Frequently asked questions for Economics

We asked the Department of Economics some questions about what it's like to study with them. Here's what they said.

We are adapting our teaching methods and spaces in accordance with the latest COVID guidelines and therefore the information below may be subject to change.

What makes this department at the University of Bristol unique?

We are unique in offering the combination of:

  • A strong academic reputation
  • Innovative teaching with a really broad range of options allowing you to take courses in accounting, finance and management even if you are doing single honours.
  • And, according to a government-commissioned study, the biggest boost to earnings of any degree programme in the country.

Studying economics at Bristol, you will become skilled in understanding economic concepts and in applying formal models and econometrics tools to test behavioural predictions using real-world data. The skills you learn at Bristol will help you to become an innovative and resilient graduate who can thrive in a rapidly changing world.

How does the research at the school benefit the experience of the students at the school?

Bristol has one of the leading economics department in the UK. Our research is internationally recognised for its originality, significance and rigour for delivering real-world impact.

We achieved a 100 per cent 4* world-leading rating for research impact in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014). This means you’ll be taught by world-class academics who are using their research to make real change.

We integrate examples of cutting-edge research into many of the courses that we teach undergraduates. This was something our external examiners commented positively on.

Most of our students do their own extensive empirical research project in their final year. Topics range from herding in financial markets, returns to education, inequality, immigration and economic development.

Our students are well-prepared for some of the most prestigious MSc courses nationally and internationally.

What does the school do to welcome students when they first start at Bristol?

We have a programme of welcome week activities. In the past, this has included a number of talks and group-based challenges.

Students meet their personal academic tutor and soon settle into lectures and classes.

The Economic, Finance and Management student society runs a buddy scheme, matching first-year students with those from older years. And it organises social and sporting events – as do the wide range of other student societies across the university.

What is the first year timetable like for this course?

Economics students normally take three units per term and these are typically taught through a combination of two to four hours of lectures and small-group classes per unit, per week. The exact style of delivery will vary according to the most appropriate style for the unit at the time.

In the first year, students cover core units in economic theory as well as mathematics and statistics which lays strong foundations for the study of econometrics (the application of statistical methods to data to estimate economic models).

There may also be further optional units or core units in other subject areas.

In addition, students have the opportunity to talk with their lecturers and class tutors weekly during office hours. Students can also benefit from:

  • revision sessions at strategic points over the year
  • personal tutor support
  • employability sessions
  • regular student seminar series with visiting speakers.

Where can I find out more about the detailed structure and content of the degree programmes?

For more detail on course structure, visit our “Why Choose Economics at Bristol?” page and take a look at course structure videos, as well as more content from both staff and students.

What support does the school offer to new students?

All students have a personal academic tutor they can speak to for support in their studies. The school also has a senior tutor team who can spend more time supporting students who may require pastoral support.

This is in addition to the university’s wellbeing and study skills teams who are all available to help students settle into university life and study.

Students often comment positively on the support provided by academics across the Department.

How will the course set me up for my future career?

  • Economics graduates are among the highest-paid graduates (along with medicine) (anlysis of IFS, 2018).
  • Bristol graduates are the fourth most targeted by top UK employers (High Fliers, 2020).

Hear more about how these degrees prepare you for your career in the introduction video from our Head of Economics.

Are there any employers or other initiatives that the school works with for industry placements?

The Professional Liaison Network co-ordinates a range of initiatives connecting students with external partners providing opportunities for students to find out more about what it might be like to work as an economist.

Students can attend insight talks, apply for internships designed to run alongside their studies and participate in the mentoring scheme which matches our students with professional economists.

Watch our Mentoring video to hear from students who have taken part in this scheme.

This economics-specific programme is in addition to the extensive support provided by the careers service who provide access to – and support for – the range of internship and graduate opportunities offered by major employers. Not to mention the student societies which also host careers fairs and alumni talks.

What do graduates go on to do after studying this course at Bristol?

The analytical and quantitative skills you develop on your degree are highly valued by employers and our graduates go on to enjoy a wide choice of careers.

Many choose to go into Finance, Accounting or Consultancy with firms such as Goldman Sachs, RBS, JP Morgan, KPMG and Lloyds Banking Group.

Some head straight to industry with firms such as Google, while others choose to pursue careers in public policy and government departments such as HM Treasury and the Department for International Trade.

Many of our students have also gone on to postgraduate study at leading institutions all over the world, including Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Copenhagen Business School, Paris School of Economics and Erasmus University.

You can hear more about our graduate destinations.

What opportunities are there to study abroad as part of this course?

Usually, most of our Economics programmes (with the exception of BSc Economics and Maths) allow students to spend a year studying abroad.

For students preferring a shorter global experience, there are also a range of summer abroad opportunities which in the past have included both cultural trips and those with a specific focus such as the International Leadership Programme.

Find out more about opportunities to study abroad.

What are the facilities like on campus that students will use to study this course?

As well as University-wide facilities, our students benefit from other specialist facilities.

Students have access to Bloomberg Professional from our financial trading computer room, allowing them to become familiar with the software used throughout the financial service industry globally.

How many hours (on average) are required outside of lectures for additional work and study?

On average students take three units per term and are expected to do roughly eight hours of independent study for each unit, each week.

Students use this time for a variety of activities such as preparatory work for lectures and classes, completing assignments and essays and wider reading.

Students choose when, where and how to do this, with many choosing to work in small study groups.

How do assessments work for the department?

Students are assessed through a combination of exams (typically in January and May/June) and coursework over the course of their degree. The exact balance of assessment type varies according to the combination of units chosen.

Most of our final-year students do a dissertation. This is worth the equivalent of two taught courses and runs throughout the whole of the final year.

What would you say are the main differences between studying at school and study at university?

To succeed at university, you need to be independent and self-motivated with the tenacity to tackle the challenges you come across.

There are many new, exciting opportunities to take part in and enjoy but there can also be times when you find material difficult or things don’t quite go the way you planned. In these circumstances, it’s about having the self-discipline to put a plan in place to assess the problem and improve.

The good news is that from lecturers and librarians, and tutors to wellbeing advisers, there are plenty of people here willing to help you.

Our programmes are designed to be challenging. University is not about beating the exam; it’s about developing the skills you need to become an innovative and resilient graduate who can thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Even if you have studied economics before, you will find our approach is different. It will be more maths-based and with more emphasis on data and econometrics (using statistical tools to estimate economic models).

You may also be surprised at what a broad subject economics is – you will have options to study development economics, behavioural economics, public economics, international economics, corporate finance and management science.

What are examples of final year projects/dissertations that students have worked on when they study this course?

Students get to choose from a number of broad subject areas.

This year’s topics included:

  • studying herding in financial markets
  • estimating the returns to education
  • studying the effects of immigration
  • understanding countries’ economic growth
  • looking at land reform and economic development
  • exploring the economics of crime.

Within these broad topic areas, students develop their own research ideas and use economic analysis and data to produce high-quality 25-page papers.

Is there anything I should check out to familiarise myself with the subject matter before I would start the course?

In the first year, we follow The Economy from the innovative core econ project, developed in response to the many criticisms faced by the discipline in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. Whether or not you have studied economics before, you will find it useful to familiarise yourself with the opening chapters before you start your programme.

In addition, it never hurts to keep up to date with news and current affairs. Also, don’t let your maths skills go rusty. We will teach you maths and stats in the first year but it wouldn’t hurt to refresh yourself on differentiation, integration, algebra, constrained optimisation and your stats.

Anything else I should know about?

We are very sorry that you can’t visit us in person – do spend time looking at the videos online. We have tried to give an impression of what studying economics is like. These are difficult times to make important decisions.

Economics provides a really valuable set of tools to make sense of the world – we will be providing regular economic analyses of the coronavirus pandemic via our student blog. Please keep an eye out if you are interested.

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