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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Economic Issues in Public Policy (PGSP11246)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe aim of this course is to familiarise students of public policy with relevant economic issues. The course is split into three main sections. Section 1 discusses the assumptions underlying core economic thinking and introduces students to core concepts and measures required to understand how orthodox economic approaches conceptualise people's motivations and behaviour and subsequently how we should think of societies. Section 2 then explores how these ways of economic thinking manifest in four concrete areas of economic policy that states engage in. In section 3 we then investigate the connections between those specific issues to understand how the contemporary dominant ways of economic thinking affect states' economic policies in a systematic fashion.
Course description The course is relevant for all students interested in public policy and a critical understanding of what it means to engage with economic questions in this context. The course is accessible for students with no prior training in economics, as any concepts used will be introduced to the students. However, the course is also highly relevant for students who have had training in economics before, as the core is not about the training in classic economic principles but a critical engagement with the underlying assumptions. Crucially the course will help students appreciate how using economic principles can be useful for certain types of policy analyses, but will also enable students to assess the limits of economic approaches to understanding the behaviour of actors in policy contexts. At the end of the course students will be able to i) understand fundamental economic concepts useful for policy analyses, ii) be able to critically appraise the assumptions made using orthodox approaches, iii) apply discussions about economic issues to specific areas of policy making and iv) situate specific policy debates in larger contemporary debates about the economy from multiple perspectives. The final assignment will allow students to formulate a research question on a particular topic of their own choice to apply the knowledge gained in the course to a concrete interest of theirs.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  32
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 25% mid-term paper (1500 words) for which students will be given a choice of three different tasks and which will engage with part 1 of the course and the conceptual ideas discussed in it.
75% final paper (3000 words) for which students will have to formulate their own research question and answer the question in the paper.
Feedback Students will have the opportunity in the final four weeks of the course to practice writing research questions on an online forum with feedback from the course organiser. In addition students will be able to meet the course organiser for a consultation about their paper plans ahead of the final assignment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To become familiar with the key concepts and terms used in debates around economic issues in public policy.
  2. To be able to develop an analytical framework for critically appraising public policy approaches in economic terms.
  3. To demonstrate a critical understanding of issues around measuring ¿the size of the state¿.
  4. To demonstrate an ability to critically appraise arguments that try to situate policies within a state-market discourse.
  5. To be in a position to critically discuss the application of economic theories to contemporary public policy issues.
Reading List
In part 1 of the course readings will include texts that engage with questions about economic systems (e.g. Mirovski), assumptions in microeconomic thinking and human behaviour (e.g. Frey & Stutzer) and macroeconomic approaches (e.g. Stiglitz). In the second section of the course students will engage with current research papers engaging with four specific policy issues and the economic issues related to them. In the third section of the course students will engage with material that discusses how current economic policies (such as debt reduction and austerity) are reflective of systemic characteristics, in particular following the financial crisis of 2007/8 (e.g. Krugman, Blyth, MacKenzie).
Barr N. (2001) The Welfare State as Piggy Bank, Oxford: OUP.

Barr N. (2004) The Economics of the Welfare State (4th edition), Oxford: OUP.

Begg D., Fischer S. and Dornbusch R. (2003) Economics (7th edition), McGraw-Hill. (Chapters 1-3)

Davis E (1998) Public Spending, London: Penguin.

Le Grand J, Propper C and Smith S (2008) The Economics of Social Problems, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Glennerster H and Hills J (1998) The State of Welfare (2nd edition), Oxford: OUP
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Jan Eichhorn
Tel: (0131 6)51 2921
Course secretaryMs Nicole Develing-Bogdan
Tel: (0131 6)51 5067
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