Economic Policy

Module Code ECNU414
Semester Autumn
Prerequisite ECNU311 OR ECNU312
Level 10
Credit Value 20
Module Co-ordinator Dr Willem Sas

30% Coursework, 10% group presentation & 60% examination

Both of the assignments focus on current real-world policy debates and require critical thinking and extensive reading of the academic literature, as well as other, relevant documents. The final exam is focused on the material covered throughout the lectures.


The primary aim of the module is to study the role of the government in the economy. Gaining insight into the theory of public finance, we critically assess real-world systems of government as well as various policy issues.

Public economic policies – such as the provision of public goods, redistribution, or the correction of market failures by use of taxation, regulation or social security – will be analysed using the framework of ‘welfare economics’. In this light, a general overview of (UK) government spending and revenue raising is provided. We also introduce elements of ‘political economy’, to obtain a broader understanding of the decision-making and incentives of politicians and bureaucrats, as well as the potential government failures these incentives can bring about.

The allocation of spending and tax instruments across the various levels of government in multi-tiered countries will also be discussed, to evaluate the UK devolution process and Brexit against this backdrop of ‘fiscal federalism’.

Emphasis is placed on developing communication skills that will be useful both in dissertations and when going for job interviews.


By the end of the course, students should be capable of:

  • showing - in a balanced and well-founded way - why government intervention in the market economy is (or isn't) necessary in a given context;
  • explaining how a government can intervene to reach its objectives, such as maximising economic efficiency and optimizing social welfare;
  • evaluating some important instruments (like taxes) a government uses to reach its objectives;
  • by means of simple models, explaining the behavior of the government itself;
  • placing ongoing or recent debates on government spending, taxation, debt, austerity, or devolution into economic context (for the UK as well as internationally); by indentifying the costs and benefits of policy choices.


Be up-to-date with current (economic) policy issues and debates, following economic and political news.

Rosen, H.S. and Gayer, T.: Public Finance, 2014 (10th ed.), Mc Graw Hill.


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