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Unit information: Markets, Government and Public Policy in 2014/15

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Markets, Government and Public Policy
Unit code SPOL30021
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Wilson
Open unit status Open
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

None

School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description

The aim of this unit is to introduce students to some of the key economic concepts that inform alternative ways of organising both the provision and the finance of public services. The first part of the unit considers the theory of markets and the way economists think about allocating (scarce) resources between alternative uses. It will consider issues of efficiency and equity and the nature of different types of government intervention and provision. The second part of the unit applies these ideas to a number of policy areas, including health care and education. The course then examines key elements of recent public service reform, including choice, competition and league tables, and explores how economics has influenced thinking in this area. It ends by putting this in the context of current government policies for public service reform.

Unit aims:

  • To provide a critical introduction to a range of key economic ideas that can be applied to the analysis of social policy;
  • To demonstrate the way in which economic thinking can be used to examine key policy issues;
  • To introduce students to changes in the nature of provision and finance of public services in the UK and explore how such changes are informed by economic ideas.

By the end of this unit students should be able to:

  • Explain the way in which markets allocate resources and give an account of the conditions under which market allocations are efficient;
  • Assess, using economic concepts, the relative merits of different mechanisms for addressing social policy objectives;
  • Demonstrate the way in which key economic ideas can be applied to the analysis of at least one specific policy area;
  • Give an account of the way in which the structure and management of public services has been changing during the last two decades and explain the thinking behind these changes.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit students should be able to:

  • Explain the way in which markets allocate resources and give an account of the conditions under which market allocations are efficient;
  • Assess, using economic concepts, the relative merits of different mechanisms for addressing social policy objectives;
  • Demonstrate the way in which key economic ideas can be applied to the analysis of at least one specific policy area;
  • Give an account of the way in which the structure and management of public services has been changing during the last two decades and explain the thinking behind these changes.

Teaching details

Lectures and seminars.

Assessment Details

Assessment will be against the programme criteria defined for the appropriate level.

Formative assessment: One 2000-2500 word essay

Summative assessment : Level H - 3 hour unseen exam

Reading and References

  • Le Grand, J, Propper, C and Smith, S (2008) The economics of social problems, 4th edition, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan
  • Glennerster, H (2009) Understanding the finance of welfare: what welfare costs and how to pay for it, 2nd edition, Bristol: Policy Press
  • Bellinger, W (2007) The economic analysis of public policy, London: Routledge
  • Barr, Nicholas (2004) The economics of the welfare state, 4th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Flynn, N (2007) Public sector management, 5th edition, London: Sage
  • Stiglitz, J (2000) Economics of the public sector, New York: WW Norton

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