University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

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Political Economy

About the major

Political Economy focuses on the relationship between the economy, society and political interests. It deals with important global and social challenges and asks what role can economic policy play in ensuring prosperity, equality and sustainability.

The discipline centres on the proposition that the study of economics must reach beyond technical debates to include an understanding of the economy in its historical, institutional, political, social and cultural context. Understanding the modern economy requires study of broad questions that deal with: the dynamics of globalisation and the implications for national economic policy settings; economic instability, uneven development and inequality; and, trade-offs between market and universal provision of health, education and social services, the financialisation of everyday life and insecurity, and, economic growth and ecological sustainability.

Key research and teaching areas include:

  • Global political economy
  • International finance and trade
  • Economic development and well-being
  • The distribution of income and wealth
  • The political economy of human rights
  • Finance, business cycles, neoliberalism
  • Energy and the environment
  • Race, gender and labour

Studying political economy will develop the skills you require to analyse a range of economic issues of contemporary public concern, including their social and political aspects.

Requirements for completion

The Political Economy major and minor requirements are listed in the Political Economy unit of study table.

Learning outcomes
No. Learning outcome
1 Demonstrate a solid and critical understanding of the core concepts, methodological approaches, analytical tools and historical origins of the principal schools of economic thought.
2 Apply and adapt major theoretical principles and approaches to critically analyse the economy in its social, political, cultural and historical context.
3 Engage in independent data and information gathering that is informed by a robust understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods in political economy.
4 Evaluate and interpret contemporary economic issues and policies of public importance, including their social and political aspects.
5 Effectively and ethically communicate political economic ideas, processes and problems in appropriate formats for diverse audiences.
6 Apply and adapt political economic approaches in an interdisciplinary context.
Advanced coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in SSPS offers students the opportunity to apply their social science skills and knowledge to complex and tangible social, cultural, political and economic problems. Students will have the opportunity to apply and further develop their methodological, analytical and communication skills as they undertake primary research, learn to harness big data for critical social science research and diagnose and propose responses to contemporary and persistent social, cultural, political and economic challenges. Students will also be given the opportunity to further develop their capacity to translate social science research and analysis into effective contributions to public and policy debates.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Political Economy advanced coursework units of study page.


The honours degree in Political Economy is the premier undergraduate degree offered by the Department. This degree offers high performing students with a major in Political Economy the opportunity to develop superior research, analytical, writing and communication skills. This one year program is made up of two advanced level seminar courses and the preparation of a 20,000 word honours thesis on a topic of the student’s choice. The honours thesis is a self-directed research project that is completed under the supervision of a member of the Department. Students are welcome to pursue honours theses that focus on questions of economic theory, policy or method.

The honours program is challenging and will suit high performing students with a strong interest in research. The program provides a straightforward pathway into postgraduate study. Honours graduates in political economy are sought out by employers who value the superior research, analytical and writing skills they develop in the preparation of their honours thesis.

Honours admission requirements

Admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Political Economy with an average of 70 percent or above.

Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Political Economy honours units of study page.

Contacts and further information

Department website:

Example pathways

Political Economy major pathway completing honours in Political Economy

Sample pathway

First year


ECOP1001  Economics as a Social Science




ECOP1003 International Economy and Finance



Second year


ECOP2012 Social Foundations of Modern Capitalism




2000 level ECOP selective unit



Third year


ECOP3999 Interdisciplinary Impact

3000 level ECOP selective unit



3000 level ECOP selective unit

3000 level ECOP selective unit


Fourth year (honours)


ECOP4011 Advanced Theory in Political Economy

ECOP4012 Advanced Research in Political Economy

ECO4013 Political Economy Honours Thesis 1


ECOP4014 Political Economy Honours Thesis 2