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Studying Economics: LSE vs. University of Chicago

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May 21, 2024

Both the London School of Economics (LSE) and the University of Chicago are top-tier institutions famed for their undergraduate economics programmes. With a history stretching back to the late 1800s, a formidable reputation, and a student population of around 5,000 each, deciding between the two can be quite a challenge. In terms of location, campus culture, and academic focus, there are distinct differences to consider.


Quick Overview


Category London School of Economics (LSE) University of Chicago (UChicago)
Institutional Strength Renowned for social sciences and economics. Known for a rigorous approach to economics and the Chicago School of Economics.
Faculty & Research Strong faculty and research programs in economics. Strong faculty and research programs in economics.
Location Situated in central London, with a campus under 16 acres. Located in Chicago with a more expansive campus of 217 acres.
Campus Culture Very city-like feeling due to compact campus. Open campus with Neo-Gothic architecture.
Student Body Around 5,000 undergraduates; acceptance rate 8-9%. Around 5,000 undergraduates; acceptance rate 8-9%.
Academic Focus Dedicated to Social Sciences, emphasising econometrics and quantitative approach. Diverse set of majors with a core curriculum; focus on economic theory and calculus.
Reputation Students are seen as business-oriented. Students are seen as academically-oriented; known as "the teacher of teachers."
Academic Rigor Emphasises theoretical and European perspective; specialisaion from the outset. Known for free markets and rational choice theory; specialisation typically at graduate level.
Paper Output Produces a high volume of research papers annually. Papers have a substantial impact and recognition.
Staff Recognition Lower percentage of staff with significant awards. Highest percentage of staff with significant awards in economics; numerous Nobel laureates.
Job Outcomes 90% of graduates working, studying, or engaged in other activities within six months. 93% of graduates have plans in place upon graduation.
Career Paths Graduates often work in international organisations like the World Bank or global finance and consulting firms. Graduates pursue research positions, careers at institutions like the Federal Reserve, and top Wall Street firms.
Choosing Your University Ideal for those wanting a specialised program with a European flair and international environment. Ideal for those seeking a rigorous theoretical foundation, Chicago School influence, and vibrant US college experience.


Campus and Student Life

Although both colleges share similarities, a prominent difference between the two is the campus setting. With its campus spanning a vast 217 acres, the University of Chicago strikes an impressive balance between openness and neo-gothic architectural charm. On the flip side, spanning just under 16 acres amidst the sprawling cityscape of London, the London School of Economics provides a unique city-like atmosphere.




Academic Focus: Diverse and Specialised

Academically, the two schools take different routes.


The LSE, true to its name, is squarely focused on the Social Sciences. This focus supports its comprehensive research agenda. The University of Chicago, however, is more diverse in academic offerings, with Economics standing as the favourite among many options ranging from Philosophy to Physical Sciences. This breadth is reflected in the University of Chicago’s core curriculum, which demands broad learning from undergraduates.


Student reputations too, diverge. LSE students are seen as business-oriented, while UChicago students are perceived to be more academically inclined.


Academic Rigour and Styles

When it comes to academic rigor and styles, both schools stand tall. LSE leans towards a theoretical and European perspective, emphasising mathematical modeling, econometrics, and an early focus on specialisation. Contrastingly, UChicago is known for its "Chicago School" influence, a focus on free markets, rational choice theory, and a curriculum that requires a solid grounding in economic theory coupled with the rigors of calculus.


Research Output and Quality

Both universities are acclaimed for their significant research contributions to economics. While LSE has a higher research output, UChicago's publications are rated higher in terms of recognition and utility. Remarkably, UChicago has the highest staff recognition in the field of economics, boasting more notable award-winning staff members and association with Nobel laureates in Economics than any other institution worldwide.


Job Outcomes

Job prospects for graduates from both institutions are strong. About 93% of UChicago graduates have their post-graduation plans in place, and approximately 90% of LSE graduates are either employed, studying, or engaged in other activities six months after graduation.


Career Path Differences

LSE graduates are often attracted to global opportunities, frequently taking up positions in international organizations like the World Bank or in global finance and consulting firms. In contrast, UChicago graduates often opt for roles that utilize their robust academic training, such as research positions at universities or esteemed institutions like the Federal Reserve. Their strong reputation also positions them well for opportunities in Wall Street firms.


Making Your Choice

Your choice between LSE and UChicago for your economics studies should be guided by your academic preferences and career aspirations. If you're attracted to a specialized program with an international flavor, LSE could be your perfect match. If you desire a rigorous theoretical foundation and a vibrant US college experience, UChicago could be your ideal choice.


Remember, there's no single 'better' option, both universities offer top-notch education. Consider attending virtual information sessions, connecting with current students, and reflecting on your learning style and career goals. With commitment and diligence, either path will lead you to an impressive career in economics.


Want more targeted help narrowing down your options?

If you need more personalised advice, don't hesitate to reach out to our programme advisors who can offer invaluable insights. Your future in economics begins with the right choice—take the time to make an informed decision that aligns with your academic interests and career aspirations.


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