Robert Gardner lectureOn Tuesday 13th October, St Mary’s welcomed influential economist Robert Gardner as part of the Sixth Form Lecture Programme to speak to staff, students and guests on 'The Housing Market and the Value of Economics'.

Robert joined Nationwide in 2010 as Chief Economist where he and his team provide economic analysis and advice to key decision makers in Nationwide and he often appears in the media to report on recent developments in the housing market. Prior to joining Nationwide, he worked as Head of Macroeconomics at RBS and previously held positions at Barclays and HM Treasury.


Robert started by sharing his expert insights into the housing market, explaining the variety of reasons why housing is important to the wider economy and the particular characteristics that make it unique compared to other goods. He illuminated our understanding of the reasons behind rising house prices by discussing the myriad of reasons for growing demand compared to the inability of supply to keep up. He then used this insight to analyse recent developments in the UK housing market, comparing the relentless rise in prices between 1995 and 2007 to the fall in prices caused by the financial crisis and exploring the reasons why the UK did not suffer as significantly as other countries.

By analysing a range of economic indicators, he then explored current issues in the UK housing market. First, he discussed the extent to which conditions were in place to see history repeat itself, with another period of sustained house price rises and what the consequences of this are likely to be. In particular, home ownership is at its lowest level for 30 years and is expected to fall further, with younger age groups particularly hard-hit and a growing divide between homeowners and those in the private rented sector. Second, he shone a light on the disparity between affordability in different regions of the UK, highlighting the exceptionally low affordability in London and the reasons behind it.

He concluded by explaining what his role involves on a day-to-day basis and the sheer variety of it. Above all, he stressed the importance of developing good communication skills. The ability to explain complex concepts with clarity to colleagues, clients and the media is an immensely valuable and highly sought-after skill, so girls should look to develop and showcase their communication skills at every opportunity.

Robert’s lecture inspired us to see that, although the housing market is notoriously difficult to analyse, it is well worth the effort. It affects the economy in a whole host of different ways and is fundamentally important in our lives. Furthermore, the process of seeking to understand the stories behind the data, to make predictions about future trends and to debate different perspectives is a highly enjoyable and rewarding pursuit.