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21 February 2022
UWC BCom Student Makes UWC history: First Overall Winner in Intervarsity Young Economist Competition
A student who decided to go back to school, leaving a reliable job to pursue a completely new field of study, can attest to the many challenges online learning has to offer during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the many challenges of the “new normal” the world is facing, the 46-year-old made history at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). 

First-year student, Parvez Parker, became the first-ever UWC candidate to clinch first prize in the Die Burger Young Economist Competition at the end of 2021.

Schalk-Willem Burger, from Stellenbosch University, finished in second place, and third was Sibusiso Mbuyazi from the University of Cape Town.

The competition requires enthusiasm and insight and offers a platform for first-year economics students to compete to predict economic variables such as CPI inflation, real GDP growth, commodity prices, and exchange rates.

Chairperson of the UWC Department of Economics, Professor Derek Yu, is delighted that Parker beat 50 competitors in the very tough competition. 

Parker - who entered the competition under the moniker "Gold Standard" - is an experienced project planner with no experience in economics whatsoever. The only thing that makes him successful is his fervour to enter this field of study.

As for the competition, he only entered because he was interested in applying the theory learned in class and in how much fun he could have with his predictions.

“I was quite surprised to win or even reach the top ten, but the knowledge that I gained through self-study and formal lectures gave me further insight and understanding,” said Parker. 

The born and bred Capetonian said the 2008 global financial crisis spurred his fascination with economics.

“I then started to read up on the crisis and also started to listen to business and finance programmes on radio. What excites me is how economics, politics and other factors affect each other. It’s exciting to see an almost whole picture of the inter-relationship of these factors.”
He admits that he didn’t do “any serious research” to answer questions: “All I would do is look at the question and take a guess as to what I thought would make the figure (metric) go up or down.”

Starting his new field of study in 2021 amid COVID proved challenging. 

“I see the COVID pandemic as a historical and life-altering event that we can reflect on. Although you can communicate with the lecturer during online lectures, there is a massive difference in communicating via this method compared to attending a physical lecture and speaking to someone in person.

“I am an 'old school' kind of person who prefers to sit in a lecture and ask questions in person, so it was a big shift and adjustment to switch to online learning. One needs to be very self-disciplined and focused to not be distracted and fall off the track. I found the lecturers and tutors to be very helpful in going the extra mile in conducting lessons, assignments and tests.”

Asked about his future plans, he said: “I don't really know yet. My main aim for doing BCom is to gain the theoretical knowledge and understanding of economics. After I complete my degree, I may look for a job in the finance industry or combine it with my experience in project planning and specialise in project finance. I will see as the future unfolds. Who knows? I could even become a lecturer at UWC’s EMS academic department. I don't have a destination just yet, but I will see where this journey takes me.”