In our masters program Law and Economics, this semester was a change from our usual schedule. Instead of having the normal nine-week semester as one period with three courses (the standard here at UU), our semester was broken up into three smaller blocks, and in each one, we took one or two smaller, more intense and specific classes, called Capita’s.
Out of 11 available choices, each student picked five. In the first block of three weeks we took one class, and in each of the second and third blocks, we took two classes (1-2-2). For my five classes, I chose to learn about:
- Economic and Monetary Union;
- Competition and Regulation Within the Authority;
- Blockchain and Financial Markets;
- Enforcement by EU Agencies; and
- Public and Private Enforcement of Financial Law.
When it came time to choose our Capitas, I was frustrated because they all sounded so interesting and relevant. I wanted to do all! In the end, I chose based on how I thought the Capitas would help me with the research for my thesis. Here’s what we did in each class:
Economic and Monetary Union:
This class focused on the pillars of the EU’s economic and monetary union, which are financial union (improving the rules for the financial sector), fiscal union (improving coordination of rules around national budgets, including sovereign debt and budget deficits), economic union (enhancing macro-economic policy coordination), and political union (improving dialogue in the processes of making and implementing EU rules). We wrote a research paper on one of the pillars.
Competition and Regulation Within the Authority:
This class involved working alongside the Dutch competition authority, Authority for Consumers and Markets (Autoriteit Consument en Markt; ACM), on an assigned policy area or question requested by a staff member of the ACM. My group completed our project on excessive pharmaceuticals prices in the Netherlands.
Blockchain and Financial Markets:
This class taught us about Blockchain technology, and how the finance industry can use it to improve financial services. We also learned how to consider privacy protection laws when dealing with Blockchain, as the most common type of Blockchain (Bitcoin) was made in a way that can conflict with these.
Enforcement by EU Agencies:
This class had an intense research project on an EU agency of our choice, and its enforcement strategy, looking at the agency’s successes, and possible improvements. My group studied how the European Banking Authority’s (EBA) enforces anti-money laundering rules. By the end of the three-week block, we found that the EBA doesn’t have enough enforcement power to be considered ‘strong,’ but also that so far, the EBA might not need strong enforcement power.
Public and Private Enforcement of Financial Law:
This class focused on learning about different types of enforcement used in the finance industry. We learned the pros and cons of using private enforcement, versus administrative enforcement, versus criminal enforcement, and talked about the biggest problem supervisors face: information (who knows about crime), and incentives (how to get them to share their information). At the end, we discussed whether, and how, sanctions like fines could make enforcement better in different situations, and in groups, made a short video discussing some of the above problems in a way we chose.
Thoughts on the Courses
My favourite courses were the ACM course and Enforcement by EU Agencies. These capita’s were very hands-on and we got a lot of discretionary room. Moreover, I could really use these capita’s as a basis for writing my thesis. I’d really give this as a tip for the future students. This is the time to get a lot of information already for your thesis, take advantage of that!
The ACM course, Competition and Regulation Within the Authority, was very different than any other course. On day one, we went to the ACM in Den Haag to hear about our topic from our ‘client’ staff member, and to learn more about the ACM itself. This made the course a really cool opportunity to learn from and network with ACM staff, and now I think I might want to work there someday. The staff member guided us through making our project/paper, and the final presentation gave us a chance show the entire class what we’d worked so hard on. I’m really proud of what my group accomplished here.
Enforcement by EU Agencies was similar for me. We didn’t get to actually go to agencies, but the professor helped us focus our research by having us give weekly presentations on our topic to the class. We also wrote a paper and a blog post for this class, and writing a blog post after the first paper draft, but before the final was due, helped us really figure out what was most important. I am super proud of the work we did in this class too.
The other courses I chose were very interesting, but as they did not fit as perfectly with my thesis topic. Therefore, I benefitted more from the other courses. I never thought, however, you’d know so much about one subject in three weeks. That’s why all subjects really surprised me and although they were intensive, I enjoyed them a lot.
Also, the different teaching styles were very fun. For example, in the caput ‘Public and Private Enforcement of Financial Law’ we had to make a video about a subject. I had never done this before, but it was an entertaining way to really master the subject.
Overall, these Capitas were really interesting and really valuable. On the other hand, mastering a subject in three weeks can be hard!
Even so, I am still really thankful I got to do these courses and to learn so much, but I will say this to next year’s students: when it comes to the Capitas, be careful with your time management!