EU453      Half Unit
The Political Economy of European Welfare States

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Waltraud Schelkle COW 1.06


This course is available on the MPA in European Public and Economic Policy, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MSc in EU Politics, MSc in EU Politics (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in European Social Policy, MSc in Human Resources and Organisations (International Employment Relations and Human Resource Management), MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Political Science and Political Economy and MSc in Social Policy (European and Comparative Social Policy). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The aim of the course is to apply concepts of economics and political economy to social policies in European welfare states. The lectures establish the theoretical context, summarise the findings of quantitative comparative case studies and discuss European experience in the context of broader international experience. The seminars will further develop these concepts and apply them to qualitative case studies of welfare state arrangements in member states, considering in particular the role of social policy legislation and coordination at the EU level. The course will provide students with the conceptual and empirical background to enable them to answer questions such as: What does economic theory and political economy tell us about the design of welfare states? How do social policies in European welfare states reconcile equity and efficiency? What drives or stalls reform dynamics in member states? What are the proper boundaries of EU social policy? Is the EU gradually developing into a social union, through international mobility and the portability of social entitlements?


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 1 hour of lectures and 3 hours of seminars in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

One individual formative essay of 1,500 words and one group formative essay (3-4 students) of 3,000 words. 

Indicative reading

Barr, N. (2012) The Economics of the Welfare State, 5th ed., Oxford: Oxford UP; Leibfried, S (2010) 'European Social Policy: Left to Judges and the Market?' In H Wallace, M Pollack and A.Young Policy-Making in the European Union, ch 10 (or earlier edition); Pierson, P. (ed) (2001) The New Politics of the Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press; Scharpf, F.W. and Schmidt, V.A. (eds.) (2000) Welfare and Work in the Open Economy, 2 vols, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 2000 words).

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 8.9
Merit 68.8
Pass 20.5
Fail 1.8

Teachers' comment

Please note that the 'Student performance results' are from two years only.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2014/15: 46

Average class size 2014/15: 15

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication