Conference calling

Student-led events can be a great way to heard the lasts news and views says Hannah Langworth, who recently attended UCL Economics and Finance Society's annual conference

Students with an interest in economics, finance and politics at universities across the country are building their knowledge and widening their networks by organising and attending student-led conferences focusing on these fields. These events, which usually comprise a mix of talks, panel events, discussion forums and networking sessions, can give you insights into big issues that you'll never find in a textbook or in the news, all tailored to your particular interests and needs. Those attending these events can look forward to hearing the opinions of authorities in a particular field, often before they're published or expressed elsewhere. Perhaps most importantly, you can also get involved in those discussions yourself by asking questions, or by chatting to speakers at the end of events or during lunches and coffee breaks.

UCL's Economic and Finance Society latest conference is a great example. Held on the college's Bloomsbury campus in early December last year and entitled Making Sense of the Swirl, it was designed by its UCL student organisers to explore the connections between economics and related fields, including finance, politics and even geology. Says Andy Leung, part of the society's team organising the event: "We aimed to get experts to come and express their views to give students a different perspective on the events they hear about through the media." Rob Hayer, also on the conference committee, added that attending conferences can provide students with a chance to understand how the theories they're studying can be put into practice.

Making Sense of the Swirl attracted some great speakers, including Nirj Deva MEP, who recently ran as a candidate for President of the European Parliament, and Dr Linda Yueh, an economist currently teaching at London Business School and the University of Oxford who is also economics editor for Bloomberg TV. The speakers covered topics ranging from oil markets, to prospects for the eurozone, to the Arab Spring, and didn't shy away from asking some big questions. At what point will Germany give up on the euro and revert to the deutsche mark? Is China's growth slowing at a rate that poses dangers to the world's economy? There was also plenty of room for student voices: speakers were happy to answer questions and chatted to students in the breakout sessions, and the concluding event - the Youth Panel - gave four economics students from universities across Europe the chance to take centre stage themselves.

The event went down well with those attending. Goran, a second year Philosophy and Economics student at UCL, was particularly intrigued by the insights Deva gave into the European Parliament: "It's quite a mysterious organisation, and students normally don't get to hear at first hand how it works," while Lina, studying for a masters in European public policy at UCL, concluded: "I think it's so important to understand the basics of the economy and the current crisis, and I found the talks very useful."