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Public Finance: Principles, Politics & Contemporary Issues - SPY00158M

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Enrico Reuter
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • 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 cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

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 discusses government spending with a focus on welfare and public services as well as the politics of spending decisions. Principles of budgeting and sound financial management, as well as the relevance of public debt, budget deficits and public-private partnerships for public finances are scrutinised.

Thus covering the key elements of contemporary public finance, students learn to understand the technical processes involved in government revenue generation, management 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 you should be able to:

  • define public finance and situate it in the context of public policy and administration.

  • 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.

  • understand and explain market and government failure and how they relate to public finance.

  • discuss current challenges in public finance such as tax avoidance and public debt in relation with the wider context of changes in public sector management and governance

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


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback and marks are returned to students within 20 working days.

Feedback on the summative assessment will consist of written comments and a marking matrix that indicates where the assessed paper sits with respect to the marking criteria. Students can seek further guidance during the drop-in office hours.

Feedback on the formative assessment and on overall study progress is given verbally during seminars.

Indicative reading

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

Ulbrich, H. H. (2011). Public Finance in Theory and Practice. Routledge.

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.