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MSc Political Economy

Why we're great

  • We have been ranked first in the UK for political science research since national league tables began.
  • You have unrivalled one-to-one access to the best minds in politics and international relations.
  • We are the only political science department to receive the prestigious Regius Professorship.

Course options2016-17

Duration: 1 year
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £7,950
Fee (International): £15,500

Duration: 2 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £3,975
Fee (International): £7,750

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719
Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

Over the last three decades, political economy has been one of the fastest growing approaches in the social sciences. At Essex, we are primarily interested in the scientific study of political institutions and how they might determine economic variables.

If you are interested in how institutions shape the behaviour of political actors and how political decisions influence markets and vice versa, then you will profit from our course.

You will have a great deal of choice for your optional modules as they will be selected from both our Department of Government and Department of Economics. Our MSc Political Economy covers all aspects of modern political economy, including:

  • Market failure
  • Environmental policies
  • The quality of governance
  • Monetary policy choices

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.

Our Department of Economics is also consistently rated highly for student satisfaction, and is Top 5 in the UK for research with over 90% rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014).

Our expert staff

Study and work alongside some of the most prominent economists and political scientists of our time.

Our researchers are at the forefront of their field and have even received MBEs; they are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.

Many of our economic researchers also provide consultancy services to businesses in London and other major financial centres, helping us to develop research for today's society as well as informing our teaching for the future.

Our key academic staff for this course are Dr Alejandro Quiroz Flores, who works on why authoritarian leaders welcome natural disasters, and Simone Dietrich, who works on who gives, receives, and benefits from aid.

You join an active and prolific research team, with the opportunity to work alongside a member of staff on their research instead of completing a dissertation; some of these projects have even resulted in joint staff/student publications.

Specialist facilities

  • Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political and quantitative analysis
  • ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
  • Student societies for politics, economics, debating, and Model UN
  • We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis
  • A programme of seminars and events run by the department

Your future

All Essex politics graduates have the distinction of a qualification from one of the world’s leading politics departments.

This course is a good choice if you wish to maintain the flexibility of pursuing a career at an international organisation, a government organisation, a private enterprise or as a political consultant. You will develop key employability skills including analytical reasoning, research, problem solving, and essay-writing.

Recent graduates have gone on to work for the following high-profile organisations:

  • The Civil Service
  • Local government
  • The World Bank
  • The United Nations
  • NATO
  • YouGov and YouGov America

We also offer supervision for PhD and MPhil in the following fields: government; ideology and discourse analysis; international relations; political behaviour; and politics.

Our academic reputation is illustrated by the fact that many of our graduates now teach or research at universities, colleges of higher education and schools. For example, recent graduates are now research fellows and academic staff at: Mannheim, Germany; ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Duke University, USA; NATO/SHAPE, Belgium; and University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

One Masters not enough for you?

We offer a number of postgraduate taught double degrees with our international partners. You work for two Masters degrees, one at Essex and another at a prestigious university across the globe, gaining them both in a shorter time than studying them separately. This unique opportunity gives you a competitive edge when applying for jobs or prepares you for PhD study.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Master the quantitative methods which are essential to test hypotheses. You study hypotheses testing, hypotheses testing using Least Squares, and some classic violations of the Gauss-Markov conditions, before continuing to learn some more advanced models ubiquitous in political science.

The rational choice approach uses methods derived from microeconomics to study a wide range of political phenomena, and is now of considerable significance. This constructs explanations on the assumption that individuals are rational and often self-interested. You learn to apply these methods to a range of phenomena in the fields of politics and political economy.

What are the issues regarding different types of panel datasets? Or problems with survey methodology? Understand longitudinal data analysis by using micro-econometric techniques and critically examine survey methodology issues, like response rate and sampling frames. Apply panel data methods to study labour markets, focusing on marriage, unemployment and wages.

What value is added by your business? And how is this value added? Such questions are asked to business leaders. Understand the core economic reasoning behind commercial and investment banking, looking at financial intermediation and money creation, as well security, mergers and acquisition.

How do individuals make decisions? When does classic economic theory not predict empirically observed behaviour? And how do you then use behavioural economics to reconcile your empirical findings with theoretical models? Learn about empirical and theoretical research in behavioural economics that can be used to explain individual decision making.

What happens when classic economic theory doesn’t predict empirically observed behaviour? Can behaviour economics help? Study strategic interactions and markets using behavioural economics to reconcile empirical findings with theoretical models. Gain an understanding of experimental methods used in behavioural economics.

This module is about how representative democracy works in Europe. You explore several topics within the European context, including: public opinion, political participation, political parties, electoral systems, party competition, and how to evaluate democracies. You also develop specific knowledge about several European countries by learning how the political institutions function within them.

What challenges do macro-economists face since the 2007 financial crisis? Acquire the cutting-edge tools to address issues in macro-economic and financial markets. Learn to contrast multi-agent macro-modeling tools with more standard ones, and how to contribute to regulatory and policy design issues that have arisen since the financial crisis.

In this module you focus on conflict resolution in inter- and intra-state issues. You gain experience in the practical as well as in the theoretical aspects of negotiation and mediation, exploring the applicability of various tools and techniques in problem-solving real cases of international conflict, and making use of negotiation and mediation techniques in role playing exercises and other types of simulations.

Theories of justice are still being worked on and developed today. You question contemporary theories of justice through applying them to some of the most controversial issues dominating contemporary politics.

Wish to conduct your own research using econometric methods? Understand econometric methods and learn to apply them to a wide variety of situations. Examine methods of linear regression and hypothesis testing. Study time series concepts of unit roots and co-integration. Explore ideas around simultaneous equation models and panel data models.

What are the distinctive features of less developed economies? How do theories around child labour or inequality explain poverty? What economic policies could alleviate such problems? Understand the issues facing developing countries, examining policies theoretically and empirically. Act as a policy advisor, undertaking research on issues of development economics.

Study the concepts of risk and return in equity markets, both in the context of asset pricing, and in the management of equity portfolios. You will start by focusing on the analysis of the stylised facts of asset returns, and will then review the theoretical foundations of modern finance, covering expected utility theory and risk aversion.

What compensation should CEOs get? How can you motivate team performance? What impact does an altruistic manager make? Study real-world issues like policymaking, finance and management using economic models from contract theory, incentive theory, and the theory of the firm.

What are the important policy problems facing the European Union today? Issues like trade, unemployment, monetary policy? And how can you apply economic theory to these concerns? Gain an insight into the complex and fascinating process of economic integration within the European Union.

What caused the collapse of socialist economies in the late twentieth-century? What are the economic problems that transitional economies faced? And what can we learn from the policies and degrees of success that followed? Build your understanding of the collapse of centrally planned economies and their transition to market economies.

Can economic analysis be applied to environmental issues? And to environmental policies? Understand the strengths and weaknesses of economic analysis when applied to the environment. Learn to design policies that result in positive environmental outcomes in the modern world.

What are the main principles of estimation and inference in econometrics? Learn to justify or criticise (where appropriate) the use of econometric methods of estimation and inference in a variety of situations. Gain analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as an understanding of economic and business policies.

What are the main game theory concepts in modern economics? And how do you apply such models in the world today? Understand game theory methodology and learn how to formulate models for various socio-economic phenomena, such as industrial organisation, public goods, bargaining, and labour markets.

You are introduced to key strands of poststructuralist discourse theory, including post-marxism, deconstruction, structural linguistics, and psychoanalytic theory. You also engage with a set of contemporary debates in political and social theory, using the economy (eg., the global financial crisis and public service reforms) as a central theme and reference point.

Study one of the most important contemporary aspects of political action: the natural environment. You consider the state of the environment and possible paths along which it might change, before exploring environmental policies from the level of individual values, to the environmental movement, to political parties, and finally to the level of the EU.

What are the main uncertainties for international financial markets? What causes a currency crisis? How do you deal with global imbalances? Understand the analytical tools used in the field of international macroeconomics and finance. Demonstrate how such tools can be applied by examining key policy issues of interest today.

The field of security studies has become increasingly important over the last decade. While old conflicts are reigniting and new ones are emerging, scholars and decision-makers debate about changes to the concepts of security, the redundancy of military force, and the centrality of the state in order to face these ever-important issues.

What are the economics of international trade? And why is this important? Understand the principles that determine international trade and study a range of trade models. Learn how to carry out advanced research or work as a policy advisor on issues related to international trade.

What are the main issues facing the modern macroeconomist? How do you critically assess macroeconomic policies? Acquire the necessary tools for macroeconomic analysis, focusing on the important questions faced by macroeconomists today.

How do firms make decisions? And how do these decisions impact on the prices you pay? What role does game theory play? Understand strategic interaction among firms, using theoretical tools to examine real-world examples. Analyse the main economic forces behind firm behaviour, adapting economic models to study particular challenges.

What mathematical concepts are vital to understanding modern economic theory? Gain the essential mathematics skills needed to study economics at Masters-level, such as optimisation theory and the role of equilibrium. Understand how economic arguments work and improve your problem solving skills by using real-world economic problems.

Get to grips with modern microeconometrics. Examine the nature of causal and noncausal models, discuss the nature of microeconomic data structures, and review core econometric methods in the first part of this module. Then, analyse limited dependent variable models, including discrete choice and selection models, and examine program evaluation methods.

What are the concepts and methods of modern microeconomics? And how can you apply economic reasoning to this? Understand the main principles and theories of modern microeconomics, looking at topics like contract theory, equilibrium concepts in game theory, and market signalling. Learn to apply economic reasoning to these arguments.

How do you optimise sticky price models? What implication does this have on monetary policy? How do you apply the New Keynesian model to monetary aspects of the business cycle? Study theoretical models and empirical evidence for monetary aspects of the business cycle, and learn how to critically assess work.

What are the main issues with panel data? And the main econometric techniques to analyse panel data? What methods can you use to evaluate spell duration data? Answer such questions with examples from labour economics, while gaining the skills to analyse a variety of research and policy problems.

What makes societies choose different taxation systems? What drives the selection of politician in society? And how does selection impact on the choice of policies? Study the application of economic methods to understanding the political phenomenon that impact on the choice of different economic policies.

This module offers you an introduction to the theory and practice of quantitative data analysis techniques. You will also be introduced to the computer package Stata, which is widely used by academics and practitioners for the analysis of quantitative data. As the work becomes more challenging, the relevance of the techniques to modern social science research becomes more apparent.

Question party motivations, electoral strategies, ideologies and leaderships in Britain and Europe as you explore the changing nature and role of political parties in advanced liberal democracies.

This module introduces you to two main traditions within contemporary political theory: analytical political theory, and ideology and discourse analysis. You explore a range of ideas and concepts within these traditions in relation to central discussions in contemporary political theory.

On this module you explore a variety of questions concerning public opinion: How do citizens acquire information and convert it into opinions? Can politicians and the media influence public opinion and if so, how? How do we select representative samples in order to understand what the public really thinks? How do we measure opinion accurately? What type of measurement scales are available to help us do this?

In this module you gain an overview of the logic of social science research designs that includes the goals, theories and strategies of social science research, and develop a research agenda for potential use as publication in a peer reviewed journal, MA or PhD dissertation.

Evaluate a variety of perspectives on post-structuralist and post-analytical research, gaining an appreciation of the assumptions underpinning different approaches to questions of description, explanation and critique. You explore a range of prominent perspectives including empiricism, rationalism, conventionalism, positivist, hermeneutics, and critical realism.

Wish to design questionnaires? Build your theoretical knowledge and the practical tools to develop and write survey questions, and to construct questionnaires. Apply your understanding to the development of your questionnaire and implementation materials. Receive feedback on your questionnaire design.

This module provides you with a graduate-level introduction to both foundational and contemporary international relations research. The emphasis will be on evaluating arguments, understanding the development of the field, and identifying unresolved questions.

Studying philosophy of science is not necessarily about becoming a philosopher; it can also help us to do political science better. You cover the main theoretical approaches to the study of politics, including both models of political actions that inform and are derived from the empirical study of politics, and normative theories of politics. This enables you to ask questions from the philosophy of sciences concerning how we can study social and political phenomena.

How do firms interact? What impact does this have on products that are available to you? Or the price that you pay? Understand current thinking on industrial organisation, with a focus on competition policy, regulation and business strategy. Apply analytical models of firm behaviour and strategic interaction to real-life situations.

How do you analyse stationary time series? Or non-stationary (integrated) processes? Understand the econometric methods available to analyse models of economic time series. Examine how methods of estimation and inference can be applied to these models. Learn how to use these methods in your own research.

How do you raise funds to maintain a firm’s activity? And who should control the firm? Cover a wide variety of topics in corporate finance, including asset pricing algebra, mergers, market structure, and corporate finance problems related to corporate governance.

Teaching

  • Courses are designed to provide you with an advanced understanding of either the politics of a geographical area or an aspect of the discipline
  • Courses include both compulsory and optional modules, so the course can be tailored to fit your interests and aspirations
  • Learn through discussion and problem-solving
  • Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
  • We encourage students to attend national conferences to meet researchers and discuss their work

Assessment

  • Your coursework comes in the form of essays, simulations, presentations and in-class tests

Dissertation

  • You are given guidance on how to prepare a Masters dissertation by our Graduate Director in the spring term
  • We link you with an appropriate supervisor at the earliest opportunity

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A degree with an overall high 2:2.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

Applying

You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.