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Economy, Society, and Public Policy: An introduction to economics and quantitative social science

Researchers: Professor Wendy Carlin | Professor Antonio Cabrales ...

Project overview

The CORE Project, an open-access project to create economics education ‘for a changing world’, based at University College London, has published two new free online ebooks.

  • ‘Economy, Society and Public Policy (ESPP)’, an introductory economics course for non-specialists, and
  • ‘Doing Economics’, a step-by-step data-based projects that address important policy problems using real data.

A new version of ‘ESPP’, revised following feedback from teachers and students from Exeter to Iceland, and Adelaide to New York, was released in August 2019 and is available here.

A print version, published by Oxford University Press, is available here.

Doing Economics is available here and a revised version will be released later in the autumn.


What is in the course?

Modern economics can empower students and citizens to understand and articulate reasoned views on some of the most pressing policy problems facing our societies: financial instability, environmental degradation, wealth creation and innovation, and inequality. These are all topics of interest to students across the social sciences, but they are rarely encountered in introductory economics courses. ‘ESPP’ delivers the best of economics, rigorously, in a way that will interest and stimulate non-economics students.

Who is it for?

The main target audience is students (undergraduate or postgraduate), who are not studying economics already, but who want to take an economics course. ‘ESPP’ and ‘Doing Economics’ can either form complete courses, or be incorporated into existing courses (e.g. applied economics, policy economics, development economics), wherever there is a need for economic reasoning and quantitative economic skills.

Learning quantitative skills by doing

Policy-oriented students often find themselves having to choose between a quantitative course of study ‘economics’ that is only minimally social in content, or a socially-oriented course of study that provides little training in quantitative scientific methods. ‘ESPP’ aims to bridge that gap, while delivering skills students can use in their existing studies.

‘Doing Economics’ has one project for each unit in ‘ESPP’, which students can complete using either Excel or R. Each project gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with real-world data, and produce their own reports.

Simon Gallacher, the director of student programmes at the Nuffield Foundation says: “There are definitely students making up their minds to choose courses that have a higher degree of data engagement than they expected when they applied to go to university…they can see the utility of having quantitative skills at their fingertips”.

Developed in partnership

The project team is creating its course materials and testing them in collaboration with institutional partners that include:

  • Birkbeck, University of London, Department of Politics and Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics
  • UCL, Department of Economics
  • University of Bristol, Department of Economics
  • University of Exeter, Department of Economics
  • University of Manchester, Department of Economics

As with all CORE materials, the course is open-access for individuals and institutions anywhere who wish to use it. CORE can be reached at:

Latest on this project


  • Professor Wendy Carlin
    University College London
  • Professor Antonio Cabrales
    University College London
  • Professor Samuel Bowles
    Santa Fe Institute

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.