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Unit information: Programme Evaluation in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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 Programme Evaluation
Unit code ECONM0002
Credit points 15
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Valente
Open unit status Not open




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


This course will look at a number of econometric approaches to policy evaluation, including social experiments and “natural experiments” (difference-in-differences, instrumental variables, propensity score matching and regression discontinuity design). We will look at the usefulness and limitations of alternative methods in the context of a number of applications, including the minimum wage, welfare-to-work policies and estimating returns to education.


The aim of the course is to introduce students to a number of different approaches used by economists to evaluate government policies.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will become familiar with a wide range of techniques for evaluating public policy ex ante and ex post and they will be able to understand and interpret the results of econometric studies of public policy analysis.

Teaching details

approx 20 contact hours split between lectures (10 hours), exercise classes (5 hours) and student presentations (5 hours). Students will be required to participate in class discussions and group exercises.

Preparation for assessment – 35 hours

Independent learning – 95 hours

150 notional hours learning in total

Assessment Details

Summative assessment:

The course is assessed by means of a two-hour exam in the summer and a 2000 word project (to be handed in at the end of the term).

The exam counts for 70 per cent of total marks and the project for 30 per cent.

For the project , the students are required to prepare in groups for a class presentation in which they outline – in theory – how they would conduct a policy evaluation using one of the methodologies they have learned as part of the course (difference-in-differences, regression discontinuity design, instrumental variables, randomized controlled trial). They are given written feedback on the presentation and then write up the proposed policy evaluation as an individual piece of work for formal assessment. As a result of doing some of the preparation as part of a group, there is some overlap in content, but experience has shown that more able students can demonstrate that they have a better understanding of the evaluation technique and its application.

Formative assessment:

In addition to the group presentation, the students prepare short-answer questions for a class each week. They will also take a short test at the end of the course which will be marked and returned to them with feedback.

Reading and References

There are specific resources for each topic, but the following covers all the methods in the unit:

  • Cameron and Trivedi (2005), “Treatment Evaluation”, chapter 25 in Microeconometrics: Methods and Applications, pp 860-896. Cambridge University Press. Available online from University Library’s website.

Examples of applications are:

Duflo, E., Banerjee, A., Shawn, C. and L. Linden (2007) “Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(3):1235-1264, (see also NBER Working Paper No. 11904, 2005).

Card, D. and Krueger, A. (1994) “Minimum wages and employment: A case study of the fast food industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania”, The American Economic Review 84(4) 772 – 793