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University of Exeter Business School

The Economics of Financial Crises

Module titleThe Economics of Financial Crises
Module codeBEE2040
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Gary Abrahams (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This model explores the causes of the recent financial crisis and in particular the lesson which can be learnt. You will gain an understanding of the mechanistic causes of financial crises and in particular the processes of securitisation, Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDOs) and Credit Default Swaps (CDS) and at the end you will have a good understanding of both the narrow and wider causes of the 2007/8 financial crisis. You will be taken through a series of case studies, including the collapse of Northern Rock Bank in the UK. These case studies will provide you with some context and understanding of some of the governance failures which occurred around the crisis. You will be exposed to a series of guest lecturers from practitioners who worked in senior positions during the financial crisis. These practitioners will recount their experiences during the financial crisis and will give you additional perspectives on the crisis.  The course draws on the personal experiences of the lecturer who worked right at a leading investment bank on a debt trading floor in the lead up to the crisis.

The assessment structure on this module is subject to review and may change before the start of the new academic year. Any changes will be clearly communicated to you before the start of term and if you wish to change module as a result of this you can do so in the module change window.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The overall aims of the course are to provide you with a good understanding of the broad causes of the latest financial crisis but in particular to focus on what are the lessons that can be learnt so that they might not be repeated. In particular the course will expose you to the teachings of behavioural economics as it can be applied to the financial crisis and will give you a much better understanding of not only why the crisis occurred but what can be done to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. critically review and discuss seminal papers and books written on the financial crisis;
  • 2. explain the technical innovations around the financial crisis including how collateralized debt obligations, mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps and repos work and how they impacted the financial crisis;
  • 3. explain the concept of financial leverage and deleverage and how this impacted the financial crisis;
  • 4. critically review and analyse the role that the various actors (rating agencies, bankers, regulators) played in the financial crisis.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. critically evaluate and formulate a well-founded answer to a specific topical research related question.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. deliver coherent arguments in written work;
  • 7. demonstrate analytical and critical thinking skills.

Syllabus plan

The syllabus plan is incorporated in the descriptor above. In summary the 12 weeks of the course will cover

  • A detailed analysis of the causes of the 2007/8 financial crisis and an explanation of how collateralised debt obligation s, mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps and repo work and the role that such financial innovation played in the crisis itself.
  • An analysis of case studies around the crisis such as the collapse of, Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers.
  • How Financial leverage is achieved including an explanation of how investors can “short” and the consequences of both leverage and subsequent deleverage had on the financial markets.
  • Guest lectures from the industry. These change on a year by year basis but normally three to four guest lecturers are invited to give a speech about their specific experiences around the crisis and the lessons which they think can and should be learnt.

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 Activity3612x3 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity44x1 hour tutorials
Guided Independent Study110Reading of text books, academic articles, viewing selected documentaries and preparing for tutorials.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay questionStudents will be given a practice essay to hand in, which will be marked and feedback provided. The essay will not count towards their final mark.1-7Students will be given written feedback on the essay
Tutorial questions1 hour in class discussion (2-3 hours preparation)1-7In class feedback

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
Written Review251,250 words1-7Written feedback
Essay753,500 words1-7Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written Review (25%)Written Review (1,250 words, 25%)1-7August/September Reassessment Period
Essay (75%)Essay (3,500 words, 75%)1-7August/September Reassessment Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

The recommended text books are:

Cassidy, J. (2010). How markets fail: The logic of economic calamities. London: Penguin.

Shiller, R.J. (2008). The subprime solution: How today's global financial crisis happened and what to do about it. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

A wide range of books and articles will be provided to students in addition to relevant audio visual and documentaries.

Key words search

financial crises, bank runs, asset price bubbles

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

None. Cannot be taken with BEE3051.

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date