BA Modern Language and Business & Management (Chinese) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Economics for Public Policy

Course unit fact file
Unit code ECON20431
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the role that economics plays in helping to form and evaluate public policy. We will discuss the role of the government in the economy, current policy issues, and the role that economics plays in helping to provide evidence to inform policymakers and the public about the merits and likely impacts of different policy choices. We will highlight the way that economics can help us to better understand the inherent trade-offs that are involved in taking decisions over taxation, spending, and regulation. Emphasis will be placed on developing student's analytical skills and the ability to apply economic tools to critically evaluate policy options.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Principles of Microeconomic Theory 1: Consumers, Welfare, Production and Costs ECON10171 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Macroeconomic Analysis 1 ECON10181 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Microeconomics 1 ECON10221 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Macroeconomics 1 ECON10241 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Macroeconomics 1 ECON10252 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Microeconomics 1 ECON10331 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Pre-Requisite: (ECON10171 OR ECON10221 OR ECON10331) AND (ECON10181 OR ECON10241 OR ECON10252)

(ECON10171 or ECON10221 or ECON10331) AND (ECON10181 or ECON10241 or ECON10252)


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.     Provide an introduction to the evaluation of economic policies.

Learning outcomes

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

Demonstrate an understanding of the criteria for successful microeconomic public policy interventions.

Show understanding of the reasons for the variation in policy interventions over time and in different contexts.

Evaluate critically policy proposals, including demonstrating an awareness of sources of empirical evidence.

Express clear arguments about policy questions.

Recall and communicate, effectively and quickly, key concepts in the economics of public policy, drawing on their basic properties and shortcomings, in a dynamic professional environment


We consider questions including:

What is the size and scope of government in economic activity? What are the rationales for government intervention in the economy?

Who is in poverty in the UK? How do we measure poverty? What policies does the government use to try to reduce poverty?

How unequal are the economic resources in the economy distributed? What role does the government play in redistributing resources between individuals at any point in time, and over an individual's lifetime?

When do markets fail to provide the optimal outcome and how does the government try to correct these market failures?

What are some of the current challenges facing governments and how do they try to address them?

How can we tell when a policy is effective and when it is a waste of resources?

Teaching and learning methods

Synchronous activities (such as Lectures, Review and Q&A sessions, and tutorials), and guided self-study


Employability skills

Analytical skills
Oral communication
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

20% Mid-term exam

30% Group exercise

50% Final exam

Feedback methods

Students will receive feedback in tutorials and on assessed work.

Recommended reading

Gruber, Jonathan, Public Finance and Public Policy plus various readings to be made available via Blackboard


Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Griffith Unit coordinator

Additional notes

For every 10 course unit credits we expect students to work for around 100 hours. This time generally includes any contact times (online or face to face, recorded and live), but also independent study, work for coursework, and group work. This amount is only a guidance and individual study time will vary

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