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A mixture of colourful Pound notes (Sterling) laid out.Rob Hill/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ambitious to raise its current Top-20 global status in economics, the University of British Columbia yesterday announced plans for a new school and an elite undergraduate program to educate "the next generation of international policy leaders."

In establishing the Vancouver School of Economics, which replaces an economics department ranked first in Canada for research productivity, UBC expects to add 10 domestic or internationally-recognized scholars to its current 50-person faculty, add 328 spaces for economics students (compared with 700 currently) and introduce a new four-year Bachelor of International Economics for top academic high-school graduates.

"We want to capitalize on our progress to date and build UBC as one of the world's leaders in economics in terms of its teaching offerings and research," says Michael Devereux, inaugural director of the new school and a research fellow of the Bank of Canada. "Our goal is excellence in all dimensions to build UBC economics as one of the big players on the world stage."

UBC hopes to position the Vancouver school as a global centre for research and learning to address "the world's most pressing economic issues." Prof. Devereux says the proposed bachelor of international economics – which still requires approval by the provincial ministry of advanced education – will be a "flagship" program for the school.

As proposed, the bachelor program would accept about 80 academically-strong students, about half from Canada and half from overseas, on an annual basis. They would have access to international internships and exchange programs and – rare for undergraduates – be allowed to get directly involved in research activities.

"This is more on a European model," says Prof. Devereux of the program design. "We are going to cater to students who know when they come from high school that they want to specialize in economics, specifically in international economics." He anticipates that graduates could have careers in global trade, finance, development and world policy issues.

Assuming provincial government approval for the new program, the university plans to charge higher tuition fees. Domestic students would pay $7,672 in annual tuition for the international economics degree, compared with $4,700 for a BA. International students would pay $27,731, compared with $22,600 for a BA.

The university's Sauder School of Business, which has had a close relationship with the economics department, will teach some business and finance courses for the new degree.

Asked if UBC's initiative could produce the next Mark Carney, the former Bank of Canada governor recently recruited to head the Bank of England, Prof. Devereux demurred.

"I don't know how you produce one like that," he said.