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EC320: Economics of Public Policy

  • Atisha Ghosh

    Module Leader
15 CATS - Department of Economics
Autumn Module

Principal Aims

The module aims to provide a firm foundation of knowledge; equip students with tools of analysis; enable students to develop the ability to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired to the solution of selected theoretical and applied problems in the economics of taxation and of public expenditure, and in aspects of political economy.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module the student should be able to demonstrate general knowledge and understanding of public economics; demonstrate familiarity with some applications of economics that have been specific to the study of public policy; understand and manipulate simple economic models, and to read critically the empirical literature, in the area of public policy; apply critical analysis to the topics of the module, formulate concepts and hypotheses, and show how they are tested in relevant literature; review the relevant literature and evidence.


This course is concerned with understanding the role of government in the economy through taxation, expenditure and regulation. This course will typically cover both the classic topics in this area, such as the provision of public goods, the design of taxation, and inter-generational distribution, as well more modern themes. In particular, we will focus on three of these. First, we will look at the political economy approach to public finance, which stresses that governments are not benevolent dictators, but take decisions via a political process, and thus may themselves take inefficient decisions; thus, we should be aware of “government failure” as well as market failure. Second, due to globalisation, the international dimension in government decision-making is becoming more important, especially on the tax side, with issues of mobile tax bases and tax competition. Third, many countries (although, so far, notably, not the UK) are undergoing a process of fiscal decentralisation; we will examine the fiscal relationships between central and local government, a topic known as fiscal federalism.


Optional Module
LM1D (LLD2) - Year 3, L116 - Year 3, V7ML - Year 3, LA99 - Year 3, L100 - Year 3, L1L8 - Year 3, R9L1 - Year 4, R3L4 - Year 4, R4L1 - Year 4, R2L4 - Year 4, R1L4 - Year 4, V7MM - Year 4, V7MP - Year 3, L1P5 - Year 1, L1PA - Year 1, V7MR - Year 3, LM1H - Year 4, GL12 - Year 4, GL11 - Year 3, L103 - Year 4
Pre or Co-requisites
EC201 + EC202 or EC204.
Not available to non-final year students on Economics-based degrees.
Part-year Availability for Visiting Students
Available in the Autumn term only (1 x problem set – 12 CATS)


Assessment Method
Coursework (20%) + 2 hour exam (80%)
Coursework Details
One problem set (20%)
Exam Timing

Exam Rubric

Time Allowed: 2 hours

Answer TWO questions ONLY. All questions carry equal marks (50 marks each). Answer each question in a separate answer booklet.

Approved pocket calculators are allowed.

Read carefully the instructions on the answer book provided and make sure that the particulars required are entered on each answer book. If you answer more questions than are required and do not indicate which answers should be ignored, we will mark the requisite number of answers in the order in which they appear in the answer book(s): answers beyond that number will not be considered.

Previous exam papers can be found in the University’s past papers archive. Please note that previous exam papers may not have operated under the same exam rubric or assessment weightings as those for the current academic year. The content of past papers may also be different.

Reading Lists