Skip to main content


Economics of Public Finance

Module description

Should the government combat climate change, and if so how? Can inequality be reduced without hindering economic efficiency? What should be done about the enormous long-run costs of social insurance programs, such as pensions and public health insurance or healthcare? How big of a role should a central government play in local education decisions? To begin to answer questions like these, we need a clear understanding of the role of government in the economy. This class is about developing such an understanding.

Pre-requisites: You should have intermediate microeconomics and intermediate macroeconomics successfully completed before taking this course (i.e., in your previous studies, you should have successfully completed courses roughly equivalent to, e.g., BEE2025 and BEE2026). We will build on concepts and methods typically covered in such courses, and they will enable you to do well in this class. Alternatively, a working knowledge of multivariable calculus and basic probability and statistics should also enable you to succeed.

Research use: To ensure the richest possible understanding, we will learn in three different ways: through economic theory, through examples and applications, and through empirical evidence. Each of these will be informed by published peer-reviewed research.

Interdisciplinary aspects: Virtually by definition, the issues of public finance and public policy are at an intersection of many fields within as well as outside economics. This class will be perfectly suited for interdisciplinary pathways provided the pre-requisites above are satisfied.

International perspectives: We will encounter a broad range of policy areas addressed by governments in the United Kingdom, the United States, and a number of other countries.

Employment considerations: A clear understanding of the role of public finances and public policies in the economy can be an asset in any labor market, including the financial sector, public service, and both academic and applied research.

Sustainability: We will use electronic resources whenever possible.

Full module specification

Module title:Economics of Public Finance
Module code:BEEM154
Module level:M
Academic year:2023/4
Module lecturers:
  • Professor Max Troshkin - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

This class aims at developing a clear understanding of the role of public finances and public policies in the economy.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate when the government should intervene in the economy.
  • 2. Propose how the government might intervene.
  • 3. Analyse the effects of those interventions on economic outcomes
  • 4. Explain why governments choose to intervene the way they do.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the role of public finances and public policies in the economy.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Critically evaluate public finance and economic policy issues.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities20Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities5Tutorials
Guided independent study125Reading, solving problems, preparing for assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
DiscussionsVaries1-6Verbal, written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Assignment 120Between 20 and 60 minutes1-6Written, verbal
Assignment 220Between 20 and 60 minutes1-6Written, verbal
Assignment 320Between 20 and 60 minutes1-6Written, verbal
Assignment 420Between 20 and 60 minutes1-6Written, verbal
Assignment 520Between 20 and 60 minutes1-6Written, verbal

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Assignment 1 (20%) Assignment 1 (20%)1-6August/September re-assessment period
Assignment 2 (20%)Assignment 2 (20%)1-6August/September re-assessment period
Assignment 3 (20%)Assignment 3 (20%)1-6August/September re-assessment period
Assignment 4 (20%)Assignment 4 (20%)1-6August/September re-assessment period
Assignment 5 (20%)Assignment 5 (20%)1-6August/September re-assessment period

Re-assessment notes

If a student passes the module overall, but fails one or more assessments, there will be no referral/re-assessment.

If a student fails the module, only the failed assessments will be re-assessed.

If one or more assessments are deferred, only the deferred assessments will be re-assessed.

Syllabus plan

  • Externalities and Public Goods
  • Social Insurance and Redistribution
  • Theory and Practice of Taxation

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Textbook examples:

  • Gruber J. Public Finance and Public Policy. Macmillan; 6th edition; 2019.
  • Connolly S, Munro A. The Economics of the Public Sector. Prentice Hall; 1999.
  • Atkinson AB, Stiglitz JE. Lectures on Public Economics. Princeton University Press; updated edition; 2015


Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Publicly available on-line databases.

Origin date


Last revision date