School of Economics

Vidhura Tennekoon

Vidhura Tennekoon
Subject: MSc Economics and Econometrics

Graduated: 2006
Place of work: Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Position: Assistant Professor

Vidhura worked as an engineer for eight years before entering the world of finance. In 2005, keen to advance his career at the Central Bank in his native Sri Lanka, he moved to Nottingham with his wife to study economics.


How did you first become interested in economics?

Entering university to do engineering was highly competitive in Sri Lanka, whereas it was relatively easy to become an accountant. But while working as an engineer after finishing my first degree I felt that the accountants in the company were earning more, enjoying a relatively easy life and had more power than the engineers – even though it was an engineering organisation.

That made me want to switch to a business-related career, so I completed an MBA and joined the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, where most of my colleagues were economists with specialised knowledge. To catch up with them and climb the ladder there I needed a related qualification, and economics was the best bet.

Why did you choose to study at the School of Economics at Nottingham?

My wife had already lived in London for several years, so the UK was our preferred destination. Nottingham was the highest-ranked of the institutions that offered me a place, and it also had the specialism I wanted - econometrics. It wasn't a hard decision.

What are your fondest memories of your time at the school?

I have many, but the most precious is the birth of our first son. My wife was three months' pregnant when we moved to Nottingham, and she gave birth at the Queen's Medical Centre in the spring of 2006. Every day he reminds me of our life at Nottingham.

I also remember how much the school helped us to settle and acclimatise. We took advantage of many of the programmes available to international students. The International Family Link programme, in particular, was awesome. My wife completed a free English course, which included several field trips, and made many friends. 

We also lived very close to the campus, which made it easy for us to attend cultural events and exhibitions, and visited lots of local attractions, including Nottingham Castle, the Major Oak and Wollaton Park.

Tell us about your career path since you graduated.

After completing my MSc I returned to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and worked as an economist in the economic research department. Two years later, by which time I was head of the money and banking division, I left for the US to begin studying for a PhD at Washington State University.

Since then I've remained in the US and pursued an academic career. I've worked in the economics departments of three universities: Eastern Washington University, the University of Oklahoma and Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, where I'm currently an Assistant Professor. 

In addition to my research activities, I teach a microeconometrics course for PhD students, a two-course sequence of topics in applied microeconomics for masters students and a money and banking course for undergraduate students.



What advice would you give to someone considering or about to start a course at the school?

Don't miss out on the social life! It was difficult for me - I had a family, which was wonderful - but for the vast majority of people my advice would be to focus on studying but not forget everything else that's going on.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Ever since I was young I've enjoyed explaining things and finding answers to questions that don't seem to have clear answers. So an academic job with a good mix of research and teaching is ideal for me, and I like my work very much.

How have your experiences at the school helped shape your career?

As I said, although I had a passion for economics, my background was in engineering. Some of the top schools in the UK refused me a placement on their masters programmes because I didn't have sufficient formal training in economics, but at Nottingham work experience counted in lieu for more mature candidates. I ended up earning a masters degree with a distinction, and that - along with reference letters from faculty members - led me to a PhD programme and, later, to a life in academia.

Is staying in touch with your fellow alumni important to you?

Of course. A lot of it is to do with nostalgia, although networking with fellow economists is always helpful!

And have you been back to the school since you graduated?

Sadly, it's been very difficult to find the time. But my son is especially keen to see the city of his birth again, so we hope to visit at some point during the next couple of years.




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