MSc Global Development (Development Management)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Economic Analysis of the Public Sector

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI61091
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Global Development Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The unit aims to:

  • Provide students with the theoretical knowledge, and complement with applied examples, for them to understand the main issues underpinning current issues in economic analysis of the public sector
  • Examine the size and scope of the public sector in developing countries.
  • Study the role of the public sector in the development process, through a focus on key areas such as taxation, expenditure, education and welfare.
  • Consider the role and effectiveness of different public policies in the context of the economic interactions existing between government, markets, and households in developing countries, whilst providing a series of applied examples from developing countries (especially sub-Saharan Africa)
  • Develop analytical skills in relation to economic analysis of the public sector at the national and international level.


Teaching and learning methods

Lecture, Tutorials and Blackboard

The course unit will be delivered via weekly 2 hour lectures from Dr David Lawson, who has more than 25 years of applied development experience, having worked and lived in several developing countries, and advised more than a dozen developing country governments on issues of public policy.  He has extensive experience in the economic analysis of public sector policies – most recently having advised a series of donors including UNICEF, DFID and the World Bank. Guest lectures/seminars (TBC) also complement the series.

Seminars/tutorials will require reading and preparation beforehand.

A high level of student participation will be required from students throughout the course. This will be essential for the preparation of the assignments. All lecture slides and video support file containing a wealth of case material covering the syllabus will be on Blackboards to support learning.



Knowledge and understanding

  • Critique the main principles of public sector provision and the relative merits of states and markets
  • Outline, assess, and provide examples of, the key economic issues of public policy design, adoption, evaluation -  with a particular focus on notions of equity and efficiency.
  • Understand the basis (theoretical motivation) for evaluation of the economic performance of the public sector and be able to apply this to ‘real world’ examples, using development economics principles as a base.
  • Undertake comparative assessments of public sector performance

Intellectual skills

  • To appreciate the intellectual origins of public sector policy theory and be able to analyse, from an economics perspective, development policy that has been implemented across, and within, developing countries

Practical skills

  • To gain a critical appreciation of a range of approaches to analysing key policies.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

The course will help you develop the following skills

  • General research skills
  • Planning and evaluation skills – allowing students to understand processes that underpin the public policy processes and impact evaluation.
  • Critical problem solving skills.
  • Motivation and self-directed learning.
  • Communication skills and self-development and awareness

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Other: Formative Essay (500 words) - Practice essay to be undertaken half way through the module and to be discussed in tutorials (non-assessed)

Feedback methods

There will be many opportunities for formative feedback in seminar discussions. Oral feedback will be provided in response to class discussions. Summative feedback will be provided on assessed coursework.

Recommended reading

Specific readings will be provided at the start of each lecture, but notable reading includes:

  • Stiglitz, J (2000) Economics of the Public Sector, WW Norton, 3rd edition.
  • Lawson, David, David Hulme and Lawrence Ado-Kofie (2017) , “What Works for Africa’s Poorest”, Practical Action

What Works for Africa's Poorest Children: From Measurement to Action

Gender, Poverty and Access to Justice: Policy Implementation in SSA

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 124

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Lawson Unit coordinator

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