by doing the work yourself to show that the cause matters. Once the team members’ goals are aligned with the organisation’s goals, effort comes organically. Having made impulsive and emotions-driven decisions which were detrimental to organisations’ performance, I have learned the importance of using system 2 reasoning effectively.
I humbly reflect on my performance and behaviour from time to time. I consciously ask for feedback. They help me improve my leadership qualities. Denying perfection means allowing yourself to grow. Nobody is a leader by birth.
Laidlaw leadership training has made me more self aware and conscious of my leadership style. It has greatly improved my critical thinking and problem solving skills.
What is the biggest challenge you came across in your research and leadership journeys so far, and what did you learn from it?
“Get up when you can’t.”
My research was online due to the pandemic. My productivity has been at all time low. My laptop was broken for a week. My WiFi has been erratic. However, I’ve emerged as a more resilient and emotionally intelligent individual. Having gone around the literature in circles, I have become more patient and attentive to details. I feel more confident in undertaking independent research.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
Being a Laidlaw Scholar means using research methodologies to bring about meaningful change. It means being collaborative, impact-driven, passionate and empathetic. It means being responsible and goal-oriented.
The Laidlaw Foundation has created a community of ambitious, extraordinary and curious undergraduates. Through the Laidlaw network, I have gained numerous research and leadership insights. The programme has helped me grow personally and academically.
Which particular leaders inspire you the most and why?
“At the root of every crisis lies a crisis in leadership.”
At the age of 15, Greta Thunberg became the leader of environmental activism. Her purpose is well-defined, authentic and personal. I admire her for her clarity of thought, empathy, effective storytelling, fearlessness, and strength. At a time when the world leaders turned a blind eye to the science which proved eventual climate change, Greta not only took up space for her advocacy but created room for millions of others to follow. She is the perfect embodiment of the transformative power of youth leadership.
When Pepsico was heavily criticised for promoting obesity, Indra Nooyi, its former CEO, turned adversity into opportunity by introducing healthier and more sustainable options. Profit-making companies should lead by this example that it is truly possible to rise by lifting others. It starts by taking responsibility for their negative actions and recognising that businesses are a part of something larger than themselves.
Describe a scene from the future you are striving to create:
In future, I’d like to see a society where nobody feels disrespected, abused and invisible. I hope humanity can elevate marginalised groups and create an environment which lets everybody thrive. I’m striving to create it in a very simple way which everybody can and should practise. I educate myself on social issues and share what I have learned and unlearned with the ones around me. Like people say - be the change you want to see in other people.
📺 TV show recommendation: The Haunting of Hill House
🎵 My quarantine anthem: everything i wanted by Billie Eilish
📚 My top book recommendation: The Four Agreements: A practical guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
🎧 Podcast obsession: I Weigh with Jameela Jamil
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: Last month I helped in the development of the Ekatra helpline in Delhi NCR which helps daily wage and migrant workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic get connected to employers. The fact that I was able to help 5+ workers get employed per hour of my contribution gave me a deep sense of satisfaction.
Currently, I am working as a lead consultant for a non-profit organisation that helps businesses understand the complex and taboo topic of domestic abuse and strives to change legislations regarding the same. I am conducting market research for them in order to devise a growth strategy.