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Unit information: Understanding global problems using data: inequality, climate change and the economy in 2021/22

Unit name Understanding global problems using data: inequality, climate change and the economy
Unit code UNIV10008
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Birdi
Open unit status Open




School/department Centre for Innovation
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

A trailer is available for this unit here.

This unit introduces students to the global economy through practical work using global economic data. It develops key data analytical skills relevant to understanding and evaluating some government and local policies. The analysis emphasises three broad themes. These are:

  • sustainability and climate change;
  • inequality;
  • aspects of the international economy such as innovation, public health, economic crises

The unit will develop core skills of data literacy, the representation of data, the distinction between causation and correlation, the use of natural experiments, survey and experimental data and other key aspects of a mature understanding of data.

The unit is based around group-based exercises that develop a familiarity with data handling and presentation through Excel. There are no pre-requisites for the unit as it is aimed at students with no prior experience in these areas.

This unit therefore aims to:

  • Enable students to understand how economics can contribute to an understanding of global challenges such as inequality, the effects and impact of innovation, and climate change;
  • Develop confidence in the use and understanding of data including the manipulation of economic data using Excel, the presentation of data, types of data, understanding of causation and correlation and the use of natural experiments in economics;
  • Develop confidence in the formulation of well-evidenced and articulate contributions to debates on policy questions in the areas studied

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Interpret key data such as those often presented in the media, for example, on GDP, unemployment, growth, inequality, climate change.
  2. Distinguish between causal statements and correlations, and judge whether conclusions based on economic data are justified.
  3. Synthesise data analysis and some key economic modelling approaches to articulate evidence-based evaluations of policy.
  4. Clearly communicate and present data-based arguments on policy questions to academic and general public audiences, using multimedia appropriately.
  5. Use Excel to conduct basic data analysis and prioritise and present results.

Teaching Information

The course will be pitched at students with little or no mathematical or data analysis background and introduces methods of understanding and analysing real world data related to important contemporary global issues.

The course will be taught in three "blocks" each devoted to one of the following themes: inequality, sustainability, and the global economy. Throughout the course, we will focus on both global problems and their manifestations within Bristol.

For each block a number of multimedia resources will be made available and students will be guided through these resources with help from tutors online. These resources may include videos, audio files, reading lists, spreadsheets, web references, data sets and other learning resources.

Students engage with these online resources and then participate in data analysis together with other students and staff during synchronous online workshops. For students unable to attend these sessions, there will be recordings made available and there are also online office hours each week.

Delivery of this unit is online.

Assessment Information

1.Individual Assessment: Written Report (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

The individual assignment will be a written report of 5 A4 pages based on material from the course as a whole

2. Group project: Multimedia Resource (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

The group assignment involves students producing a short multimedia resource such as a video podcast, BBC style news article or a blog analysing material from blocks 1 and 2 of the course.

Some of the key assessment criteria for both assessments revolve around how students are able to communicate their analysis appropriately for a target audience (related to ILOs 4 and 5)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. UNIV10008).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.