The Master of Science in Economics and Public Policy focuses on the economic analysis of markets, political processes, institutions, and government interventions. Public policy challenges are everywhere: How can we combat climate change and shape the economy towards a more sustainable future? Does the rise and dominance of new firms in the digital sector call for strict anti-trust measures? Does increasing concentration of income and wealth call for more redistribution or intervention on the labor market? How much government intervention is needed in a crisis like the 2020/21 Covid-19 pandemic?
The curriculum of the Master in Economics and Public Policy provides you with the tools that you need to understand public policy challenges and to develop effective solutions. A series of core courses teach you fundamentals of economics and quantitative methods essential for the analysis of public policy using real-world applications. Moreover, you can specialize in one of three economic policy fields: Energy & the environment, competition & regulation, and health & labor markets. This will sharpen your profile and foster your skills directed towards problem solving in the manifold areas of economic policy. Your lecturers are internationally renowned scholars, dedicated researchers, and policy advisers active in these areas.
We offer you a personalized and inspiring learning environment where students and lecturers closely interact, and which prepares you for a professional career in economics and public policy.
Prof. Dr. Beat Hintermann
Prof. Dr. Hannes Weigt
You will understand and assess economic literature related to the design, consequences and evaluation of public policy and public institutions. You will be able to place such studies in the correct scientific context, to assess the validity of their argumentation, and to draw scientifically appropriate conclusions from them. You will learn to design, conduct and interpret studies on your own, to design and conduct small surveys, to perform econometric analysis of own or existing data, to design and analysis of formal economic models, to place your work in an appropriate scientific context, and to build a scientifically sound argument based on your results.
You will learn about specific public policy challenges and solutions in at least one policy field. You will be familiar with the political, societal and economic institutions and processes of that field in Switzerland and abroad. You will also acquire knowledge in one policy-relevant discipline beyond economics such as law, political science, political philosophy, ecology, or psychology.
Due to the high scientific standards and the comprehensive toolkit you acquire you will gain access to a vast amount of scientific work and learn to use this knowledge efficiently to inform public policy. You will be able to assess different policy options and their consequences for society, firms, and individuals and to communicate the findings effectively to both an expert and a lay audience.
The Master of Economics and Public Policy prepares you for positions in private sector companies that are subject to public policy, in public administration that prepares and implements policy measures, in non-governmental organizations, international organizations and political parties that develop strategies for public policy, and in think tanks or policy consulting agencies that support all of the above actors. The program also serves as a preparation for a career in research and a possible academic track in the broad field of Economics and Public Policy.
By focusing on modern methods and gaining insight into several policy fields, you will be prepared to work in dynamic environments where priorities often change rapidly and where interfaces between policy fields become increasingly important.
Fundamentals in Economics
Core Courses in Public Policy
0 or 12
Preparation Master Thesis
18 or 30
Which lectures are part of the program? Have a look!
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All you need to know about the master's thesis.
Economics of Public Policy
This introductory course provides the fundamentals for other core and field courses in this program. The questions discussed include: When should government intervene, and how can we test whether an intervention was successful using empirical evidence? How can we prevent that a market failure is replaced by a government failure? What institutions can help us reach an outcome that is both efficient and socially acceptable? What is the role of, and the need for, redistribution? The course provides a theoretical foundation for the economics of public policy and discusses applications from different fields. It is taught by several professors in the program and also includes guest lectures from practitioners.
This course provides students with an in-depth understanding of the role of the government in a market economy and the interaction between equity and efficiency that is at the heart of public policy. Government intervention is justified by market failure due to three broadly defined reasons: Externalities, asymmetric information and redistribution. These define the role of public policy in terms of expenditure and taxation and provide the theoretical foundation for the course. The first part covers expenditure theory and discusses applications in the context of public and environmental economics. The second part focuses on the theory of optimal taxation and the behavioral responses to taxation from an empirical point of view.
Causal Inference for Policy Evaluation
Quantifying causal effects of policy measures in a credible way is very challenging and econometric methods provide the necessary toolkit. This course offers you a comprehensive understanding of the state-of-the-art techniques for causal analysis and how they should be applied in practice. The course starts by introducing the potential outcome model and by discussing the difference between identification of causal effects and their estimation. Thereafter, we discuss four approaches to the identification of average causal effects that exploit (i) rich data to handle endogeneity issues, (ii) policy changes with a difference-in-differences approach, (iii) exogenous variation induced by instrumental variables, and (iv) policy discontinuities with a regression discontinuity design. In the last part, we go beyond average effects and discuss methods to uncover causal mechanisms behind causal effects and distributional causal effects. For each method, you not only learn the theory but also implement it with real-world data.
Informing Public Policy I & II
In these courses, you take the role of policy advisor, expert or consultant who is asked for a scientific expertise regarding a specific policy proposal. You learn how to write such an expertise and how to communicate the key elements to different expert and lay audiences. Under the supervision of an expert from the faculty, you work on a specific case study as part of a group of students. You collect relevant inputs for the expertise such as theoretical arguments and insights from the relevant empirical literature, and you combine this with own considerations about implementational issues and other relevant pro and cons of the proposed policy measure. Based on your assessment, you make specific recommendations regarding the implementation of the measure. At the end of the courses, you write up the expertise and present it.
The policy fields bundle the content diversity of public policy in three thematic areas – Competition and Regulation, Environment and Energy, and Health and Labor. You will choose of those fields as your area of specialization. Within each policy field, you will be able to select the courses that best fit your interest.
Competition and Regulation
Competition is a fundamental force in a market economy. It provides incentives to invent, improve and excel and can be the “rising tide that lifts all boats”. However, competition does not naturally arise in some markets, and firms may have incentives to act strategically to manipulate prices and quantities in their favor. In the field Competition and Regulation, we investigate threats to competition and discuss how rules can be designed to improve market outcomes. Competition is also crucial for the public domain, as political parties compete for voters and local governments for firms and taxpayers. The rules for public competition are determined in the political process and have important implications for taxes, the functioning of markets and our overall wellbeing. This policy field provides you with the tools to understand and analyze various forms of competition and regulation and is an excellent preparation for a career in the private or public sector.
Environment and Energy
Environmental and energy policy has become one of the most hotly debated policy fields in most industrialized countries. How do we answer the challenge of climate change? Which policies and market designs can be used to facilitate the transition to renewable energy? How can we handle the side effects of an increasing demand for mobility? Such questions are widely discussed in public and policy. How we answer these questions has huge important implications for many firms and strongly influences trade patterns and international relations. In this context, economists provide advice both to public agencies designing policies and to firms deciding on future market strategies that are influenced by these policies. In this policy field, you can gain detailed insights into how environmental policy measures influence firm and consumer behavior, how policies and market designs interact, and how the political process shapes environmental and energy policy.
Health and Labor
Ageing populations, digitalization and the Corona pandemic have dramatic impacts on the health care system, social security systems, insurance and labor markets. Coping with these impacts is therefore high on the priority list of many countries’ political agendas. How can we ensure the sustainability of the health care and pension system with increasing shares of older people? How can we cope with rapidly changing work environments? How can we make sure that workers keep up with changing skill requirements? Such questions are widely discussed in public and policy. How we answer these questions has significant implications for many dimensions of society. Sound answers require a profound understanding of how supply and demand of labor and health care are intertwined with public regulation. Economists provide advice to all relevant players, from policy makers to citizens, firms to unions, and public to private institutions. In this policy field, you can gain detailed insights into how health and labor market policies influence insurance providers, providers of health care, employers, workers and individual behavior in other dimensions. You learn how policies and market designs interact and how the political process shapes policies.
The program is completed by a master’s thesis. Students typically conduct their own research addressing a current real-world public policy question. The seminar and the research colloquium in economics and public policy provide the students with the skills needed for designing an own research project and for scientific writing
There is a choice between a small master’s thesis (18 credits) or a large master’s thesis (30 credits). Both formats aim for a research-oriented final project. The large format is better suited for research projects which involve demanding own data collection and compilation, advanced theoretical modeling or complex computational simulations. Students opting for the small (18 credits) master’s thesis acquire an additional 12 credits from courses in the general electives.
Prof. Dr. Beat Hintermann
Beat Hintermann is Associate Professor for Public Economics. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and joined the University of Basel in 2010. He is a research fellow at CESifo, a member of the executive committee of environmental economics of the VfS and ca Co-Editor at Resource and Energy Economics. He has worked extensively on the analysis of emissions trading systems and their implications for the covered firms in terms of CO2 emissions, productivity and profits. Other work involves behavioral public economics, fiscal federalism and health economics. In ongoing projects, he makes use of field experiments in the context of mobility behavior, both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof. Dr. Hannes Weigt
Hannes Weigt is Professor for Energy Economics at the University of Basel. He is head of the Research Center for Sustainable Energy and Water Management (FoNEW) and member of the University Basel Research Network Sustainable Future, and has been Work Package leader within SCCER CREST on “Energy Policy, Markets and Regulation.” His research focus is on energy markets and policy design, with a particular focus on modeling the future electricity system. He published in economic field journals like The Energy Journal, Energy Economics, and Network and Spatial Economics, as well as interdisciplinary journals like Energy Research and Social Science, Sustainability, PLoS ONE, and Water Resources Research.
Other Core Faculty
Prof. Dr. Stefan Felder
Stefan Felder holds the Interpharma professorship “Health Economics” at the University of Basel. He was Professor at the University of Magdeburg and at the University of Duisburg-Essen in the Departments of Economics and Medicine. He has published widely in international journals and written the Springer textbook “Medical Decision Making: A Health Economic Primer”. He has been active in consulting both public and private institutions and in writing columns on questions of health care and insurance.
Prof. Dr. Frank Krysiak
Frank Krysiak is Professor for Environmental Economics. He holds a PhD in Economics from the Technical University of Berlin and has joined the Faculty of Business and Economics in 2006. From 2014-2020, he has been head of one of the SCCER CREST. His research focusses on the long-term effects of energy and climate policy (e.g., the effects on green technological change), on the design of energy markets, and on the economics of sustainability. His work has been published in major journals, such as, the European Economic Review, the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, or the Journal of Public Economics. In addition to his research, he represents the Faculty of Business and Economics in the Master of Sustainable Development and is a member of the Federal Energy Research Commission (CORE).
Prof. Dr. Catherine Roux
Catherine Roux has been Professor of Industrial Organization and Regulation of Energy Markets at the University of Basel since August 2015. Catherine’s main interests in teaching and research lie in the areas of industrial economics and microeconomics, specifically in the application of laboratory experiments to competition policy questions. She has published in international economics journals such as the International Economic Review, the European Economic Review, and the International Journal of Industrial Organization. Catherine holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Lausanne and previous to joining the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Basel she was a professor at the University of St.Gallen and a SNF-postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.
Prof. Dr. Kurt Schmidheiny
Kurt Schmidheiny is Professor of Economics and Applied Econometrics at the University of Basel. He is also a Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR, London) and at CESifo (Munich), and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Urban Economics and the Journal of Economic Geography. He published in the Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Journal, Economic Journal, Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Urban Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics, and Journal of Economic Geography.
His research focuses on tax competition, fiscal federalism, and urban economics. Kurt Schmidheiny often works with detailed administrative data such as individual-level tax data on individuals and firms. He also develops the necessary applied microeconometrics methods used to estimate causal effects from such data.
Prof. Dr. Alois Stutzer
Alois Stutzer is Professor of Political Economics and the Director of the Center for Research in Economics and Well-Being (CREW) at the University of Basel. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Zurich in 2001 and stayed as a research fellow at the Center for Law and Economics at the University of California in Berkeley in 2002. In 2006, he joined the Faculty of Business and Economics in Basel. Alois’ research interests include political economics, public economics, law and economics, and economics and psychology. He has co-authored the book "Happiness and Economics" (Princeton University Press) and further published in journals such as the Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Review, Economic Journal, or American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.
Prof. Dr. Conny Wunsch
Conny Wunsch is Professor of Labor Economics at the University of Basel and head of the Graduate School of Business and Economics. Her research focuses on labor economics and econometric methods. She is co-editor of Labour Economics and the Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics, and a member of the scientific advisory boards of the KOF Swiss Economic Institute, the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), and the RWI Essen. She is also a research fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), CESifo, DIW, and IZA. She published in Experimental Economics, the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, the Journal of Econometrics, the Journal of the European Economic Association, the Journal of Health Economics, the Journal of Labor Economics, and the Review of Economics and Statistics.
Holders of a bachelor’s degree from a Swiss university will be admitted without additional requirements/conditions provided they can prove the following:
- At least 75 CP of undergraduate knowledge in business and economics, of which 50 CP in economics (microeconomics, macroeconomics, finance, applied economics)
- At least 6 CP of undergraduate knowledge in mathematics
- At least 6 KP of undergraduate knowledge in statistics / econometrics.
In the case of all other bachelor’s degrees from recognized higher education institutions, the examination committee will evaluate the equivalence of the required undergraduate knowledge, with the bachelor’s degree program in business and economics at the University of Basel being the reference.
The following condition must also be met:
The bachelor’s degree relevant for admission must have an average grade of at least 5 / unrounded (Swiss grading system 1 to 6, where 6 = max./4 = pass). Conversion calculator
As an alternative to the minimum GPA, holders of a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university-level higher education institution may present a current Graduate Record Examination® General Test (or GRE® Test), provided the results in the areas of “Quantitative Reasoning” and “Analytical Writing” are among the top 30% at least.
For bachelor’s degrees that do not have a grade or grade average, the equivalence of the grade to the average grade of at least 5 / unrounded (Swiss grading system 1 to 6, where 6 = max./4 = pass) will be reviewed by the examination commission.
The Master in Economics and Public Policy consists of 90 CP and is designed as a three semester program starting in fall (30 CP per semester). However, registration is also possible in spring semester but may result in an extension to the regular period of study.
You can also study part-time. In that case, we recommend you to complete at least 15 CP per semester. The study time will be prolonged accordingly.
Please register here.
Application deadline for fall semester: April 30.
Application deadline for spring semester: November 30.
Application fee: CHF 100.
Tuition fees per semester: CHF 850.
Individual costs of living etc. are not included.
Parents and/or the cantonal scholarship office in the parents’ canton of residence are basically responsible for the funding of studies, and the appropriate applications should be submitted there. International students should find out what scholarships they are eligible for in their home country. For more details, see here.