UCL Department of Economics



The MRes/MPhil/PhD programme is designed as a five-year sequence (full time) and is structured as follows:

1. MRes (one year): taught courses followed by a three-month dissertation project

2. MPhil (one year): first year of independent PhD research, supported by mandatory research training and optional skills development courses

3. PhD (normally three years): independent PhD research, supported by optional skills development courses

MRes Structure

The MRes (Master’s of Research) is the first year of the PhD Economics programme and is a compulsory and fully-integrated part of the PhD. An MRes is different to an MSc or MA degree in that it’s a Research programme not a Taught programme. If you already have a Master’s degree you’ll still need to completely the MRes year of the PhD. The MRes Programme is a compulsory part of the programme and all applicants must apply directly to the MRes Programme before they can apply to study the MPhil/PhD Programme

Throughout Terms 1 and 2, you will study the following four core courses:

In Term 3 and throughout the Summer, you will be working on your MRes dissertation project (ECON0078), a piece of independent research that may be seen as your first step towards the preparation of your MPhil upgrade and eventual PhD thesis (see below).

MPhil/PhD Structure

MPhil Programme: Year One     

You will start working on your thesis and undertaking your research work.  You will also be required to attend a reading and presentation workshop. At the end of this workshop you will make your first presentation of your research topic.

A second seminar in September is the upgrade seminar in which you will give a presentation of your own research work. At the end of this seminar faculty members decide about your upgrade from MPhil to PhD status.

PhD Programme: Year Two       

You will continue to work on your thesis with the aim of taking up Completing Research Status (CRS) towards the end of your third year.

PhD Programme: Year Three    

This is the year where you should be working on your job market paper. By the end of your third year you will be expected to take up Completing Research Status (CRS). You can find more information about the procedures and regulations you need to follow during your research degree examination process on the Research Assessment webpagesThe submission of the original exam entry form and the nomination of examiners form should be completed and handed to Daniella Harper, Postgraduate Administrator, for processing. Once you receive notification from registry that your viva can go ahead, you should communicate this information to Daniella Harper, who will assist you in booking a suitable venue.

The Upgrade Seminar

The upgrade seminar is a formal assessment, which takes place as a viva conducted by an examining panel that assess a written report and your defence of it. The upgrade panel is usually chaired by the second supervisor, along with at least two other academics. You can find out more about the upgrade here.

Skills development during the MPhil/PhD (Non-credited workshops)

In order to continue your develop on the MPhil/PhD programme you will have the option to take the following non-credited workshops every year of your degree (the list is subject to changes and additions). Non-credited workshops don't count towards your final grade, but offer valuable skills development to help you during and after your degree.

If you are an Intercollegiate student and would like to attend a workshop, you will need to obtain a UCL guest account to get registered on the Moodle Page. Please email a scanned copy of your passport and mobile telephone number to Daniella Harper by 30 September. 

You can find the timetable for these workshops here: https://timetable.ucl.ac.uk/ search under ‘Degree Programme’ for ‘Research Degree:  Economics (RRDECOSING01)’ for the full timetable. 

Advanced Macro: Models with Heterogeneous Agents

We will study how to use  quantitative models with heterogeneous agents. We will look at several application, and we will highlight the successes of these models, their shortcomings, and their policy implications. We aim to bring you to the frontier of research, generating ideas, and discussions for research projects. Some of the applications are
1. Income and Wealth Inequality
2. Financial frictions, Entrepreneurship, Housing, Asset Liquidity.
3. Recent discussion on government policies in heterogenous-agents framework, including unconventional monetary policy, fiscal stabilization, government debt dynamics in low-interest-rate environment, etc. 
4.Content is flexible, and we will respond to some extent to the needs and interests of participating students.

Public Economics

You'll cover topics in the optimal design of government policies and develop theoretical models in applied microeconomics, with a focus on connecting theory to data to inform economic policy. Topics include efficiency costs and incidence of taxation, optimal income taxation and redistribution, dynamic taxation of households and capital taxation, and behavioural public finance.

Course leader: Alan Olivi

Frontiers and Foundations of Mechanism

We aim to enable you to start your own research project. The material can be divided into three topics: Models of verification in mechanism design, Majorization in mechanism design, Mechanism design without money (Risk aversion in new clothes and total positivity). The course will be based on both recent and classical papers. Most of the papers discussed are of a theoretic nature, but it will be equally suited for students focusing on theory and for students with a more applied research agenda. You'll gain a thorough understanding of the discussed papers so that you can build your own research (both in theory and applied fields) on this literature. 

Course leader: Deniz Kattwinkel

Optimal Policy and Expectations (not running in 2023/24)
Applied Job Search Models and Structural Analysis of Individual Wage Data  (not running in 2023/24)

You'll be introduced to theories and microeconometric applications of job search with a specific focus on understanding the sources of wage dispersion across workers, wage dynamics across dates and wage profiles over a worker’s life cycle. Special emphasis will be placed on methods to combine worker, firm, and matched worker/firm panel data with structural job search models to describe and explain real-life phenomena and to provide structural tools for quantitative policy analysis.

Our objective is to provide you with a set of ideas and tools that you can use in yout research, whatever you study: labour, I/O, macro, applied micro, development, family economics.

You can find more details at this link. 

Topics in Applied Economics

You will cover a wide range of topics in contemporary applied economics research (labour, public, economic history, etc.). Through exposure to a diverse set of cutting-edge research in applied topics, we aim to nurture essential skills for conducting applied research including critical evaluation of the literatures, handling of data and methodologies, as well as effective communication of research questions and findings. You will be encouraged to develop your own research ideas and will be provided with feedback.

  • Course leader: Hyejin Ku
Empirical Methods for the Study of the Labour Market

You'll aim to understand: 

•    Graduate Labour Course 
•    Methods that are quite useful in Applied Research 
•    The transition from consuming to producing research

  • Course leader: Attila Lindner
Topics in Labour Economics (not running in 2023/24)

This course aims to cover theoretical and empirical work on topics in labour economics, and to provide a foundation for original research.  
Students will learn how to formulate and solve dynamic models, spatial equilibrium models, as well as reduced form estimation techniques.  Applications of these models include an analysis of labour market effects of migration, unemployment, wage differentials, income inequality and sorting. Throughout the course, analysis will be linked to the current debate on labour market policies such as migration restrictions. 

Course leader: Suphanit Piyapromdee

Experimental Economics 

In this module, we will discuss an overview of several topics in experimental economics. The goal is not to cover all the active research, but rather to give students a background of experimental economics and provide them with some of the necessary tools, and to get to the frontier on a selection of topics. 

We will first introduce the field and discuss when/why experiments are most valuable as well as the guidelines for how to run an experiment. Then, a significant part of the course will focus in answering three questions:

  1. What do people believe about the world around them, and how can we get them to report their true beliefs?
  2. How do people think about themselves and their identity?
  3. How do people think about others?

We will conclude by taking a step back and looking at new directions for the field, both in terms of its methodology and changes to its norms. Along the way, we will have some time devoted to student-led discussions of a few recent papers. 

Outline of topics:

  • History and fundamental philosophy behind experiments.
  • Vernon Smith’s norms of experimental economics.
  • Introduce different styles of experiments (e.g. lab, online, field) and their benefits / drawbacks.

Other-regarding preferences: How people incorporate others’ payoffs or utility in their own utility function.

  • The ultimatum game, dictator game, and extensions.
  • Traditional view: Altruism, fairness, equity and efficiency concerns. 
  • More recent approaches: Self-image concerns, social-image concerns, and moral wiggle room.

Belief elicitation:

  • Incentive compatibility imposes significant restrictions on what questions should elicit beliefs and preferences in theory. 
  • Introduce classic methods (e.g. Becker-DeGroot-Marschak), ways in which they are implemented, and eliciting other properties of beliefs. 
  • Empirical concerns with many belief elicitation methods that often lead to biased reports, and new approaches to tackle them. 

How people update their beliefs from new information: 

  • The empirical strategy of Grether regressions and classifying systematic deviations from Bayes’ rule. 
  • Categorising a number of different belief-updating biases (e.g. base-rate neglect, over/underreaction, and confirmation bias) in this framework.
  • Empirically discuss when each bias plays more or less of a role, primarily using “balls-and-urns” experiments but also discussing real-world settings. 

Belief updating in environments where people have a stake in the outcome: Motivated reasoning.

  • Different approaches to identifying motivated reasoning, both in stylised and practical settings.
  • Empirical evidence of when motivated reasoning plays more or less of a role, and discussing underlying psychologies behind these settings. 

Beliefs about others: When people think that others are overly different from or similar to them. 

  • Act as if others are less strategically sophisticated than them (e.g. level k) and more biased than them (e.g. bias blind spots).
  • Act as if others have similar preferences to them (e.g. interpersonal projection bias). 
  • Implications for beliefs as well as behaviour in strategic settings (e.g. in communication games).

Conclusion: We will take a (large) step back and discuss where the field is now.

  • Recent positive developments (e.g. technological advances). 
  • Recent negative developments (e.g. the replication crisis). 
  • Revisit the ideas and norms from the introduction, and discuss how things have changed in the past decade. 

Course leaders: Michael Thaler and Duarte Gonçalves

Topics in Economic Theory: Bounded Rationality and Learning

In this module, you will learn topics at the frontier of economic theory.
This year, the theme will be models of bounded rationality and learning.

The first part (delivered by Rani Spiegler) will examine models of markets with boundedly rational consumers, and use them to examine how firms create spurious price complexity to confuse consumers and make it harder for them to perform comparisons; whether market competition mitigates or rather exacerbates this effect; the role of regulatory interventions and "nudges" in such environments; how market competition performs when consumers have limited ability to perceive relevant correlations (e.g. between price and quality); and how "non-standard" consumer preferences (exhibiting loss aversion or dynamic inconsistency) affect pricing.

The second part (delivered by Duarte Gonçalves) will focus on dynamic information acquisition. These models have been used to study individuals searching for jobs, consumers searching for the best product, agents learning about others' equilibrium behavior, the procedures for the regulation of medical drugs, the effects of incentives on research output, &c. A by-product of these models is decision-time predictions, which have been shown to be a powerful tool in recovering underlying individuals' preferences (the empirical/experimental evidence for which is examined in the Experimental Economics course).

We intend to familiarise students with theoretical concepts and tools. In addition to theorists, the course will hopefully be of use to students in more "applied" fields. For example, the topics in the first part may be of interest for students who are interested in empirical IO or market regulation, while models of dynamic information acquisition (covered in the second part) have been applied both to macroeconomics and industrial organization.

Hopefully, students in various fields may find the ideas and techniques taught in this course relevant to their own research interests.
The course can be taken for credit; upper-year students are also encouraged to register to audit the course.

  • Course leaders: Duarte Goncalves and Rani Spiegler
Topics in International Economics (not running in 2023/24)

You'll receive an overview of several active areas of research in international trade. It introduces frontier topics, insights, and tools, with the goal of preparing you to conduct independent cutting-edge research in the field as well as in adjacent fields where ideas and techniques from international trade may be useful, such as urban and spatial economics, labor, development, IO, finance, and macro. 

You can find more details on this course at this link

Development Economics

Our goal is to familiarise students with theory and empirical methods in some fundamental and active areas of research in development economics. It will consist of 10 two-hour lectures.

Your lecturers will be Jonas HjortImran Rasul, and Gabriel Ulyssea.


  • Human Capital Across the Life Cycle 
  • Firm productivity, growth and frictions
  • Firms and informality
  • Migration and development 
  • Organizational decision-making, contracting frictions, and the boundaries of the firm and the state
  • Relationships between states, firms, and workers
Corporate Finance Theory

You'll study theoretical models of information economics and contract theory with a focus on their applications to corporate finance questions. You'll be familiarised with influential papers in the field, equipped with knowledge of the main “workhorse” models that you may later find useful in your own research and exposed to some of the current active research areas. Specific topics include static and dynamic theories of firms’ financial structure based on tax benefits, bankruptcy costs, and information asymmetry; models of complete and incomplete contracting; dynamic financial contracting; theory of the firm; and [TBC] models of the market for corporate control.

  • Course Leader: Alex Gorbenko
Financial Econometrics

To teach students state-of-the-art econometric methods used in empirical finance. The focus will be less on underlying theory of existing methods and development of new methods (since the students are not expected to carry out research in econometric theory) but rather on providing the students with a solid understanding of existing methods, including their strengths and weaknesses, and how and when they can be applied to analyse quantitative financial problems.

  • Course leader: Dennis Kristensen
Topics in Empirical Finance

You'll be provided with a flavour of the latest research in applied finance. It is not a methods course or particularly technical but background knowledge in econometrics and workhorse models in corporate finance and asset prices are needed. The course will show how existing research has used data to test hypotheses that arise from theory and to document anomalies that challenge existing theories and motivate new ones. The goal is to provide students with a suite of practical examples of how to go about designing empirical research projects.

  • Course leader: Saleem Bahaj
Financial Intermediation Theory

Main topics

  • Liquidity provision
  • Monitoring
  • Regulation

Study seminal models and recent advances

  • Discuss ideas, nature of economic problems
  • Careful inspection of modelling issues
  • Illustration and discussion on
  • How to write applied theory models
  • How to write referee reports and prepare discussions
  • Course leader: Fred Malherbe
Advanced Topics in Macroeconometrics

This course will introduce you to recent methodological developments in macroeconometrics, with a focus on causal inference in semi-structural models. Topics include: 

  • local projection and structural vector autoregression methodologies
  • the use of narrative information for identification
  • identification approaches based on heteroskedasticity (and other moments)
  • factor models
  • estimation of structural equations
  • high-frequency identification
  • set identification techniques
  • the challenges posed by weak identificatio

 Although the primary concern of the course is methodological, recent empirical findings will be integrated throughout, with particular focus on questions of monetary and fiscal policy. You'll learn how to formulate an empirical research design with a credible identification approach and gain awareness of the limitations of common techniques and possible remedies. The course will combine a lecture format with discussion of weekly readings from recent journal publications and working papers. While the course is not assessed, you are expected to participate in these discussions. You will also prepare mock research proposals applying the course material and present them to the class for feedback. 

  • Course Leader: Daniel Lewis
Asset Pricing

Asset pricing theory allows us to understand the values of financial assets, the claims of future uncertain payments. We will study the canonical models in the field and review some relatively recent articles that extend or challenge these models. The course covers various topics, including individual investment choices under uncertainty, static and dynamic asset pricing theory, valuations of securities, potential applications of these themes, and modern financial anomalies.

  • Course Leader: Ji Hee Yoon
Topics in Econometrics

This course introduces students to frontier empirical methods across a series of 10 two-hour lectures taught by five faculty members. The course is geared to both applied economists as well as to students interested in advances in econometric theory. 

Topics covered this year (2023-24) include:

  • Decision theory, efficient use of data in decision problems, and optimal decision making in a changing environment.
  • Optimal bias-aware estimation and inference with applications to high-dimensional and factor regression models.
  • Advances in identification of short panels, with an emphasis on models of discrete choice.
  • Semiparametric/high-dimensional two-step estimation.
  • Advances in causal inference.
    • Course leader: Timothy Christensen

These workshops are optional and do not include an assessment that counts toward the MPhil or PhD degrees. However, the department expects that you will attend one or two of these in each year.

A wealth of additional (usually shorter) optional skills development courses are offered by centres with which the department has close ties, notably cemmap. Details of those vary from year to year, but there is always a lot to choose from.