Public Policy Economics (Online)


All of us are affected by government policies, and governments place particular emphasis on economic policies. This course covers some of the most important questions about the aims and tools of economic policy. It will equip students to evaluate the economic arguments made about public policy choices.

All of us as citizens are affected by government policies, and governments place particular emphasis on economic policies. These are therefore prominent in political debate and in the news. Yet few people have the knowledge to be able to evaluate claims and counter-claims. This course covers some of the most important questions about the aims and tools of economic policy, ranging from competition policy and regulation to industrial policy, from public spending choices to incorporating behavioural psychology 'nudges' in policy decisions. It covers the role of the state versus the market, and the government's responsibility for sustainability. It will equip students to evaluate the economic arguments made about public policy choices.

Listen to Dr Diane Coyle talking about the course:

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

1. The aims of public policy

2. Social welfare and growth

3. Market Failures

4. State ownership, privatisation and regulation

5. Industrial policy

6. Social choice and individual choice

7. Social security

8. Behavioural public policy

9. Government Failure

10. Evaluating public policies

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £30 fee. 

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education, you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course Fee £385.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:


Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Doug Bamford

Doug Bamford teaches courses in philosophy and political economy at OUDCE. His main interest is in political philosophy and its application to public policy. He obtained his PhD in 2013 and became an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA) in 2023. He is author of Rethinking Taxation (Searching Finance, 2014) and several papers (including articles in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Moral Philosophy and Politics, Problema, and Think). He blogs at Doug Bamford's Tax Appeal.

Dr Szilvi Schmitsek

Szilvia Schmitsek graduated with her PhD in Employment Research (Institute for Employment Research, Warwick University) in 2018. She was awarded a Warwick Chancellor’s Scholarship for the duration of her studies. Her decision to pursue a PhD on Early School Leaving was strongly influenced by her commitment to disadvantaged youth, which has always been her main field of interest. Previously Szilvia gained an MPhil in Social Sciences Research and MA in Education, a BA in Social Science; Speech and Language Therapy and Special Education, and a Diploma in Media Studies.

Course aims

This course aims to:

  • Explore the rationale for public policy interventions in the economy.
  • Provide an overview of a wide range of areas of applied microeconomics used in public policy, including relevant historical and international experience.
  • Discuss the role of economics in the political process; (iv) provide an introduction to the evaluation of economic policies. It will have some interdisciplinary elements, in touching on political economy and behavioural economics.

This course will enable participants to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the criteria for successful microeconomic public policy interventions.
  • Show understanding of the reasons for the variation in policy interventions over time and in different contexts.
  • Evaluate critically policy proposals, including demonstrating awareness of sources of empirical evidence.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of specific topics in public policy economics.
  • Contribute to public and policy debates about a range of economic issues.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course the participants will understand:

  • The importance of definitions and ethics in framing policy questions and public debate.
  • The limitations of both states and markets in collective action.
  • The many trade-offs and choices that inevitably arise in economic policy.

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • Critically evaluate data, evidence and arguments about economic policy questions.
  • Contribute to debates themselves in a more evidence based way.
  • Link policy choices to social welfare, or ethical, goals.
  • Connect economic trade-offs with issues of political choice and practical implementation.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.


IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.