What caused the great economic crisis of 2008 and which policies were the right reaction? Should governments be continuing to cut spending (“austerity” policies) or is more government spending needed as the engine of growth? What does a housing bubble look like and how can we prevent it? How has inequality in income and wealth increased in recent years, and why? Why is there still a gender pay gap and one for ethnic minorities? Why, as economies grow richer, are people often not any happier? Can government policies influence this? Why are some governments captured by elites and more prone to corruption than others? Can economists assist in advising on questions like smoking cessation, and should they? What steps could and should be taken now in the face of global warming? Questions such as these, all of which are being examined by leading economists at LSE, illustrate the broad scope of economics today.
Economics tackles a broad range of problems, from barriers to economic development to international financial crises. An open-minded and scientific approach to these issues requires formal modelling of economic relationships, and testing hypotheses against data. The study of economics therefore involves developing problem-solving skills, including mathematical and statistical methods, and applying these skills without ever losing sight of the real world we seek to understand.
Features of LSE courses
The Department of Economics is regularly ranked number one outside of the USA for its published research in economics and econometrics and in 2008 the national Research Assessment Exercise assessed LSE Economics as the best single department in any major discipline. As an undergraduate in the Department, you will have the chance to learn from economists at the cutting edge of their field.
The economics programmes at LSE aim to provide students with a thorough grounding in the analytical methods of economics and to develop their skills in applying these methods to a diverse range of problems, both microeconomic and macroeconomic, in analysing and constructing complex arguments and in communicating these effectively.
Our BSc Economics programme provides a well-rounded coverage of the economics discipline. The BSc Econometrics and Mathematical Economics programme enables students to build a particularly strong quantitative background, which is becoming more and more important for a successful career in economics. However, you should note that modern economics requires an aptitude for and enjoyment of mathematics and that the first-year compulsory courses for undergraduate programmes in the Department of Economics include both mathematics and statistics. The BSc Economics with Economic History programme further provides an option for students with a secondary interest in economic history.
We offer two single honours degrees, one in economics, and one in econometrics and mathematical economics. You can also take economics as a major subject with economic history as a minor. The following descriptions show the pattern of study for each degree.
The first year of all our degrees will give an essential foundation in the subject, equipping students with the necessary quantitative skills. Every student will take economics, mathematics, statistics and one other course, plus the innovative LSE100 in Lent term. The second year concentrates on building a firm grasp of core analytical methods in economics and applying them to a range of problems, while the third year allows students to specialise and to apply those methods to particular areas.
It is also possible to study degrees that combine economics in various ways with economic history, environmental policy, geography, government, mathematics, philosophy and social policy. Details of these degrees are in the separate sections for those subjects. The study of economics in all these degrees requires core study in economic principles and mathematics. These degrees are maintained by other departments at LSE.
All of the programmes taught in the Department of Economics take a mathematically rigorous approach to the subject, and are therefore very demanding of quantitative and analytical ability and interest. This should be taken into consideration when deciding whether this is the most suitable degree programme for you. If you have taken a gap year, it will be important for you to review the mathematics that you have learnt previously, in preparation for beginning studies at LSE.
What the selectors are looking for in an application
A level Mathematics (or equivalent) is a compulsory requirement for all programmes within the Economics Department at LSE. In addition to mathematics, the selectors prefer to see subject combinations which indicate that you possess both analytical and writing abilities and interests.
An additional qualification in further mathematics, at any level, is generally preferable. However we know that not everyone has the opportunity to follow a further mathematics programme and find it helpful if applicants and/or their referees can indicate whether or not the applicant's school or college offers further mathematics classes. Those who come late to the decision to study economics and were not able to take further mathematics may also explain this.
Your personal statement should outline your enthusiasm and personal motivation for the study of economics, as well as indicating your determination to excel in this field. Applicants who have not previously studied A level Economics (or its equivalent) should also indicate their awareness of what the subject involves. Your statement should provide evidence of being comfortable with both using and applying mathematics, and also your ability to write clearly and concisely.
You should mention whether there are any aspects of particular interest to you, how it relates to your current academic programme and what additional reading or similar experiences you have had which have led you to apply. You could also include information on any relevant work experience and extra-curricular activities.
Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of economics at LSE will be those such as the abilities to apply logic and follow complex lines of mathematical reasoning, to be creative and flexible in approaching problems, to ask questions and to think independently. You should also possess good communication skills, intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.
As there are three separate degree programmes available within the Economics Department at LSE, you should ensure you are aware of the differences between them, both when choosing your programme and subsequently making your application, adjusting the focus of your personal statement accordingly.
Please visit lse.ac.uk/ug/apply/ecn for further information about admissions criteria.
Teaching and assessment
You will have around 12 hours of lectures and classes each week, as well as LSE100 teaching. Classes in groups of around 15 students are the main form of interaction with teachers.
Each student has an academic adviser who is available to offer general guidance and assistance with both academic and personal concerns on an individual basis.
Courses are assessed through examinations in the first week of January and/or May-June each year. The sole exception is the project element of the degree in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics which is assessed through the submission of a dissertation.
Other degrees including Economics
For those wishing to gain further insight into what economists study, we suggest looking at one or more of the following popular books or others like them:
A V Banerjee and E Duflo Poor Economics: barefoot hedge-fund managers, DIY doctors and the surprising truth about life on less than $1 a day (Penguin, 2012)
T Harford The Undercover Economist (Abacus, 2007) and The Logic of Life (Little Brown, 2009)
P Krugman End This Depression Now! (W W Norton, 2012)
S D Levitt and S J Dubner Freakonomics (Penguin, 2007) and Superfreakonomics (Penguin, 2010)
The UK launch of these books was held at LSE and a podcast of these authors speaking in our Old Theatre, along with many other talks, is available at lse.ac.uk/podcasts
It is also a very good idea to have a look at one or more economics textbooks, to have a clear idea of what the serious university study of the subject involves, which will differ from these popular presentations. Although the texts and editions listed below are currently recommended for the first year, other editions of these books and other university-level textbooks are also entirely valid for this first investigation.
N G Mankiw Macroeconomics (7th edition, Worth Publishers, 2010)
W Morgan, M L Katz and H Rosen Microeconomics (2nd edition, McGraw-Hill, 2009)
A first degree in economics provides an excellent preparation for a range of careers, but we particularly welcome students who want to learn about economics, rather than simply prepare themselves for a prosperous future. Over the past two decades many of our graduates have chosen to pursue careers in the financial sector, which can include positions involving economics research as well as those in banking or hedge funds. Increasingly, they have also preferred to take up positions as economic or management consultants, to join central banks, their home country’s government economic service or international organisations. Some pursue quite different careers, whether as professional accountants and auditors, engaging in entrepreneurial activity, marketing or law, or in entirely different fields such as art management. A significant number choose to go on to graduate study, in economics but also in finance, management, development, economic history and other fields. Throughout their time at LSE we work to prepare our students who are aiming in this direction: to understand the rewards of engaging in economics research and interacting with faculty and visitors who are leading economists.