An Academic Minor in Economics

Introducing students from other social sciences, the natural sciences and the humanities to the economic system and the main theories about it. 

Courses for Non-Economists

The book so far has mainly focused on how economists should be prepared for their future roles in society. Economists are, however, not the only ones who receive an economics education. In fact, the majority of people who are taught economics will never become an economist or even take a specialisation in the topic. While these students will never call themselves economists, they do take in economic ideas and will apply these in their later work and personal life. Thus, economics education to non-economists still has a large impact on the world.

Example Courses for Non-Economists:

An Academic Minor in Economics

Required background knowledge:


Nominal workload:

30 ECTS (900 hrs, six months or one full semester of bachelor studies)

Course goals:

This course enables students to better understand the economic world they are part of, to understand political debates about it, to envision their own roles in it and to be practically able to play those roles.

Course outline:

The minor consists of four courses, building up from an introductory course which serves to orient the students in their new subject matter, through some historical knowledge and a basic idea of the main economic insights and instruments, through the economy of today, finishing up with a case study focused on how to better arrange some elements in the economic system with an eye on the future. 

The course is divided into the following four parts:

  1. Introducing the economy
  2. Yesterday: Economic history and history of economic thought
  3. Today: Economic systems and mechanisms
  4. Tomorrow: Case study & policy proposal

Part 1: Introducing the economy

This course is all about getting a feel for economic matters. What is the economy, why is it important, how is it embedded in the larger social and natural world, what are the main current societal challenges, and what roles do its experts, economists, have? This basis informs the rest of the minor. Clearly introducing students to the subject-matter of their study allows them to see the bigger picture and put the different elements of the programme in context. Furthermore, it motivates students and helps them understand why studying economics is worthwhile. 

For more details, teaching materials and practical advice on teaching these topics, see the following building blocks:

  • Building Block 1: Introducing the Economy
  • Building Block 2: Know your own Economy

Part 2: Yesterday: Economic history and history of economic thought

This course combines the history of economic thought with the history of the economy itself.

The evolution of economies throughout history is a fascinating and motivating field, full of drama and action. It is also highly valuable for anyone trying to understand the current economy: history can provide great insight into how economic processes work and how today has come about. Finally, a good understanding of what has happened in the past can also help us understand what may happen in the future.

Economists have claimed, repeatedly, to have solved the economic problems of the past, such as booms and busts. Recent history, however, shows us that this is far from the truth. Many of the key issues of our time – financial instability, trade wars, economic inequality – are far from new. In this course, students learn from the past to help them better understand how to tackle the problems of today.

For more details, teaching materials and practical advice on teaching these topics, see the following building blocks:

  • Building Block 3: Economic History
  • Building Block 4: History of Economic Thought & Methods

Part 3: Today: Economic systems and mechanisms

This course discusses the different ways in which economic processes can be organised. It starts with providing students an overview of the different economic organisations and mechanisms – how market, hierarchical, communal, associational, familial and cooperative forms together make up the economy. These are the different ways in which people determine how to allocate the limited time and resources available, how to work together to create economic value and subsequently how to distribute it.

It then continues with the macro-structures of economies, the political economies. That is, how economies are organised, which institutions they have and what their power relations look like. Economies are highly complex configurations of structures and institutions, often captured in taxonomies like tributary, feudal, capitalist, socialist and communist systems. Furthermore, there is huge variety in how economies function across geographies. With a brief historical precursor, the course zooms in on the main contemporary political-economic systems, especially varieties of capitalism, and their internal structures and tendencies.

For more details, teaching materials and practical advice on teaching these topics, see the following building blocks:

  • Building Block 5: Economic Organisations & Mechanisms
  • Building Block 6: Political-Economic Systems

Part 4: Tomorrow: Case study & policy proposal

In this course, students dive into a case study. Through this project, they learn a set of practical skills: to critically and constructively analyse real-world problems, with a focus on the economic aspects, and work on proposals to address them. They also learn to think about normative questions: what different values are at stake in this question, and how can we best highlight the trade-offs inherent in the various policy choices available? 

In a case study, students gain experience with the full process of working on an economic challenge: from acquiring an overview of the problem and the field it is located in, to various ways of evaluating possible solutions and presenting those solutions to decision-makers. They use a variety of analytical techniques, ranging from interviews and basic statistical work, to using systems thinking for a sector scan, to scenario thinking to work through possible policy options. In the process, they also grapple with the underlying ideals guiding economic thinking and decisions, such as equity, efficiency, liberty and solidarity, and are introduced to structured ways of thinking about such values. 

For more details, teaching materials and practical advice on teaching these topics, see the following building blocks:

  • Building Block 9: Problems & Proposals
  • Building Block 10: Economics for a Better World