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Public Finance - SPY00147M

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Enrico Reuter
  • Credit value: 15 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

Decisions that governments make about public finance - the revenue they raise and how this revenue is allocated in the form of public spending - are one of the core functions of government. An appreciation of this function is crucial for a full understanding of the role of government and the task of managing public services, and this module introduces students to this topic, including a discussion of tax avoidance and public debt as major contemporary challenges.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Online Teaching Window 2 2023-24

Module aims

This module introduces students to the role of the state in a market economy, and explores government revenue creation by looking at forms of taxation and the politics of tax policies, including the matter of tax evasion and avoidance. Furthermore, the module explores government spending with a focus on welfare, the politics of spending decisions (including the concept of ‘corporate welfare’) and the benefits of an ‘entrepreneurial state’. Principles of budgeting and sound financial management, as well as the relevance of public debt, budget deficits and Private Finance Initiatives for contemporary public finances are discussed.

Thus covering the key elements of contemporary public finance, students learn to understand the technical processes involved in government revenue generation and spending, whilst gaining the ability to critically analyse the role of politics in public finance decisions, as well as their impact on the public.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • define public finance and public economics.

  • analyse the political controversies around the role of government in public finance, both with respect to revenue and spending.

  • describe the main features and principles of fiscal policies, i.e. revenue, expenditure and budgetary processes.

  • situate current challenges in public finance such as tax avoidance and public debt in the wider context of changes in public sector management and governance, and comment critically on the effectiveness of financial management.

  • evaluate Private Finance Initiatives.

  • apply the theoretical and practical insights gained in this module to real-world case studies.


Task Length % of module mark
Case study
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Module tutors support the learning process in three ways: 1) they facilitate group activities that enable students to meet the module's learning outcomes, 2) they help students with queries regarding module contents and the assessment, and 3) they provide feedback on a formative assessment in the first half of term, which is contributing to the summative assessment at the end of the module.


Task Length % of module mark
Case study
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback on summative assessments will be provided within 20 working days, consisting of written comments and a marking matrix.

Indicative reading

Tanzi, V. (2020). Advanced Introduction to Public Finance. Edward Elgar.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.