Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where are the Transport Economics students?

Why does it seems like this profession (Transport Economics) is not a profession that most people want to pursue? If so, why is it the case? While at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in 2006 and 2007, the University had more Logistics (more than 100) student than Transport Economics (less than 20) in our Honours class and most (90%) of the Transport Economics student came from the North West University (NWU) while most (95%) of the Logistics student came from UJ. This either means that transport economics student in undergraduate class where non-existent or preferred not to continue with their studies at honours level or switched to Logistics.

I suspect that there was not enough student at undergrad level and I also suspect that this trend is still continuing today. This is not only at UJ but also at other universities. Just take a look at the Stellenbosch University (SUN)'s Logistics Department which has at the moment no student registered for Masters in Transport Economics while Logistics and Operational Research Masters class has more students. So where are all the Transport Economics students?

Going back to the UJ dilemma, the worse thing was the fact that student with a degree in Marketing preferred to switch to Logistics at honours level than to transport economics nor there were students with a degree in Economics switched to Transport Economics. The question is this the case? Is it because there is lack of awareness about transport economics as a career? This is disturbing, considering that South Africa has one of the most ineffective public transport in the world. Do I hear you saying civil engineers/traffic engineers will take care of the problem? Besides SA not producing enough engineers, civil engineers alone are not capable enough to solve the challenges facing the country, as much as transport economics are not cable enough to solve them.

It does not help that few Universities offer the course at undergraduate level; At the moment, only UJ, NWU and SUN and UNISA are the only Universities that offers the course while UCT only offers a M.Phil in Transport Studies for postgraduate students. It also don't help that Transport Economics student don't get appropriate training or job opportunities after graduation. It is difficult to be hired to work as a Transport Economist in a private industry/government hence most students end up working in the logistics industry. I know this because most of the students who were in class with me at honours level are now employed by freight moving companies. If they were lucky like me, they ended up working for government or for consulting companies, but we are very few that ended up in this route.


Besides all these challenges, one must complement the Department of Transport for encouraging students to take up Transport studies in universities around the country through its Center of Development. This initiative also led NWU starting its own Transport and Logistics courses in 2003, of which I was part of. Through the initiative, millions of Rands were spent on bursaries for students to study either Transport Economics or Logistics at undergraduate level while any transport related courses were encouraged in post graduate level. But it seems like students who benefited from this initiative are not being employed by the Department of Transport, which is worrying.


Anonymous said...

I Agree, this is a unpopular field.I for one is a final year Transport Economics, UNISA student, and always on the net searching for any graduate programmes bt without any sucsess. The only things I find are logistics/supply chain programmes.

Anonymous said...

you can study Transport Economics, Master, at the Technische Universität Dresden (Dresden University of Technology), but it is in German:
It could be that next year there's a Master in Transport Economics at the Hochschule Heilbronn (Heilbronn University):

Anonymous said...

So guys help me out here if i decide to do the course in university....there are no gurantees that i would find a job, being in both the public and private sector??

Anonymous said...

I majored in transport economics and public management from Stellenbosch University and is sitting at home, while actively looking for employmemnt, for almost a year!! We were just a few transport economics students in my class. This is a total shame to the South African economy as the demand for transport economists in other countries, excluding africa, is very high! I can also understand why SA loose a lot of good qualified people to other countries because SA does not generate enough opportunities for its own citizens due to the huge influx of foreigners from poor "african" countries to our country.

I suggest that universities who teach the subject should try and generate work opportunities as some of these lecturers have contact with people in high places. Otherwise we dont get experience. When we leave university, we just small tiny fishes in a HUGE ocean, the changes of your survival is miniscule unless "you the survivor of the fittest" (Darwin). The other option is....DONT TEACH TRANSPORT ECONOMICS OR OTHER CAREERS IF SOUTH AFRICA DO NOT HAVE THE MARKET FOR IT!!! Because my view is that its a waste of time, money and energy.