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School of Social Sciences

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BAEcon Economics
Learn how the social sciences can help you to understand today's world.

BAEcon Economics

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Economics for Public Policy

Unit code ECON20431
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


See course Blackboard pages.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
ECON10041 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
ECON10081 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Economics for Public Policy Pre-requisite: Either ECON10041 or ECON10081

Students must have already taken at least one of the following course units (compulsory Pre-Requisite):

  • ECON10041 or
  • ECON10081 or
  • ECON10171 or
  • ECON10181


The aims of the course are to:

  1. Explore the rationale for public policy interventions in the economy.
  2. Provide an overview of a wide range of areas of applied microeconomics used in public policy, including relevant historical and international experience.
  3. Discuss the role of economics in the political process.
  4. Provide an introduction to the evaluation of economic policies.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the criteria for successful microeconomic public policy interventions.
  2. Show understanding of the reasons for the variation in policy interventions over time and in different contexts.
  3. Be able to evaluate critically policy proposals, including demonstrating an awareness of sources of empirical evidence.
  4. Be able to express clear arguments about policy questions.




Lecture 1: The State and Markets

  • This lecture introduces the course, looks at the scope of public policies, and covers the welfare economics of government intervention.


Lecture 2: State Ownership & Industrial Strategy

  • This lecture covers the theory and history of the shifting boundary of state and private production, linking those shifts to specific market failures.


Lecture 3: Regulation & Competition

  • This lecture follows on from the discussion about public versus private ownership in the previous one, considering competition and regulation as alternative approaches to achieving public policy aims.


Lecture 4: Nudge Policies

  • This week’s lecture looks at policies intended to address the ‘market failure’ of non-rational choice – the increasingly popular ‘nudge’ policies based on behavioural economics.


Lecture 5: The Welfare State and Income Distribution

  • One of the most obvious ways the state affects individuals’ economic well-being is by providing an economic safety net in the shape of the welfare state.


Lecture 6: Collective Choice

  • Previous lectures have suggested that markets and states are not mutually exclusive ways of organizing the economy. They are not exhaustive either: this lecture looks at other types of economic institution.


Lecture 7: Government Failure

  • The lectures so far have been looking at when markets do and don’t work well, at public policies to correct market failures, and at some non-government collective solutions to problems caused by market failures.
  • This week’s subject looks at the question of the boundary between market and state from another important perspective: government failure.


Lecture 8: Evaluating Economic Policies

  • The issues of ‘government failure’ suggest implementing policy might be harder than it seems.
  • How is all the theory about when and why a government should intervene with a specific policy put into practice?
  • This final lecture covers the vital topic of policy appraisal and evaluation.

Lecture 9: Revision Session

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures - will provide basic material including use of PowerPoint presentations (although note taking will be necessary). All of the lecture presentations and additional material will be posted on the course website.

Workshops - will ask students to discuss lectures and other course material based on pre assigned reading.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Oral communication
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written exam 80%


  • A written policy brief of 1500 words.
  • To be submitted by 2pm on Wednesday 9th November. Must be submitted via Turnitin.
  • Worth 20% of final mark.


Final Exam:

  • 1.5 hours.
  • Choose 2/5 essay questions.
  • Worth 80% of final mark.

Feedback methods

  • An essay question from a previous exam to be prepared in groups and presented during tutorials and the revision session.
  • Feedback will be provided on outline plans for essay questions, to be completed in 45 minutes outside class.
  • Office hours.

Recommended reading

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 18
Practical classes & workshops 5
Independent study hours
Independent study 75.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Diane Coyle Unit coordinator

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