Brexit, Gold Bars and Minis for Economics & Business Students Posted - 12/06/2018

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Lower Sixth economists had a busy day in London. Beginning with an activity at the offices of the EU Parliament that was somewhere between bingo and ‘Top Trumps’ the students had to represent a member country and were given lanyards with details of various economic facts, as well as the name of a real-life MEP. This helped them get a grasp of just who our fellow EU member countries are. They learnt about the various institutions of the EU and how law is made and policy determined and then investigated and debated which were the most important issues to deal with in Brexit, such as trade, human rights and sovereignty. Important issues around Brexit were being discussed in Parliament at the same time and, as we walked back to the tube station, we passed a ‘remain’ demonstration outside the Palace of Westminster.

After lunch, the Bank of England Museum provided a talk about the roles of the Bank of England, including issuing notes, supervising the banking system, monetary policy and price stability. This was followed by a presentation about careers from a recent graduate analyst along with some explanation of how bank risk is actually managed. Students were then allowed to handle a real gold bar - currently worth well in excess of £320,000! 

In the same week Business students visited the Mini Factory in Oxford. Reed’s has visited this factory for a number of years and it has been fascinating to see the advances in robotics and other technology used to build a Mini. 
After an introductory talk the tour at ‘body in white’ began. Here, the basic metal pressings are assembled and welded together. Robots weld at 1200°C in an instant and the parts are immediately cooled with barely a spark or sound. The latest robots (they have just bought 1,000 of them at £20,000 each for the latest factory) change tools according to the model being built and can mostly service themselves, even replacing worn-out tools. 

Each Mini is built to order and has a transponder attached to carry the data about its exact specification. The cars are photographed at every stage of production and the records are maintained for 10 years in case of any future fault. The students have learned about ‘zero defect’ and 'just-in-time’ approaches in their course, and they saw many examples of this in practice. Our guide had previously worked for over 30 years in the plant and the degree of pride that goes into the building of every Mini was obvious.       

Stephen Whiteley, Head of Economics & Business

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