The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

The case studies have shown a variety of alternative approaches to curriculum design. All programmes allow students to achieve the subject benchmarks for an honours degree in economics, but with variety in a number of dimensions.

The credit architecture varies between institutions (and sometimes within institutions, which can cause issues). Most operate a credit system based on multiples of 15 or 20 credit units (CATS), but some have a mixture. In general, the larger the unit size, the less flexible is curriculum design. Smaller units offer more flexibility and choice for students, but this may have implications for the assessment load. However, when designing a curriculum, it is likely that the institution will dictate the size of the basic building block.

All the models of curriculum design presented offer a balance between the three pillars of an economics programme – micro, macro and quantitative methods – and in most cases a balance is maintained in the core units. However, students then have some flexibility to vary the mix in the remaining part of the curriculum by their choice of options. Option lists naturally vary according to the interests and research strengths of staff, and the extent to which students are able to choose units from outside economics varies between programmes.

There is also a spectrum of ways in which study and careers skills are embedded into the curriculum or sit alongside it, and in the opportunities that students have for undertaking work placements or study abroad. In practice, many programmes offer students the opportunity of study abroad, but few take it up. Work placements may become more attractive to students in the new fee regime, if students come to see employability as a key factor in their choice of programme.

Top tips when embarking on curriculum design

  • Be aware of the credit architecture;
  • choose a balance between core and optional units, remembering that the core needs to meet the subject benchmarks;
  • maintain an appropriate balance between micro, macro and QM, appropriate for the characteristics of students entering the programme;
  • consider whether study and career skills should be credit-bearing within the curriculum or outside the formal structure.