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Public Policy (MSc Economics)

The study programme

The Public Policy track focuses on public decision-making, development of public policy and regulation. You can specialise in either fiscal policy and human development, or the more market regulation-oriented competition policy and natural resource economics.

What is this Master's about?

Find out what our MSc Economics is about and why you should study it at the UvA.

The programme

Public Policy is one of the tracks of the MSc Economics. During your Master's you will follow 3 general courses and 4 track-specific courses. In the 4th you can specialise in either fiscal policy and human development, or the more market regulation-oriented competition policy and natural resource economics. You will finish your Master's with a thesis. If you have excellent analytical and leadership abilities and it is your goal to use applied research to tackle complex real-life problems, you can participate in our Honours programme.

  • Compulsory courses


    In this course you will learn about modern macroeconomic models. You will learn how to use these models to explain and evaluate recent events and policy interventions. For example, the effect of uncertainty on savings, welfare and investment, the causes and nature of unemployment and inflation and the role of monetary and fiscal authorities. 

    Microeconomics and Game Theory

    In this course you will learn to understand the workings and limitations of the market. You will learn how to analyse consumer and producer behaviour and how to use basic game theory. The central question is: what can markets do and when do they fail? What determines the outcome, and how does that depend on market structure?

    Applied Econometrics

    In this course you will learn about regression analysis. In applied economics this is a powerful tool to analyse empirical relationships. You will learn how to interpret estimation and testing results and build a satisfactory empirical model. You will follow lectures and take part in lab sessions to acquire practical econometric skills by making computer exercises.


  • Track-specific courses

    Public Economics

    In this course you will discuss topics related to public decision-making processes and policies with a focus on inequality and redistribution. How do individual preferences translate into collective decisions? Also you will investigate redistributive policies, with a central role for the trade-off between efficiency and equality. Throughout the course you will discuss the latest scientific results and current debates on hot topics such as a universal basic income.

    Policy Evaluation: Development and Public Policy

    This course introduces you to contemporary methods of policy evaluation. You will study their applications related to topics such as education, health, nutrition, crime, microfinance, gender and labour issues. You will read and prepare papers in order to explain important aspects of these papers during the weekly meetings.

    Advanced Industrial Organisation

    In this course you will deep-dive in the monopoly and oligopoly. How may a monopolist price discriminate and deter entry by competitors? Concerning oligopolies you will cover different types of rivalry, product differentiation, collusion, mergers, vertical relations and platform competition. And: how do firms respond to boundedly rational consumers? 

    Choose your specialisation:

    • Public Finance and Fiscal Policy: Get introduced to theory and empirics of fiscal policy and public finance. You will look at these subjects both from a short-run perspective (the business cycle) and the long-run perspective (sustainability and the intergenerational dimension). You will learn how to apply different fiscal policy models and how to estimate policies. Topics you will cover: population ageing and long run sustainability of public finances; tax smoothing; intergenerational aspects of fiscal policy; EU debt crisis and EU fiscal framework; and theory and empirics of cyclical fiscal policy.
    • Competition Policy: Competition policy is at the centre stage of day-to-day economic life. Consideration for the likely warnings of competition authorities are therefore an important concern in business strategies. Why and to what extent does society need rules restricting the behaviour of firms in markets? And how do these rules affect our economies?
  • Thesis

    The academic programme culminates in a thesis, which allows you to engage with state-of-the-art data analysis and statistical techniques. The Master’s thesis is the final requirement for your graduation. It is your chance to dive deep into a topic in your field of choice (track) that you are enthusiastic about, and allows you to do an independent research project. A professor of your track will supervise and support you in writing your thesis.

  • Honours programme

    If you are a student of the Economics MSc and you have a record of academic excellence, a critical mind and an enthusiasm for applied research, then our Economics Honours programme is a great opportunity for you.

    More about the Honours programme
Check more detailed information about the specific courses in the course catalogue
Real-life case: information for intervention

Even when well-intended, not all policy interventions have been successful. Some have even failed miserably. How does economics provide governments information for intervention? How can a policy adviser identify which policies may actually work? Learn about current debates and how to formulate your own position using modern research methods from applied econometrics, industrial organisation and microeconomic theory.

Contemporary issues

Examples of current newspaper headlines and contemporary issues that could be discussed in your classroom.

  • Why couldn’t competitive markets resolve basic scarcity problems in the emerging pandemic? The case of PPEs.
  • How to restructure BigTech platforms in order to isolate and control their market power? Smart cuts.
  • Why has income and wealth inequality exploded over the past decades and can taxation help reducing it? Taxing the top 1%.
  • Why are unregulated markets generating excessive pollution and which public policies can help reducing it? The Dutch ban on sales of single-use plastics. 
  • Why does no alternative to Facebook develop that commits to not harvest users data? The Digital Markets Act.
  • What is the rationale behind mandatory public health insurance? The 2014 US regulation forbidding private insurances to deny coverage on the base of pre-existing conditions.
Copyright: Nee
This MSc perfectly blends my two passions: economics and policy analysis. It's a challenging programme, that teaches you hard and soft skills. Anouk Roethof Read about Anouk's experiences with this Master's

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