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Economics

This is the foundation course on which subsequent, more specialised economics courses are based.

The course offers an overview of key economic concepts and their applications to everyday situations and current economic affairs using modelling techniques.

Topics covered

  • The nature and scope of economics: This unit provides a broad introduction to the study of economics and its main lines of inquiry. The focus is mainly on the basic economic problem of choice and scarcity, and the concept of opportunity cost. You are required to use standard production possibility frontiers to illustrate simple applications of the problem to various real‐life situations.
  • Competitive markets: This unit examines how the price mechanism allocates resources in different markets through the demand and supply model. It introduces the concepts of elasticities and social welfare. You should be able to use the model to illustrate changes in factors influencing the price of commodities (for example, consumer taste and cost of production).
  • Market failure and government intervention: This unit considers a range of reasons why market forces may not be able to allocate resources efficiently. These include externalities, public goods, asymmetric information, factor immobility and market power. It examines possible government interventions and critically assesses their effectiveness. The unit is taught mainly through specific case studies (for example, pollution and congestion charges).
  • Managing the economy: This unit provides an introduction to key measures of economic performance and the main objectives and tools of economic policy. A basic model of aggregate demand and aggregate supply is used to represent unemployment and inflation, as well as the effectiveness of government interventions.
  • Development and sustainability: This unit focuses on the meaning and measures of economic development (for example, the Human Development Index and Gross Domestic Product per capita). You should be able to identify common and diverse features of both developed and developing economies, as well as understand why development must be sustainable.
  • The recent financial and economic crisis: This unit introduces you to the recent financial and economic crisis, outlining its causes, consequences and possible cures. You are not required to have extensive background knowledge of the crisis, although a basic understanding of the crisis is helpful.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with key economic concepts
  • Use a range of simple microeconomic and macroeconomic models to predict market behaviour and analyse current economic affairs
  • Provide reasons for and explain the implications of market failure and the impact and effectiveness of government policies
  • Contrast and assess different approaches to the same economic problem
  • Interpret data presented in different forms, carry out simple calculations and construct diagrams
  • Describe measures of economic development
  • Explain possible causes and remedies of the current financial and economic crisis.

Assessment

Unseen written exam (Two-hour 15 minutes).

Essential reading

  • Anderton, A. A Level Economics Student Book. (Harlow: Causeway Press)
  • Gillespie, A. AS & A Level Economics Through Diagrams. (OUP Oxford).