Political economy and business research

The Department carries out research on range of topics in the broad fields of political economy, public policy and business.

Academic researchers

Dr Donna Harris

Dr Nihan Akyelken

Dr Vlad Mykhnenko

Research highlights

Ghana Police Service Project

The Government of Ghana has announced an ambitious objective to turn the Ghana Police Service into a world class force over the next decade. To help with this objective, and with the full approval of the Inspector General of the Ghana Police Service, the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), University of Oxford, led by Dr Donna Harris, is carrying out research on how to reduce corruption in the traffic police in Ghana.

Corruption has long been one of the major obstacles to improving economic efficiency and reducing poverty in developing countries. In many places, corruption has become a norm – a way of life – something that is generally accepted as a behavioural standard. How do we change a corrupt norm? The aim of this project is to address this question, based on recent research by the Nobel Laureate Professor George Akerlof, through innovative policy interventions. One of the key ideas is that if you want to change people’s behaviour, it helps to give them a new role or ‘identity’, and new narratives that convey a sense of purpose. This research aims to do just that in the Ghana Police Service to try to combat possible corruption.

Malawi School Leadership Project

The introduction of free primary education in Malawi has led to a rapid rise in student enrolment, in line with trends in other sub-Saharan African countries. Schools have struggled to keep up with the rise in student numvers resulting in a dip in educational quality and performance with schools facing poor distribution of teachers, large class sizes, and high rates of repetition and dropouts in lower grades. The Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) research team, led by Dr Donna Harris, are working to gain a better understanding of the school context in Malawi with a focus on school leadership.

The research team will first seek to understand the role of beliefs and behaviours of both teachers and students in shaping educational performance through lab-in-the-field experiments. These insights will then feed into the design of cutting-edge experimental interventions based on the growth mindset, self-efficacy, and inclusive school cultures. These activities will be embedded within the School Leadership Training programme currently under implementation across Malawi through the Malawi Education Sector Improvement Project (MESIP), a set of educational investments and reforms financed by the Global Partnership for Education and Royal Norwegian Embassy. 

Save More in Migration

Supporting Migrant Workers from Georgia and the Republic of Moldova to Enhance Savings, Remittances & Sustainable Benefits of Labour Migration

This project, led by Dr Donna Harris, aims to develop a set of financial tools and programming at the pre-departure stage and while migrants from Georgia and the Republic of Moldova are in Israel, that will make it easier and more likely that migrants and their families achieve their savings goals modelling its design on insights from behavioural economics programmes which have been used to increase workers' contributions towards their retirement. Migrants and their families will then be sensitized to these tools and use the bespoke tools while working abroad. Additionally, with the support of partners, activities will be implemented for migrant workers returning from Israel to Moldova to incentivize them to use their savings towards developing sustainable livelihood activities, including entrepreneurship. To measure the effectiveness of the intervention, a random-sampling impact evaluation will be conducted in the final stages of the project. The ultimate goal of the project is to improve migrants' abilities to achieve savings goals and apply the migration experience towards longer term, sustainable livelihood opportunities and wellbeing.