EC314-Public Economics

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Pre-requisites: EC201 Intermediate Microeconomics
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2021/2

Module Convenor: Dr Vivien Burrows

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module provides students with the opportunity to explore the rationale for government intervention in the economy, to assess what the role of the government should be, and to analyse a wide range of policy issues.

The module aims to examine the rationale for government intervention in the economy. The first part of the module will look at the justification for and limitations of government intervention in the economy, combining microeconomic theory with applications to contemporary policy issues. The second part of the module will focus on the revenue side and analyse some of the principles involved in tax design and the equity and efficiency implications of taxation.

Assessable learning outcomes:

At the end of the module students should be able to:

  1. discuss the main justifications for and the limitations of government intervention in a market economy;

  2. apply economic theory to analyse public policy issues and compare the outcomes of alternative policies;

  3. discuss the means used to finance government programmes and their economic implications;

  4. contribute to the contemporary debates concerning the capabilities and limitations of the government against the market sector.

Additional outcomes:
Students will have the opportunity to further develop their oral and written communication skills through classroom discussions and written assignments.

Outline content:

Topics to be covered include: theories of the public sector; state ownership, privatisation and regulation; healthcare; social insurance; taxation and deficit financing. 

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars. Lectures will be used to introduce the material, which will be discussed in more detail in the seminars. Students are expected to prepare for the seminars by doing the recommended reading and to actively participate in classroom discussions and presentations. Office hours are available for students to consult the lecturer on an individual basis.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 12
Seminars 8
Guided independent study: 180
Total hours by term 200 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 50
Set exercise 50

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

  • One 2,000 word written assignment due in the Autumn term (worth 50%).

  • One set exercise (take-home exam) worth 50% due at the beginning of the Spring term (end of week 1).

  • For visiting students in Reading for the autumn term only who wish to earn full credits, an alternative written assignment may be set in place of the take-home exam if students are unable to complete the take-home exam. 

Formative assessment methods:

Students will be expected to deliver a short group seminar presentation and to actively participate in seminar discussions, which will provide opportunities for formative feedback. Students will also have the opportunity to submit a plan for their first assignment and receive feedback on this.

Penalties for late submission:

The Support Centres will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:
A minimum overall mark of 40%.

Reassessment arrangements:

Re-assessment for all modules takes place in August of the same academic year. Re-assessment is by coursework only

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books:  None

2) Specialist equipment or materials:  None

3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:  None

4) Printing and binding:   There may be optional costs associated with photocopying or printing sources listed on the reading list relating to this module. Please note that the Library charges approximately 5p per photocopy.

5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:  None

6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:  None

Last updated: 30 July 2021


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