They call it the dismal science, but it is the future of economics that looks dismal in Australia right now.
Sydney University's Business School jettisoned its economics discipline into the Faculty of Arts two years ago.
That is after it earlier ejected the less orthodox Political Economy discipline into Arts, along with Government and International Relations.
Now the University of Western Sydney is looking to get rid of economics altogether.
The University has presented staff in its School of Business with a formal change proposal that would see an end to the bachelor of economics and several other programs.
In its formal change proposal, UWS says it will cut 29 full-time positions, around 10 of which will come from the discipline of economics and finance becoming simply finance.
One of those potentially in the firing line is arguably UWS's most publicly prominent academic, economics professor Steve Keen.
"I've had hedge funds funding me, I've had the Institute for New Economic Thinking (supported by billionaire George Soros) funding me, I've got an international profile and I find it ridiculous that the university is simply deciding, oh well, let's let all that go," he said over his mobile phone from a roadside in Mexico.
"And of course a major source of decent publicity for Western Sydney has been my activities in the last five years." However, aside from the loss of publicity the university might suffer, Professor Keen says it will be sacrificing intellectual rigour in an area where it has been leading to this point.
"[Getting rid of the economics discipline is] doubly or triply ironic because, not only is it an economic crisis that's dominating the world's decision making today, but people realise there's a need for an alternative perspective on economic theory and economics at the University of Western Sydney has prided itself on giving a broad pluralist education to students, teaching them both the mainstream and non-mainstream views for the last 15 years," he added.
"Of course, I work there, and I'm one of the few economists acknowledged as having seen this crisis coming, so it's bizarre that the university can ignore all that and simply propose to cut the department completely, simply as a way of coping with costs." UWS has told staff the change is needed because business school enrolments have fallen markedly over the past two years, and look set to fall sharply again in 2013.
Associate Professor Brian Pinkstone also teaches economics at UWS, and he places much of the blame for falling student numbers on a change to Federal Government policy that encouraged greater competition for students between universities, and resulted in lower entry requirements.
"Large universities like the University of Sydney and New South Wales have dramatically lowered their ATAR (Australian tertiary admission rank) cut-off entry points," he observed.
"And that, this year particularly, has had a big effect in dragging students away from making UWS as a first preference." Career concerns Professor Pinkstone is concerned that the loss of economics from UWS may reduce career options for young people from Western Sydney.
"We take in students with relatively low ATARs and they end up with the best outcomes in the university in terms of employment prospects," he added.
"Our best students are going to our honours program where every year, one, two or three might get into the Reserve Bank or Federal Treasury, State Treasury, etcetera.
"They move into the highest echelons of government economic policy advice, and in competition with Sydney University and the other sandstone universities." One of those prospective honours students is Alison Lim.
She learnt about the university's proposal second-hand.
"When I first heard about it I was quite in shock and I didn't quite believe it, and I had to call up the honours coordinator for confirmation," she said.
Ms Lim says she has been working towards doing an honours year since first year, and was concerned all the preparation would be wasted, after the university's original proposal included a plan to scrap economics honours from next year on.
UWS now looks likely to keep economics honours for next year.
But beyond that, there will not be much economics left according to Professor Pinkstone.
"We'd end up with a situation where there was only one economic subject, which would be introductory economic principles," he said.
Economics 'invaluable' to business Many in the business community are worried about the long-term impact of cutting back economics in business degrees.
Andrea Staines is a non-executive director of ASX 200-listed company QR National, and several other smaller firms.
She did a bachelor of economics as her undergraduate degree and says it has been "invaluable" in her career as a director and gives business leaders a broader view.
"Business degrees are becoming just very focused on the here and now, and on sort of the first or second jobs that the student would take out of university," she observed.
"And what is missing is the longer-term skill set, the broader skill set." UWS management met with staff on Monday afternoon as part of formal consultation around the proposal.
People at the meeting say both the university's deputy vice-chancellors were present and fielded questions.
The dean of the business school told the meeting the plan had been under formulation since January.
In response to the ABC's queries, UWS said in a statement that," no decisions will be made on courses and staffing until this formal consultation period is completed." You can follow Michael Janda on Twitter .