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The University of Southampton

ECON3004 Public Economics

Module Overview

The objectives of this module are to introduce students to the major themes of public economics and to develop their skills in using microeconomic tools to analyse public policy.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply microeconomic principles and methods to devising appropriate policies for a range of economic problems in the private and public sector
  • Combine microeconomic principles with economic data to inform policy decisions
  • Formulate well-founded normative statements (how the world ought to be) as well as predictions on positive outcomes (how the world actually is), to identify differences between the two and possible policy remedies.
  • Use formal logic to uncover the strategic mechanisms at work and thus identify optimal decisons, so as to enable giving well-founded policy advice to decision-makers.
  • Provide policy recommendations based on analystic modeling of strategic interactions for specific policy questions under a deadline.


This module will provide students with an understanding of the scope of public economics (i.e. the study of public provision, public finance - expenditure and taxation - and public choice) and with the ability to analyse and understand key issues in this field (How should problems of externalities be identified and addressed? Why and when should education or health care by privately or publicly provided? Should the government increase taxes?) using standard microeconomic tools corresponding to the level taught in core second-year economic courses (optimisation and basic game theory concepts). The course will set out to convey ideas in an accessible way, and in a form that will be of both academic and practical use to students.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods


Independent Study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Intermediate Public Economics. 

Background Readings. A selection of academic articles on the topics covered throughout the modules, made available online on the module pages on Blackboard.


Assessment Strategy

Assessment will be in form of two coursework assignments (10% of the final grade each) and a final examination (80%). All assessments will be in written form, assessing your knowledge of concepts and methods in public economics, your ability to apply them to known and some new specific problems in public economics and derive policy implications, and assessing your ability of critical thinking. Coursework will be returned with individual feedback, the aim is to do this within one week. In the first Master Class following the deadline general feedback on the coursework will be given.


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 70%
Problem sets 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Prerequisites: ECON2001 OR ECON2003

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