BAEcon Accounting and Finance

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Topics in Education Economics

Course unit fact file
Unit code ECON33032
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


In this course we will consider questions including:

  • Why is education important for individuals, families, the economy and society?
  • How are skills accumulated over the life-course and especially in childhood? When and why do skill inequalities open up and what consequences do they have?
  • What role do parents, schools, universities, employers and individuals themselves play in the process of skill accumulation? What are the main drivers of their behaviour?
  • What are the economic arguments for and against public intervention in education at different points in the life-course?
  • What are the most commonly used intervention strategies in early childhood, during the school years, in post-compulsory education, and in work? What does the evidence say about how effective there are? How reliable is this evidence?


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Advanced Statistics ECON10072A Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Advanced Statistics ECON10072B Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Advanced Statistics ECON20072 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Econometrics ECON20110 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Quantitative Methods ECON20222 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Microeconomics 2 ECON10232 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Microeconomics 2 ECON20232 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Principles of Microeconomic Theory 2: Markets, Prices and Strategy ECON10172 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
(ECON10072 or ECON20072) and (ECON20110 or ECON20222) and (ECON10232 or ECON20232 or ECON10172)


The course unit aims to:

  • Introduce students to the key debates on the importance of education and the economic arguments for public policy interventions in education.
  • Introduce students to major theories and evidence on how skills form and what drives the behaviour of key actors in this process (individuals, parents, teachers etc).
  • Acquaint students with the key pieces of empirical evidence on how effective different education interventions are.
  • Improve students’ skills in critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of empirical evidence in education economics.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students are expected to:

1. Be able to demonstrate a good understanding of:

  • Economic arguments for why education is important.
  • Key features of workhorse theoretical models of the skill production function.
  • Overview of evidence on the process of skill formation, as well as determinants of and returns to different investments in different skills.
  • Rationale for public intervention in education
  • Commonly used education intervention strategies at different points in the life-course and evidence on their effectiveness

2. Be able to use economic reasoning and awareness of relevant evidence to:

  • Engage critically with empirical academic research on topics in education economics.
  • Critically evaluate education policy proposals
  • Present orally and in writing coherent arguments about education policy questions.

3. Improve a range of practical skills including:

  • Research, problem solving, analytical, and critical thinking skills
  • Academic communication skills: writing essays, discussing
  • Non-academic communication skills – communicating economic concepts to non-academic audiences orally and in writing.

Teaching and learning methods

Synchronous activities (such as Lectures or Review and Q&A sessions, and tutorials), and guided self-study. Tutorials will be used to review key points in the lectures, develop technical skills needed to understand the key models and empirical evidence covered in the course, and develop communication skills (oral and written).

Assessment methods

40% Group work assessment (Recorded 10 minute presentation and 1,500 word policy brief aimed at policy makers on findings of academic papers on assigned question)

60% Exam (end of term, take home for 24 hours - several short answer questions including problems + 1 essay question. Total 1500 words)

Feedback methods

Formative feedback opportunities:

  • Class feedback
  • Office hours
  • Revision sessions
  • Discussion boards
  • Feedback on recorded presentations

Recommended reading

Becker, G.S., 1993. Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis, with Special Reference to Education, third ed. University of Chicago Press, Chicago Print.

Francesconi, M. and Heckman, J.J. (2016) “Child Development and Parental Investment: Introduction” Economic Journal

Bjorklund, A. and Salvanes, K. “Education and Family Background: Mechanisms and Policies” Handbook of the Economics of Education Vol 3, Ch. 3

Glewwe, P. and Muralidharan K. (2016) “Improving Education Outcomes in Developing Countries: Evidence, Knowledge Gaps and Policy Implications” Handbook of the Economics of Education Vol 5, Ch. 10.

No single textbook provides the necessary material for this course. The course itself will be taught using a combination of textbook chapters, elementary journal articles, and working papers. A full reading list with the readings for each topic will be made available at the beginning of the course and through the a Library Reading List .

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

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