Skip to main content

Unit information: Applied Public Policy Analysis in 2015/16

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 Applied Public Policy Analysis
Unit code ECONM1019
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, Finance and Management
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This course provides an understanding of the economics of the provision of public services. These services are often financed by government but may be provided by private, not for profit or state providers. The topics addressed include the use of incentives in contracting for public services, the impact of competition and choice, the role for non-for-profits, contracting out and privatistion, and market and government failure in core areas of the welfare state. The course covers both theoretical and empirical material and potential implications for policy design are kept in mind throughout.


The aim of the course is to introduce students to a number of different approaches used by economists to evaluate government policy. An emphasis of the course will on applied examples of policy analysis, covering a wide range of government interventions – from climate change mitigation to welfare reform.

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 Information

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 Information

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

  • Layard, R. and Glaister, S. (2003) Cost benefit analysis , Cambridge University Press, Introduction
  • Ravallion, M (2001) 'The Mystery of the Vanishing Benefits: An Introduction to Impact Evaluation'
  • Blundell, R. and Costa Dias, M. (2002) Alternative approaches to evaluation in empirical microeconomics , CEMMAP working paper CWP10/02
  • Angrist, J & Pischke, J (2008) Mostly Harmless Econometrics, Princeton University Press