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Module Introduction

Page contents:   About  |  Structure of the Module  |  What You Will Learn  |  Assessment  |  Study Materials  |  Study Skills


About This Module

This module is an introduction to the various economic and institutional frameworks that are commonly used to analyse poverty in poor rural economies. These analytical frameworks (or models) focus on the different variables that affect people’s livelihoods and how these variables relate to each other. They allow development analysts to think more rigorously about the processes of development, the constraints to development and what needs to be done to overcome these constraints.


Structure of the Module

The module comprises four parts. Part 1 consists of two units and provides introductions to the concept of development (Unit 1) and the discipline of economics (Unit 2). The subject matter in this part of the module is broad and provides an overview of the module’s key concerns.

Part 2 provides an overview of some of the basic building blocks of modern economics. These are a series of interrelated micro- and macroeconomic models that are the foundations upon which most of modern day economics stands. They typically come under the heading of ‘neoclassical economics’ and their focus is on variables such as profit, income, and welfare, and what influences their size and monetary value. The models focus on the most immediate influences, such as costs, market prices, and the way resources are used. They do not encompass deeper issues relating to institutions, politics, history and how resource use is affected by these variables. The first unit, Unit 3, provides an introduction to production economics and the theory of the firm. It looks at how decisions regarding inputs and outputs affect profitability. Unit 4 looks at the related issues of business costs and factor (input) markets and how they shape short-run and long-run supply curves. Unit 5 moves the focus away from individual producers to the broader issues of market structure, market failure, and welfare economics. The final unit in this part of the module, Unit 6, provides an overview of macroeconomics and trade.

Part 3 builds on the models of Part 2 by introducing frameworks from the so-called New Institutional Economics (NIE) which offer deeper insights into the problems of development. Whereas the frameworks in Part 2 look at the most immediate influences on income and welfare, this part looks at how institutions (organisations, customs, formal and informal rules etc) affect the ability of individuals and firms to use resources profitably and in a sustainable way. Unit 7 provides an overview of some the core concepts of NIE and familiarises students with the NIE response to some of the weaknesses of neoclassical economic models. Unit 8 expands on some of the ideas that were introduced in Unit 7 by applying them specifically to the goal of improving the performance of markets in developing countries. Finally, Unit 9 introduces institutional perspectives on the way natural resources and the environment are exploited and looks at the role that property rights play in this.

Part 4 consists of just one unit (Unit 10). It concludes the module by considering the processes and challenges of development in the light of the various economic models and theories presented in the earlier units, whilst also adding to this analysis insights from political economy and political science.

This module is necessarily broad and covers a wide range of material. The module is designed both to provide an introduction to essential economics theory to students who have not studied economics before and, particularly in Parts 3 and 4, to introduce institutional economics that will be new to many students who have studied economics before.

Students who have not studied economics before are likely to find the amount of material in the units in Part 2 challenging, as these units have to set out the core concepts in economics needed to critique and apply these concepts in more advanced ways in Parts 3 and 4. Note, however, that these units also have fewer readings. As Part 2 covers essential economic theory, the text of the study guide sets out the core material that you need to know. It is essential that you have a good grasp of this material, and the chapters of Hill that are set as Key Readings are intended to provide you with an alternative approach, examples and explanation if this material is new to you and you are having difficulty in grasping it fully from the text in the study guide. It is important that you make sure that you not only obtain a full understanding of the material, but that you reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the models and concepts, and on the validity of their application in understanding economic development and in describing conditions and opportunities facing economic actors in developing economies. However, we hope that you will find the concepts and the way that they are presented accessible, interesting, and immediately relevant and applicable to our understanding of and engagement with the world around us.

Students who have studied some economics before should find much of Part 2 of this module a useful ‘refresher’, but they should also find that understanding challenged and taken further by the introduction of new concepts and by new questions about the application of economics and institutional analysis to development understanding and practice.


What You Will Learn

Module Aims

Module Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:



This module is assessed by:

Since the EA is an element of the formal examination process, please note the following:

  1. The EA questions and submission date will be available on the Online Learning Environment.
  2. The EA is submitted by uploading it to the Online Learning Environment.
  3. The EA is marked by the module tutor and students will receive a percentage mark and feedback.
  4. Answers submitted must be entirely the student’s own work and not a product of collaboration. For this reason, the Online Learning Environment is not an appropriate forum for queries about the EA.
  5. Plagiarism is a breach of regulations. To ensure compliance with the specific University of London regulations, all students are advised to read the guidelines on referencing the work of other people. For more detailed information, see the User Resource Section of the Online Learning Environment.



Study Materials

Your study materials consist of this study guide, together with two text books and a set of bound readings.

The first textbook, An Introduction to Economics by Berkeley Hill, introduces key economic concepts by applying them to agriculture and the rural sector. It relates primarily to Part 2 of the module. This supplements the main text in the study guide and is provided mainly as an aid for those unfamiliar with the concepts and models presented in these units.

The second text, Institutional Economics Perspectives on African Agricultural Development by Johann Kirsten et al, relates above all to Part 3 of the module, but also to a lesser extent to Parts 1 and 4. Although its focus is on African agriculture, the institutional issues that it addresses are relevant to most poor rural-based economies.

Key Readings are provided for the various units. Key Readings are drawn from a wide range of sources including books, journals, and the internet, authored by individual researchers and analysts, and also through the collective efforts of diverse national and international organisations. They aim to provide a range of perspectives and more depth on the unit subject matter.

A large number of Further Readings and References are also listed. These texts are not provided but many are available on the internet. All references cited in the unit text are listed here. Students are not expected to follow up each and every further reading, but can follow up specific points of interest.


Study Skills

Students on the different CeDEP programmes have a range of disciplinary, professional and learning backgrounds, and differ in their English language and quantitative skills. The Study Skills have been developed to serve students with these diverse backgrounds. Many tasks are aimed primarily at the needs of those who do not have experience of the independent learning and examination skills normally developed in graduate programmes in British Universities. They may also benefit students who are not accustomed to studying in English or who are unfamiliar with interpreting graphs, or with professional use of the internet.

Study Skills tasks are introduced in each unit and the corresponding information is available in a separate pdf and/or audio file on the module e-study guide.