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Economics in context

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Why are markets so powerful in most economies today? What is the role of the government in different economies, and how does this role shape opportunities of different people and firms? What explains global inequalities? Why is economic growth such a key economic goal in most countries today? Are there other goals economies could pursue? You'll unravel similar questions, using insights from recent history, key economic thinkers, and drawing on economic perspectives and examples. This module is a building block towards a critical perspective on economics and economic choices for our daily lives.

What you will study

This module has three primary aims:

  • To provide you with foundations of economics and an initial set of skills and tools economists use
  • To provide an insight into how economics and the economies have evolved over time
  • And finally, to engage with a plurality of perspectives within the economics discipline and outside it, and embed standard economics in context.

Given the prevalence and power of markets around the globe, this module initially makes a case for why economies organise so much of their activity through exchange in markets. It then opens the analysis of economies to recognise the embeddedness and interrelation of markets with more complex systems which makes their success, if one could agree on what success means for markets, context-specific.

There are two main blocks of study. The first focuses on markets, how they operate, what drives their outcomes, and how economics analyses them from a microeconomic perspective. The second looks at key systems which interact with markets and define the economies in which they operate. You'll look at labour institutions, technological change, financial, innovation and industrial actors, and trade systems. The module ends with a reflection on the role of the government, and on how this role changes through time and space, and through context.

Throughout the module, we'll be making use of three interconnecting themes: agents, success, and change. What success means changes according to the agents and the context; the relative importance of different agents changes with the context and with what the prevalent measure of success is; and change through time depends on the relation between agents and success.

The story of the UK textile revolution, which many would argue as the origin of the Industrial Revolution, is used to describe the transformation of consumption, production, markets, and economies as felt in this industry, in the last 300 years, and the transformation of economics itself in the process.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this module. You'll learn and engage with some techniques such as numerical calculus, descriptive charts, and more abstract diagrams, and you'll learn to use them when writing your assignments. During your studies, there will be two weeks of study to further support skills development.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

The module is delivered through a textbook, written especially for the module, and the module website. You'll be able to access an online version of the textbook, but some activities on the website will lose their functionality when printed. Offline equivalents of these online activities will be provided when possible.

You will need

You'll be provided with Office 365 which includes Word and Excel. Your assignments can be done using Word, but some will include diagrams drawn by you. We will support and discuss alternative ways of doing this, but if you will want to draw diagrams on paper and not using software, you may want to take a photo of your diagram, and be able to paste your photos into Word.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a module tutor assigned to you who will contact you early in the module. After that, he or she will provide expert distance tuition through feedback and ‘feed-forward’ on your assignments and be on hand to answer your queries. Your tutor, in collaboration with others, will run a series of face-to-face and online tutorials to help you get the most out of the module materials and prepare for assignments and the final exam.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD126 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Economics in context starts twice a year – in October and February. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2029.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school