The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

Under the Scottish system, degree programmes are four years long, with students following a wide range of units in years 1 and 2 before embarking on two years of honours study.

Figure 8: University F: a single honours economics programme (Scotland)

You can see from Figure 8 that the economics content of the first two years is relatively small, and that QM makes no appearance until year 3. Students are thus exposed to a broader educational experience in the early years of their degree – indeed, they can transfer between discipline areas at a late stage, so long as they have studied the key units in the first two years. University F offers a series of units in the first two years which are termed as ‘Enhanced Study’ units, encouraging students to broaden their horizons or take up a language.

A four-year integrated Master’s programme

A possibility that has not been extensively pursued in England and Wales so far has been the four-year undergraduate master’s programme in economics. Such programmes are common in some disciplines – notably in engineering and some science programmes. The idea is that students follow a four-year undergraduate programme, ending up with the degree of M.Eng., M.Math., M.Chem. etc.

An example in economics is the M.Econ. programme on offer at the University of Southampton. Students follow the first three years of the B.Sc. single honours economics programme, and can exit with a B.Sc. at the end of year 3. However, they can continue into year 4, in which they study core units from the full M.Sc. in Economics (or the M.Sc. in Economics and Econometrics), together with some options and an advanced research project. They can then graduate in the June of their fourth year with an M.Econ. 

From the student perspective, there are some clear advantages. They graduate earlier than if they do the full M.Sc. (because they do not have to submit a dissertation in the September). They have access to student loans for the full four years of study, whereas they would get no loans for the full M.Sc. From the staff perspective, there is no additional teaching, as the M.Econ. students are co-taught with the other M.Sc. students. In the new fee regime, such programmes could become more popular because of the access to student loans.

There are some disadvantages, of course. The notion of the four-year integrated undergraduate masters is less familiar to employers than it is in engineering and science. The level 7 year (Part 4) contains fewer credits than the full-blown master’s, which raises issues of Bologna-compatibility.