SOAS University of London

School of Finance and Management

MSc Public Financial Management (2018 entry)

On-Campus Programme

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This programme provides students with a conceptual understanding of the core principles of public financial management, and with the development of capabilities and skills to apply theoretical and domain knowledge to problems encountered in the financial management of public sector organisations. It is aimed at students who wish to pursue a rigorous, scientifically based course of study in the theories underpinning how public finances are managed; how public managers make sound financial decisions; what kind of techniques and tools are used in the financial management of public sector organisations; and how the financial management of public sector organisations is reported to the public.

Graduates will have a solid understanding of public financial management that should place them in a good position to pursue a career, or advance their career, in the civil service, local government, NGOs, and super-national organisations.

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Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • Minimum first degree with good grades in any subject equivalent to a UK upper second class honours

Featured events

One calendar year (full-time) Two or Three calendar years (part-time)



Introducing the MSc Public Financial Management
Alberto Asquer

Public financial management deals with all aspects of resource and expenditure management within governments.  Alberto Asquer, Lecturer of Public Policy and Management at SOAS, outlines why it is so important that we understand how our public purse is spent.

What does the course involve?

The MSc Public Financial Management provides students with an understanding of managing public finances in the public sector.

Public financial management is about a particular aspect of public sector management, namely the administration of public money. This function is extremely important however, because what the public sector does closely relates – in one way or another – to the handling of financial resources. Governments spend money through public programmes and projects, raise money through taxation and other means, and induce the desired behaviour of individuals and firms through various means, which include payments and fines. In addition, reporting and auditing the financial management of the public sector is pivotal to monitor the conduct of public officers (whether they are elected, appointed, or employed) and ensure the accountability of public sector entities.

This MSc programme will look at the various component parts of the public financial management system and processes. We will cover the many ways in which the public sector spends and raises financial resources. We will pay attention to issues of public debt, seigniorage, and financial reporting, according to different accounting standards. We will especially discuss how different public financial management policy options matter and what are the implications of alternative choices to fund the public sector.

In addition, we look at several countries and regions in the world, because the local context matters a lot – in such terms as the institution, history and cultural traditions. Students will have the opportunity to learn from policy experiences across countries and to contrast and compare how policy tools work under different conditions.

What kind of students will the course appeal to?

The programme will interest students who aim to have a career in the financial management of public sector entities, like in central government (especially treasury and finance departments) but also in sub-national government, international organisations like the World Bank, and public agencies. The programme may also attract the interest of people who work or aim to work in the financial sector and consultancy.

Some of our students have some work experience, either in government or in private or non-profit organisations. Other students do not have any work experience, but have just recently completed their undergraduate studies.

What is special about the course at SOAS?

SOAS is uniquely positioned with its concentration of expertise on Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This feature is partially reflected in the course contents, where attention is placed on public policies in developing countries, although part of the contents also covers experiences in more industrialised countries and regions of the world.

A particular feature of the MSc Public Financial Management is the combination of insights from diverse disciplines like public economics, finance, accounting, and public policy. The programme is not just focused on the design of fiscal policies or on the accounting of public sector entities. Rather, it aims to provide students with a broader understanding of the public financial management process and of the kind of policy choices that are made, for example in the design of a tax system or in the choice of accounting standards.

What do students do after graduating?

Most students enter or continue a career in the public sector, mainly in central government, but also in the non-profit sector.


Students must take 180 credits.  These are composed of 120 taught credits comprising core and optional modules and a 60 credit dissertation.

The 10,000 word dissertation is worth 33% of your final mark.  During term 2 you will submit your dissertation proposal and be allocated an academic supervisor.  Over the ensuing months you should meet with your supervisor at least three times before the end of term 3 for guidance.  The bulk of your dissertation will be written over the summer to meet the mid-September deadline.


Students must undertake a Dissertation in Public Financial Management (15PFMC990) - to the value of 60 credits.

Taught Component
Core Modules
Module Code Credits Term
Research methods in management 15PFMC062 15 Term 1
Guided Options

Choose modules to the value of 60 credits from the list below:

List of modules (subject to availability)
Module Code Credits Term
Public Policy: Perspectives, Issues and Strategies 15PFMC094 15 Term 1
Macroeconomic Policy and Financial markets 15PFMC087 15 Term 1
Managerial Accounting 15PFMC088 15 Term 2
International Financial Regulation 15PFMC061 15 Term 2


Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

Contact Hours

All Masters programmes consist of 180 credits, made up of taught modules of 30 or 15 credits, taught over 10 or 20 weeks, and a dissertation of 60 credits. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework, revising for examinations and so on. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary.

More information is on the page for each module.


Building on the distance learning version of the programme, the Department of Financial and Management Studies (DeFiMS) maintains close links with employers in both the United Kingdom and abroad. We expect that many of our graduates will be employed as civil servants in central government administrations, governmental agencies, local governments, NGOs, super-national organisations, and consulting firms.

A Student's Perspective

SOAS is the best place to study the rising economy of China. The Library has an extensive range of books and journals to keep you informed about China’s past, present and future business environment.

Bauhinia Chi Har Lam

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