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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Economics : Economics

Undergraduate Course: Global Priorities (ECNM08025)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Economics CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to bring students closer to answering an important question: what should humanity's priorities be? Every year, governments, foundations, and individuals spend hundreds of billions of dollars to improve the world. But even this kind of money isn't enough to solve all of the world's problems, so we must prioritise. Doing this well is critically important: it is plausible that better prioritisation could save tens or hundreds of thousands of lives per year, could help lower extinction risk by between 1% and 10%, could raise global economic output by more than 10%, or could otherwise considerably improve our condition.
Course description This introductory course is intended to give students context about the current state of knowledge about the world's biggest problems and how they might be solved. It has no prerequisites and assumes no prior knowledge beyond what all students will have learned in secondary school.

Specific topics covered will include: global health (including mortality from easily preventable causes), extinction risk (including both natural risks such as asteroid impacts but also anthropogenic risks such as engineered pandemics or malignant artificial intelligence), economic development, population ethics, and more.

There will be facts to learn in this course, but they are important facts which you'll be glad to know, and there will be resources to support your learning.

Global priorities research is inherently interdisciplinary, using techniques from economics, philosophy, maths, and from other social sciences. This course is (mostly) taught by economists, so there will be an economic emphasis, but no prior economics exposure is assumed or required.
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 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Other Study Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 136 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) Optional reading group sessions will be run throughout the semester.
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 60 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Seminar/tutorial attendance and participation - 20%
Coursework (individual or group project) - 20%
Written Exam - 60%
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have had the opportunity to develop and demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the current consensus on the nature of world's most pressing problems and what can be done do to solve them.
  2. Have had the opportunity to develop and demonstrate research and investigative skills such as problem framing and solving and the ability to assemble and evaluate complex evidence and arguments.
  3. Have had the opportunity to develop and demonstrate communication skills in order to critique, create and communicate understanding.
  4. Have had the opportunity to develop and demonstrate personal effectiveness through task-management, time-management, dealing with uncertainty and adapting to new situations, personal and intellectual autonomy through independent learning.
  5. Have had the opportunity to develop and demonstrate practical/technical skills such as, modelling skills (abstraction, logic, succinctness), qualitative and quantitative analysis and general IT literacy.
Reading List
The course has a combination of one book plus a mixed set of readings that will mostly be provided on a lecture-by-lecture basis. The book (which will mostly be used in the second half of the course) is:

Toby Ord¿s The Precipice (ISBN: 9781526600233)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordsaltruism,global health,extinction risk,economic development
Course organiserDr Sean Brocklebank
Tel: (0131 6)50 6955
Course secretaryMr Sean Barr
Tel: (0131 6)50 6661
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