Introduction to Quantitative Methods for the MPA Programme

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

The teacher will be announced at the start of the course.


This course is compulsory on the Master of Public Administration. This course is not available as an outside option.

Also available to other MPhil/PhD students with the agreement of the course tutor.

Course content

An introduction to basic mathematical and statistical concepts for use in MPA courses in economics and quantitative approaches. The course covers the following topics: Statistics: Discrete and continuous random variables, jointly distributed random variables, the Normal distribution, sampling and the Central Limit Theorem, properties of estimators, introduction to hypothesis testing. Mathematics: Linear functions, quadratic, logarithmic and exponential functions, the derivative of a function and rules of differentiation, unconstrained optimization with one variable, functions of several variables and their differentiation, unconstrained optimization with several variables, constrained optimization.


The course runs over 8 days, during the two weeks prior to the start of the Michaelmas Term. This year, teaching will be delivered virtually with recorded and interactive sessions. 

Indicative reading

Notes covering the course material will be made available at the beginning of the course. Students are strongly encouraged to read Charles Whelan's 'Naked Statistics' prior to the start of the course.  It provides a readable and accessible background to the statistics portion of the course.  Two widely used introductory statistics books that can be used as background reading for the statistics part are Newbold, Carlson and Thorne 'Statistics for Business and Economics' (6th edition) and Wonnacott and Wonnacott 'Introductory Statistics for Business and Economics' (4th edition). However, there are also many other introductory statistics textbooks that cover the same material.


Two widely used introductory mathematics books that can be used a background reading for the mathematics part are Ian Jacques' 'Mathematics for Economics and Business' (5th edition) and Wisniewski's 'Introductory Mathematical Methods in Economics' (2nd edition). Also in this case there are a large number of excellent alternative textbooks that cover the same material. Those who want a more advanced treatment of the same material can use Simon and Blume's 'Mathematics for Economists', but this treatment is more formal than what we require for this course. We do not recommend buying a new textbook for this course, if you already own a textbook that covers similar material.


In-class assessment (100%) in September.

The course will be assessed with a one hour in-class assessment at the end of the second week of teaching. The assessment result does not count towards the MPA final degree, but can be used by students to identify their key areas for future learning.  All students are expected to take the assessment.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2019/20: 110

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Non-credit bearing

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information