Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ECON43915: Public Choice

Department: Economics and Finance

ECON43915: Public Choice

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap
Tied to L1T109
Tied to L1T209
Tied to L1T309
Tied to L1T409


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop advanced knowledge and analytical skills in the theory and practice of public choice.


  • The module focuses on theory and applications of government decision making and institutional design. Topics will be drawn primarily from the following:
  • The economics of voting
  • Electoral competition.
  • Political institutions and legislative bargaining
  • Coalition formation
  • Interest groups and lobbying
  • Rent seeking

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • be able to interpret scholarly literature at the frontier of research in public choice;
  • have a critical understanding of the effects of different political institutions on the public and private sectors of the economy;
  • have a critical understanding of how different voting and bargaining mechanisms influence the economic decision-making process;
  • have sufficient familiarity with the relevant current academic literature to identify open questions for their own research in public choice.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • be able to apply advanced problem-solving and analytical skills to complex issues in public choice.
  • be able to offer policy recommendations informed by the political-economy dimension.
  • be able to analyse how political institutions, voting and bargaining impact on economic decisions in public policy.
Key Skills:
  • Written Communication;
  • Planning, Organising and Time Management;
  • Problem Solving and Analysis;
  • Using Initiative;
  • Numeracy;
  • Computer Literacy.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will present the topics in detail, give suggestions for further reading, give guidance for the problems for the seminars, and give students the necessary knowledge to read and understand the relevant scholarly literature.
  • In the seminars students will be encouraged to actively participate and solve problems. The seminars will train the students to solve analytical problems in public-choice theory, critically discuss its applications as well as give students the opportunity to identify research questions.
  • The topics and techniques covered in the module lend themselves to multiple forms of assessment. This makes it possible to develop and test appropriately different subject specific knowledge and skills and key skills.
  • The written assignment, in the form of a report, will allow students to focus in depth on a specific topic. It will test in particular their ability to apply advanced problem-solving and analytical skills, and their written communication and planning skills.
  • The written examination will primarily test students' knowledge and critical understanding of the material covered in the module in addition to their analytical and problem-solving skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 1 per week 2 hour 20
Seminars 4 Fortnightly 1 hour 4
Revision Session 1 Once 2 hour 2
Preparation & Reading 124
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Exam Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written Examination 2 hours 100% Same
Component: Written Assignment Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written assignment in the form of a report 2000 100% Same

Formative Assessment:

Students will receive written comments on a formative written assignment. Additional formative assessment and feedback may take a number of forms such as oral feedback on work prepared by students for seminars; answers to questions either discussed during a seminar, or posted on DUO.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University