Professor Margaret Stevens: Career and retirement



Margaret Stevens retired as Professor of Economics, and as a Senior Research Fellow of Lincoln College, in September 2022. Her contribution to the Department of Economics has been significant and long-lasting, including two periods as Head of the Department of Economics – in 2016-2019 and again in 2020-2021 – having previously served very successfully in several other administrative roles.



She devised and wrote the Maths Workbook for first-year undergraduates, and at least 7,000 first-year students will have used it over the two decades since it was introduced, and she is a founding member and trustee of the CORE Project that has re-conceived first-year undergraduate economics teaching, is used as part of the Introductory Economics course in Oxford, and has been adopted by many universities worldwide.


Margaret read Maths at St Hugh’s College, graduating in 1975, and then read for an MSc in Mathematics (Numerical Analysis) in 1976. She subsequently worked as a statistician at the Natural Environmental Research Council before earning a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and becoming a secondary-school maths teacher. She then switched to economics, reading the MPhil from 1989 to 1991 at Nuffield and then, in quick time, completing a DPhil in 1993 on “Some Issues in the Economics of Training”. Her research has covered training and human capital formation, foundational issues in search theory, and, more recently, fairness in university admissions. She has papers in the Economic Journal, the Review of Economic Studies, the International Economic Review, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Labor Economics, and Oxford Economic Papers. She was renowned as a teacher of economics, regularly being top of the MPhil teaching survey.


She was Fellow and Tutor in Economics at Trinity College from 1993 to 1997, Research Officer at the Department from 1997-2000, and then University Lecturer in Economics, and Fellow and Tutor in Economics at Lincoln College from 2000 to 2008. In 2008 she was awarded the title of Professor of Economics, and in 2016 she became Professor of Economics at the Department and a Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln. Along the way for the Department she was, successively, Admissions Coordinator for PPE, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Deputy Head. She twice served as Associate Head at the Social Sciences Division.


In all her positions Margaret has shown authority, calmness, fairness and a determination to improve things. She works out what is required and what the best way is to achieve desired outcomes. She is consultative and fair-minded. Margaret was always approachable for advice. Most importantly she gets things done. For example, for the Department she instituted a new career path to offset what had been seen as a lack of opportunities for career progression within the University. This was not done by imposition, but by broad consultation within the Department and the University, and was done speedily and successfully. We wish her all the best for her retirement and thank her for all her contributions to economics at Oxford.

It was obvious to everyone that Margaret was a fabulous administrator and leader. I'm not sure that everyone appreciated what a good economist Margaret is – much broader than most of us. If the faculty were all forced to take exams in the core subjects of macro, micro, and econometrics, Margaret might not come top in any one, but might well come top overall.

Margaret's dedication as a tutor and a supervisor were hard to match, and she quickly established herself as a very wise and public-spirited colleague.  I am immensely grateful for all of her contributions. We in the Department were lucky to have her at the helm for as long as we did.

Margaret and I worked together on the Department’s management team for more than a decade. I never ceased to be impressed by her energy and commitment to making the department work better for staff and students. Others may have wilted in the face of 800 years of Oxford tradition, but Margaret persevered.  A great colleague and a good friend. 

Margaret is an exceptional individual, always thinking of others and of ways to make things better.  Her energy and commitment seemed boundless at times when I thought she couldn’t possibly give any more – but she always did.  I learnt much from her and I think the world is a better place because of Margaret!