Current usage of finance-related simulations in UK higher education. Neil Marriott and Siew Min (Amy) Tan University of Winchester

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1 Current usage of finance-related simulations in UK higher education Neil Marriott and Siew Min (Amy) Tan University of Winchester

2 Contents Section Page Table of contents List of figures 3 List of tables 3 1. Introduction 4 2. Methodology Secondary Research Informal Interviews 7 3. Results Overview of financial simulations Overview of financial simulations 9 Bloomberg 9 Thomson Reuters 9 TraderEx 9 Stock-Trak Virtual trading website Investment societies Results from formal interviews 11 Benefits of using simulations 11 Barriers of using simulations Conclusion 12 Acknowledgements 13 References 13 Appendix One: Total HE students 17 2

3 List of figures Figure 1: Students growth rates since Figure 2: Kolb Learning Loop (continuous). 6 List of tables Table 1: Growth rates of total HE students... 4 Table 2: Growth rates of full-time undergraduate students 5 Table 3: Growth rates of full-time postgraduate students... 5 Table 4: A snapshot of the use of financial simulations in a selection of UK universities 9 Table 5: Top 25 university league table at 28 June

4 1. Introduction This report outlines the usage of simulations in the teaching of Finance in UK higher education. An analysis of data provided by Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) indicates that the number of students studying Finance programmes in the UK has increased significantly since (See Figure 1 and Tables 1 to 3) and continues to grow. Figure 1: Students Growth Rates since Growth since 1996/97, Finance, 211% Finance Accounting Business & Administrative Studies Other subjects All subjects Growth since 1996/97, Accounting, 54% Growth since 1996/97, Business & Administrative Studies, 61% Growth since 1996/97, Other subjects, 38% Growth since 1996/97, All subjects, 42% 4

5 Tables 1 to 3 summarise the student growth rates in different subject areas and undergraduate and postgraduate level. Table 1: Growth rates of total HE students Total HE Students Growth Since Ten years growth (since ) Five years growth (since ) Finance 211% 177% 61% Accounting 54% 53% 18% Business and Administrative Studies 61% 45% 18% Other subjects 38% 15% 5% All subjects 42% 20% 7% Table 2: Growth rates of full-time undergraduate students Full time undergraduatesunde rduate Growth since Ten years growth (since ) Five years growth (since ) Finance 236% 250% 73% Accounting 81% 81% 27% Business & Administrative Studies 53% 46% 20% Other subjects 33% 24% 12% All subjects 37% 28% 14% Table 3: Growth rates of full-time postgraduate students Full time postgraduates Growth since Ten years growth (since ) Five years growth (since ) Finance 997% 288% 82% Accounting 267% 100% 60% Business and Administrative Studies 344% 157% 67% Other Subjects 85% 47% 23% All subjects 120% 66% 32% 5

6 The growth rates in Finance are significantly greater than Accounting, Business and Administrative Studies, and all other subjects (see Appendix 1 for more information), highlighting the popularity of the subject area in UK higher education. Finance, a highly theoretical subject, involves understanding complex mathematical models, which students can find very challenging. This is especially difficult for those students without finance or mathematical background and academics that teach Finance can face many pedagogic challenges to ensure that their students achieve the required learning outcomes of their programmes. Students learn in different ways. Some learn by experimenting while others can learn in more abstract ways. Kolb (1984) classified learners into four categories: accommodators, divergers, assimilators and convergers. Kolb (1984) also postulated that there are four stages of learning that form a repetitive and continuous cycle, see Figure 2. Figure 2: Kolb Learning Loop (continuous) In the process of learning Finance, developing abstract concepts is particularly important. The formulation of abstract concepts enables students to bridge the gap that can exist between theory and practice. Simulations offer an opportunity to introduce concrete experiences on which students can observe and reflect, and offer the scope for active experimentation. Marriott (2004) claimed that students learned from making mistakes; however, making mistakes in the real world of finance would be costly. Therefore, it is important for students to learn from their mistakes in an unthreatening simulated real world environment (Marriott, 2004, p. 68). 6

7 The use of simulations in teaching enhances students learning experiences as well as encourages students engagement. With advances in technology, educators are benefiting from using the state-of-art simulation programmes/software in teaching. The use of simulations in teaching is therefore a topical area for pedagogic research, but the majority of previous pedagogic research studies have focused on the use of simulations in teaching Accounting (Marriott, 2004; Wynder, 2004 ), Business (Seethamraju, 2011; Baglione and Tucci, 2010; Lamont, 2001) and other unrelated areas (Surdam, 2009; Corbeil and Laveault, 2011). Despite the increasing number of students studying Finance, surprisingly, there is comparatively less pedagogic research attention given to the use of simulations in this area. Therefore, this report aims to obtain a snapshot of current usage of finance-related simulations in UK higher education and to provide a brief overview of key packages available for classroom use to inform academic decisions about the potential use of simulations to enhance the teaching of this growing topic. 2. Methodology In order to achieve the objectives within the limited time frame available, several data collection methods have been used. This includes secondary research of an extensive web-based survey as well as informal discussions with tutors from UK higher education that teach Finance using simulations. 2.1 Secondary Research An extensive web-based search allows for the collection of secondary data as time constraints prevented the administration of a questionnaire survey to gather data. Desktop research is useful in gathering the readily available information published on universities official websites. Keywords and phrases such as trading simulation in Finance, Finance simulations in MSc, Finance simulations in BSc, simulation games in teaching, etc. were input into internet search engines. However, these keywords might be included in universities websites as well as other corporate websites. In order to restrict the search results to only UK higher education websites, site:.ac.uk was added to the keywords. For example, with the keywords trading simulation in Finance site:.ac.uk, the search engine will show only websites with the.ac.uk domain. However, there are drawbacks of desktop research. Some universities provide detailed information on the use of trading simulations on their programme pages including the type of simulation software used and level of study, but others provide only very brief and general information. Data collected are not comprehensive to include all universities in the UK, but are limited to the universities websites that are produced by the search engine. Therefore this research only provides an overall snapshot and is not a comprehensive evaluation. 2.2 Informal Interviews Interviewing tutors from other universities that use different trading simulations was useful in gathering more detailed data. Tutors from various UK universities who attended the 6 th Annual European Equity Markets Microstructure Workshop were asked to provide an anonymous interview. From this workshop, more specific data on the use of trading simulations in education were collected, from short interviews as well as informal discussions with the delegates. However, as the majority of the participants were the users of TraderEx Trading Simulations, this limits the findings external validity, although the internal validity is very high. 7

8 3. Results 3.1 Overview of financial simulations For the purpose of this report, a snapshot of current usage of finance-related simulations in UK higher education was obtained. Thirty universities were found by the search engine using the keywords entered. These universities incorporate trading simulations in their programmes either at undergraduate or postgraduate level, or both. As shown in Table 4, most of the finance-related simulations are used at postgraduate levels, and the most commonly used simulations including finance databases are Bloomberg, Reuters, TraderEx and Stock-Trak. These are described briefly in the following section. Table 4: A snapshot of the use of financial simulations in selected UK universities 8

9 3.2 Overview of financial simulations Bloomberg The Bloomberg electronic trading platform allows users to obtain real-time financial data and trade securities. Students benefit from the comprehensive financial data such as analysis, news and stock quotes provided by Bloomberg. Some universities disclose the use of Bloomberg on their programme pages: Students within the School will have exclusive access to the Bloomberg platform within the lab. Along with data, the platform will provide students with access to all the news, analytics, communications, charts, liquidity, functionalities and execution services that you will need to put knowledge into action. (Queen Mary, University of London, 2012) Our close links with Bloomberg and other financial institutions have enabled us to set up a simulated trading room, giving you direct experience of how a typical dealing room operates. Drawing on economics, finance and accounting, the course helps you to acquire an in-depth knowledge of key financial concepts, theories and models. (London Metropolitan University, 2012a) Thomson Reuters Thomson Reuters is business data provider with comprehensive information contents ranging from accounting and financial to healthcare, science, and others. Users of Reuters 3000 Xtra enjoy the benefits of accessing real-time financial data and news. To encourage more Reuters users, Bristol Business School at the University of the West of England provides free training sessions and organises Reuters tests for their students and staff. Another Reuters user, the University of Bradford, provides their postgraduate (MSc) students the opportunity to gain a Reuters Trading Certificate on a optional basis. TraderEx Unlike the massive financial information provided by Bloomberg and Reuters, TraderEx is a purposely designed electronic trading system for teaching simulations. The software provides participants with hands-on experience in making tactical trading decisions, and implementing them in different market environments (TraderEx, LLC, 2010). In order to provide students an interesting and invaluable trading experience, some universities use more than one trading simulation software: Students on the MSc in Finance make extensive use of the trading room, including Reuters 3000 Xtra and the TraderEx market simulation software, in a specially designed module on market structure and trading systems. (Cardiff University, 2012) University College London uses TraderEx to run the trading simulations in order-driven and quotedriven markets. The University also uses Reuters 3000 Xtra, Power Plus and Datastream to analyse realtime and historical data (University College London, 2008). Stock-Trak This market simulation software provides users (students) with $500,000 in their virtual brokerage account. Students are then being able to use this virtual cash to create portfolio from over 20 global exchanges. One of Stock-Trak s users, Durham University, comments on the use of simulation on their official webpage: Our students are very enthusiastic about it! They are really impressed with the simulation and consistently comment on the valuable learning experience it provides. It helps develop their security selection skills, improves their investment awareness and looks great on their CV. (Durham University, 2012a) In the ICMA Centre at the University of Reading, Stock-Trak is used along with Thomson Reuters and ICT Traders (the University s own simulation software platform) for achieving integration between theory and practice. 9

10 3.3 Virtual trading website To transfer the knowledge they gain from in-class finance-related simulations, students trade on virtual online trading websites. These virtual trading websites are not necessarily used in the teaching of Finance and can represent extra-curricular activity. Bullbearings is the UK s leading virtual online trading website (Bullbearings, 2012). Although only a few universities mention using Bullbearings in their official websites, students or staff of UK universities who play trading games on Bullbearings.co.uk are automatically representing the universities in the stock trading league table. Table 5 provides a list of the top 25 university teams, although there are many more, possibly as many as 100, but this information is not publicly available for verification. Table 5: Top 25 university league table at 28 June

11 (http://www.bullbearings.co.uk/student.centre.php) 3.4 Investment societies An exploration of universities official websites also found that apart from embedded trading simulations in teaching and assessment, some universities have established investment societies to bring students who have similar interests in trading together. It should be noted that these societies are not restricted to students on Finance programmes. These universities include Queen Mary, University of London, University of Glamorgan, University of Nottingham, University of Cambridge and University of Strathclyde. At the University of Strathclyde, the Investment Society encourages students to trade the financial markets on a virtual investment website. This is a great opportunity for students to get hands-on experience in investing without bearing the risks (University of Strathclyde, 2012). Investment societies can add value to students learning experience as well enriching their learning profile. It also enables the participants to experience the pressures of real-time trading (Queen Mary, University of London, 2012). A professor from the University of Glamorgan said: Over 50 students attended the initial meeting about the investment society; this highlights the ambition of our students (University of Glamorgan, 2011). 3.5 Results from formal interviews The data from the informal interviews were recorded in the form of notes taken by the researcher. Information obtained from these interviews was categorised into two key issues: benefits and barriers of using simulations in teaching. These are discussed below. Benefits of using simulations One of the tutors from Cardiff Business School stated that simulations work well in achieving student engagement. In the past two years, he has used TraderEx trading simulations in teaching Market Structure and Trading Systems module at postgraduate level. Since the module content is closely related to the design of the software, the tutor found that TraderEx was ideal in engaging students in this teaching of this module. Cardiff Business School also uses TraderEx in an optional module at undergraduate level. The module was compulsory, but it is now optional. Only 75% of students selected this module and the tutor received positive feedback from students. The tutor is of the opinion that it would be better for this module to be compulsory in order to allow for more students to benefit from trading simulations. A former professor from London Business School shared his experience of using trading simulations in education. In order to encourage students to take simulations seriously in their learning process, this professor has incorporated TraderEx in teaching as well as assessment. In the assessment, grades were awarded on trading performance in the simulations and a self-reflection report. This grading scheme was adopted to ensure that students are not just playing the game, but that they understand the mechanism of trading. Barriers of using simulations The size of trading room and the number of participants seem to be common problems encountered by TraderEx users. Trading simulations normally take place in a trading room that hold 15 to 20 terminals. However, the numbers of students attending a seminar or workshop is normally more than 20. Therefore, there is a need to split the class into smaller groups for the purpose of trading simulations. This can have resource implications and can impact on the dynamics of the simulated market conditions. Another size issue is related to the design of the software. For instance, the maximum number of participants in a quote-driven market, at any one time, is limited to eight. Therefore, a tutor is required to run more than one simulation simultaneously for a class size larger than eight students, e.g. three simulations for a class of 24 students a challenging task. 11

12 There may be other barriers to using simulations in teaching Finance particularly relating to software installations. 4. Conclusion According to statistics provided by HESA, there are a significant number of students studying Finance in UK higher education, and this number has grown and continues to increase. In order to enhance the students learning in this subject area and to gauge their understanding, many universities incorporate finance-related simulations in their programmes. There are a wide range of simulations available and universities use simulations differently. Some of these have been identified and discussed in this short report. Despite some practical problems encountered by tutors, this initial investigation finds that trading simulations add value to students learning experiences. As this is a preliminary report on current usage of finance-related simulations in UK higher education, there remains scope for future research to overcome the limitations of this short study. A questionnaire survey would be useful to gather more comprehensive data from UK HEIs, and case studies are also an ideal method to obtain more detailed information about the success of using simulations in Finance education. 12

13 Acknowledgements The researchers are grateful to the funding provided by the Higher Education Academy to enable this research to be completed. They are also grateful to the 6 th Annual European Equity Markets Microstructure Workshop participants for volunteering to take part in anonymous interviews. References Aston University (2012) MSc Investment Analysis. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Baglione, S.L. and Tucci, L.A. (2010) Using a marketing computer simulation to improve learning in a principles of marketing course. Review of Business Research. 10 (4), Birkbeck, University of London (2012) Programme structure. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Bloomberg L.P. (2012) Bloomberg. Available from: [20 June 2012]. BullBearings Ltd. (2012) Student Centre. Available from: [28 June 2012]. Cambridge University Students Union (2012) Societies Directory. Available from: [23 June 2012]. Cardiff University (2012) MSc in Finance. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Cass Business School (2012) MSc in Mathematical Trading & Finance. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Corbeil, P. and Laveault, D. (2011) Validity of a simulation game as a method for History teaching. Simulation and Gaming. 42 (4), Coventry University (2011) Simulated trading floor. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Coventry University (2012) Global Financial Trading MSc. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Durham University (2012a) Durham Trading Simulation. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Durham University (2012b) Finance Masters. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Heriot-Watt University (2012) Financial Mathematics MSc. Available from: [20 June 2012]. 13

14 Higher Education Statistics Agency (2012) Statistics - Students and qualifiers at UK HE institutions. Available from: [27 June 2012]. ICMA Centre (2012a) ICTrader Advanced Trading Simulation. Available from: [20 June 2012]. ICMA Centre (2012b) Welcome to the ICMA centre. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Koycheva, E. (2007) An Analysis of Northern Rock and the Credit Crisis. Richmond University Finance Society Newsletter. 4 (4). Available from: [20 June 2012]. Lamont, L.M. (2001) Enhancing student and team learning with interactive marketing simulations. Marketing Education Review. 11 (1), Liverpool John Moores University (2011) Undergraduate Factfile 2012 entry: Accounting and Finance BSc (Hons), BSc. Available from: [20 June 2012]. London Metropolitan University (2012a) Finance (BSc Hons single), [Online], Available from: [Accessed: ]. London Metropolitan University (2012b) Finance (MSc). Available from: [20 June 2012]. Marriott, N. (2004) Using computerized business simulations and spreadsheet models in accounting education: a case study. Journal of Accounting Education. 13 (1), Middlesex University (2012) BSc Banking and Finance. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Northumbia University (2012) Global Financial Management MSc. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Nottingham University Business School (2012) MSc Programmes Available from: [20 June 2012]. Queen Mary, University of London (2012) Queen Mary Trading and Investment Society. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Seethamraju, R. (2011) Enhancing student learning of enterprise integration and business process orientation through an ERP business simulation game. Journal of Information Systems Education. 22 (1), Stock-Trak (2012) Academic Stock Market Simulation Solutions. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Surdam, D.G. (2009) A sports franchise simulation game. Journal of Economic Education. 40 (2), Thomson Reuters (2012) Reuters. Available from: [20 June 2012]. 14

15 TraderEx, LLC (2010) TraderEx A trading and market simulation. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University College London (2008) MSc Financial Computing virtual trading floor. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Bedfordshire (2012) MSc Investment and Finance. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Birmingham (2012) Investments MSc. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Bradford (2012a) Finance (Specialist MSc) Degrees Available. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Bradford (2012b) MSc Finance overview. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Bradford (2012c) Global Finance and Banking (MSc) Degrees Available. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Brighton (2009) Finance and Investment BSc (Hons). Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of East London (2012) Programme specification for Investment Banking and Securities MSc. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Essex (2011) Prospective students MSc in High Frequency Finance and Trading. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Exeter (2012) Accounting and Finance postgraduate taught programmes. Why study a postgraduate Accounting and Finance degree at Exeter? Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Glamorgan (2011) Glamorgan students invest time in the trading room. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Glamorgan (2012) BSc (Hons) Finance (Top up). Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Glasgow (2012) Facilities and support. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Kent (2012) Developing Employability Skills. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Leeds (2012) MSc Accounting and Finance Kick-start your career with our Accounting and Finance Masters. Available from: [20 June 2012]. 15

16 University of Manchester (2012a) Bloomberg Professional. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Manchester (2012b) Accounting, Management and Information Systems (3 years) [BSc]. Available from: [10 December 2012]. University of Strathclyde (2012) Get involved. Available from: [23 June 2012]. University of Surrey (2012) Discover your trading potential. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of the West of England (2012) Reuters Trading Room. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Westminster (2012) Postgraduate courses. Available from: [20 June 2012]. University of Winchester (2012) MSc Accounting and Finance. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Warwick Business School (2012) Course content. Available from: [20 June 2012]. Wikipedia (2012) Bloomberg Terminal. Available from: [21 June 2012]. Wynder, M. (2004) Facilitating creativity in management accounting: a computerized business simulation. Journal of Accounting Education. 13 (2),

17 Appendix One: Total HE students Finance 9,253 9,199 9,073 9,060 10,005 10,375 14,995 Accounting 23,791 23,508 23,037 22,500 23,120 23,935 27,020 Business & Administrative 222, , , , , , ,550 Studies Other subjects 1,500,814 1,544,517 1,586,919 1,597,570 1,719,885 1,804,985 1,848,550 All subjects 1,756,179 1,800,064 1,845,757 1,856,330 1,990,625 2,086,075 2,175, Finance 15,830 16,335 17,835 20,690 21,575 23,910 27,855 28,790 Accounting 29,525 30,855 31,050 31,310 31,690 33,030 34,600 36,640 Business & Administrative 300, , , , , , , ,290 Studies Other subjects 1,902,020 1,941,040 1,982,820 2,000,560 1,942,385 2,008,855 2,077,050 2,077,580 All subjects 2,247,440 2,287,540 2,336,110 2,362,815 2,306,105 2,396,050 2,493,415 2,501,300 17

18 Contact us The Higher Education Academy Innovation Way York Science Park Heslington York YO10 5BR +44 (0) ISBN: The Higher Education Academy, 2013 The Higher Education Academy (HEA) is a national body for learning and teaching in higher education. We work with universities and other higher education providers to bring about change in learning and teaching. We do this to improve the experience that students have while they are studying, and to support and develop those who teach them. Our activities focus on rewarding and recognising excellence in teaching, bringing together people and resources to research and share best practice, and by helping to influence, shape and implement policy - locally, nationally, and internationally. The HEA supports staff in higher education throughout their careers, from those who are new to teaching through to senior management. We offer services at a generic learning and teaching level as well as in 28 different disciplines. Through our partnership managers we work directly with HE providers to understand individual circumstances and priorities, and bring together resources to meet them. The HEA has knowledge, experience and expertise in higher education. Our service and product range is broader than any other competitor. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Higher Education Academy. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Editor. Such permission will normally be granted for educational purposes provided that due acknowledgement is given. To request copies of this report in large print or in a different format, please contact the communications office at the Higher Education Academy: or 18

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