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Unit information: Economics of Education in 2018/19

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Unit name Economics of Education
Unit code EFIMM0042
Credit points 15
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Burgess
Open unit status Not open

ECONM1010 Microeconomics;

ECONM1022 Econometrics



School/department School of Economics
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit aims to help students apply their knowledge of economics and econometrics to the study of education, typically schools and universities. Topics will include general analysis of human capital formation, the role of family, school resources, teachers and pupils in raising attainment, the appropriate governance, regulation and market structure for schools, and specific issues with higher education. The course will use theoretical models of investment, incentive structure, and markets to gain insights for studying behaviour, but the course will focus more on empirical evidence, and in particular on causal studies. The unit aims to build in students an appreciation of the issues involved in education reform, the possibilities and the limitations.

Intended learning outcomes

This unit provides a thorough and in-depth treatment of the application of microeconomic analysis to schools and universities. The idea is that at the end of the course, students will have a sound grasp of the insights and evidence that economics can bring to the study of education; will understand the issues involved in designing an education system and in education reform; will be able to read, understand and critique economics research in education, and will have the tools to begin a basic research project in the economics of education.

Teaching details

The methods of teaching include lectures and classes. Lectures will introduce and explain the concepts, as well as their applications. Classes will provide the opportunity to discuss specific papers and ideas in more detail. Classes will also be used for student presentations on chosen topics.

  • 16 hours lectures
  • 8 hours classes
  • 30 hours preparation of essay
  • 2 hours final exam
  • 94 hours individual study

Assessment Details

Summative assessment: (a) 2-hour written exam worth 75% of the total mark. The exam will test the knowledge and understanding of the material. (b) One long essay (1500 words maximum) due in at the end of the Spring Term, worth 25% of the total mark. This will allow students to develop an argument at greater length and deepen their understanding of a particular issue.

Formative assessment: class participation and discussion in tutorials. These will provide further opportunities for feedback on the students’ progress.

Reading and References

There is no single textbook that covers the course, and the bulk of the reading will be scientific journal articles. Here are a few example readings:

  • Björklund, A. and Salvanes, K. (2011) ‘Education and Family Background: Mechanisms and Policies.’ Handbook of the Economics of Education, vol. 3, edited by E. Hanushek, S. Machin and L. Woessmann.
  • Burgess, S., Greaves, E., Vignoles, A. and Wilson, D. (2014) ‘What Parents Want: School Preferences and School Choice.’ The Economic Journal, doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12153.
  • Hanushek, E. and Woessmann, L. (2011) ‘The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement.’ Handbook of the Economics of Education vol 3, Edited by Eric A. Hanushek, Stephen Machin and Ludger Woessmann.
  • Jackson, C.K., Rockoff, J. and Staiger, D. (2014) ‘Teacher Effects and Teacher-Related Policies.’ Annual Review of Economics, August 2014, pp. 801-825.