Introductory Microeconomics, Michaelmas Term 2016


Prof. Pramila Krishnan (tutorials)
Dr. Brian A'Hearn (tutorials and classes)


Weeks 1-4: BA
Weeks 5-8: PK

Th 2:30 - Buchholtz, Chandrashekaran, Dragoslavov
Th 3:30 - Drahanowsky, Karim, Kezelman
Th 4:30 - Mogridge, Woodrow, Bouras
Fr 2:00 - Casini, Gisby, Mead
Fr 3:00 - Munro, Shabong, Terry
Fr 4:00 - Wilson, Spokes

Locations: tutors' rooms - Staircase 1 (BA), Almshouse (PK)


Weeks 1-8: BA

M 2:00, Chandrashekaran, Spokes, Bouras, Casini, Gisby, Karim, Munro, Shabong, Wilson
M 3:00, Buchholtz, Dragoslavov, Drahanowsky, Kezelman, Mead, Mogridge, Woodrow, Terry

Location: Andrew Pitt Room (Henderson Building)*
* except Week 4, when we are in the Eccles Room, Staircase 8 / SJB

Schedule overview

2Supply & demandeps essay
3Firms: cost minimisationmpsecon. probs.
4Firms: perfect competition and monopolyepsessay
5Firms: imperfect competitionmpseps
6Individual choice: utility maximisationepsessay
7Utility maximisation, cont.mpsecon. probs.
8Market failureepsessay

eps: economics problem set; mps: maths problem set
click week number to jump to detailed information



The Economics Department puts on a series of lectures that you must attend (MT 11-12, Examination Schools). Additionally, a series of lectures and/or classes in Elementary Mathematical Methods is offered, targeted at those who have not done AS-level maths or the equivalent.


The Department also sets and marks the Preliminary Examination in economics, which you will sit in June of next year, and which you must pass before continuing on to your second year. (There are re-sits are in September for any who fail the June exam.) The University thus does lecturing and examining.

Tutorials, classes, and collections

The College provides teaching in the form of tutorials and classes, and monitors your progress by means of "collection" exams set and marked by your tutors. A collection normally happens at the beginning of the term after you have studied a subject, e.g. in 0th Week next January for this course. Your college tutors will ordinarily follow the Department's syllabus, but not slavishly; tutors have autonomy about how and what they teach. With only a small number of brief sessions together, we cannot possibly cover all the material from the lectures. The point cannot be emphasised too much that your studies here will be mostly self-directed and independent.

Part of my job is to help prepare you for the prelims exam. But my real goal is to help you become good economists. I do not teach with one eye always on the exams. Do not expect feedback of the form "you could earn two more marks here if ...". In fact, do not expect marks at all, as I don't give them for tutorial and class work. (Collections are different.) I want your focus to be on asking questions, articulating answers, and learning economics, not on earning marks. The main sort of feedback you will get is in our discussions in tutorials and classes, so use them wisely, and actively.

Tutorials will be an opportunity for in-depth discussions of work that you have prepared: sometimes essays, sometimes shorter questions and problems. You should be doing most of the talking in a tutorial. A colleague of mine once told me "After a few years students will remember almost nothing that we say, but they will remember what they say." Tutorials should maximise how much you say.

We will also have weekly classes with 8-10 people. In even weeks, these will be devoted to economics. In odd weeks we'll do maths (see below). Sometimes we will discuss problems or questions that you have been assigned. Sometimes we will have a more free ranging discussion about economic issues.


You will be asked to write several essays this term. These should not exceed 2000 words in length, should have a bibliography listing any sources used, and should be submitted by 12:00 on Wednesdays (both by e-mail and in paper format to my mailbox, via the porters). Do not copy text from your sources without attribution: that is plagiarism. Copying many two-sentence passages from several different sources is plagiarism. Copying three sentences, in which you change just one or two words in plagiarism. (And this sort of thing is picked up by the software we use to check.) The essays are about both substance and style - style in the sense of crafting a convincing argument, not in the sense of ornament. A good essay will display lucid economic reasoning, will make use of tools like diagrams, and will bring relevant evidence to bear. Feel free to start your research with websites and journalistic sources, but to do good job try to consult a few sources authored by professional researchers and published in academic journals (or working papers) or policy reports.

Problem sets

Each week you will be set an economics problem set, which is to be handed in at the relevant class or tutorial. Please attach a cover sheet on which you indicate any problems you have had difficulty with.

You will also be set four exclusively maths problem sets, which we will discuss in our class meetings in odd weeks. The problems will be drawn from the Department's Maths Workbook, which you can download from the WebLearn site. The material should be simple, just revision for most of you, with the likely exception of constrained optimisation, which we will do towards the end. Ideally, I do very little talking in these classes; I expect you to be doing the talking, and teaching each other. There may be a basic maths competence test in January, which would be marked on a pass-fail basis. In the event someone were to fail, we would arrange some remedial work.


There is no single textbook that we will march through, chapter by chapter. There are a number of good texts that cover the right material at about the right level, each with its own style, its own strengths and weaknesses. I recommend that you have a look at several and pick a favourite, along perhaps with a backup for a different viewpoint. Four texts that I think are good, and which are also recommended by the lecturer, are the following.

MKR: Morgan, W, M. Katz, and H. Rosen. Microeconomics (McGraw-Hill, 2nd European ed.).
F: Frank, R. Microeconomics and Behaviour (McGraw-Hill, 8th int'l ed.).
V: Varian, H.Intermediate Microeconomics (Norton, 7th int'l ed.).
P: Perloff, J. Microeconomics with Calculus (Pearson, 2nd int'l ed.).

The edition details refer to the versions on my shelf; other editions are fine but may differ in pagination, chapter numbers, etc. These books are all well-known, widely-used texts. The last two are somewhat distinctive, V for its abstract style, P for its use of calculus in the body of the text (rather than appendices or footnotes). F and P have a lot of interesting examples and applications, something I particularly appreciate.

You will also need the Economics Department's Maths Workbook. This can be downloaded from the Department's WebLearn site.

Week by week schedule

Week 1: Introduction

For this week's essay please write a critical review of one of the books on the summer reading list. This review should of course include a concise summary of the book's most important ideas, but I also want you to develop your own "take" on the issues. That might mean you reject some of the book's claims, or look for evidence for or against them, or extend the ideas to a different context. The list is here.

Class will be devoted to working problems from Chs. 1-3 of the Maths Workbook. Bring to class written solutions, with a cover sheet as describe above, to the following problems:

Ch1: 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13
Ch2: 1, 3, 4, 8
Ch3: quick questions 1, 3, 5, 7; longer question 1

You should read at least one (preferably more) of the following for this week.

MKR: Ch. 1
F: Chs. 1, 2
V: Ch. 1
P: Chs. 1, 2

Week 2: Supply and Demand

For this week's tutorial, please write an essay on the following question. "Does immigration lower the wages of native workers?" Start your essay by using the basic supply and demand framework. From there you may move to a discussion of its inadequacies, or to a discussion of empirical evidence on the issues, or in another direction.

Please prepare written answers to the economics problems here and submit them at your class meeting, where we will discuss them.

Readings: currently no new readings for this week. Note however that books of a more basic level than those I have listed for the course may be very good on basic supply and demand analysis, and are worth consulting.

Week 3: Cost Minimisation

Class: please read Chapters 4 and 5 of the Maths Workbook and prepare written answers to the following questions.

Ch. 4: 2, 3, Longer question 2
Ch. 5: 2, 4, Longer questions 1, 2

Tutorials this week will be about building blocks of modelling firm behaviour: production functions, cost minimisation, and optimal choice of inputs. Choose from among the following readings.

MKR: Chs. 8, 9, 10 (Sect. 2 only)
F: Chs. 9, 10
V: Chs. 18, 20, 21
P: Chs. 6, 7

Please prepare written answers to the economics problems here and submit them at your tutorial meeting, where we will discuss them.

Week 4: Perfect competition and perfect monopoly

Essay: Please assess the following claim. "The deadweight loss associated with monopoly is counted in human lives, when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Patents in this industry must be abolished."

Class: please prepare written answers to the economics problems here and submit them at your class meeting.


MKR: Chs.10-11, 13
F: Chs. 11-12
V: Chs. 22-24
P: Chs. 8-9, 11

Essay titles and tutorial plans for Weeks 5-8 may change. Class assignments will remain as indicated here.

Week 5: Imperfect competition

Class: Please read Chapters chapters 6 and 7 of the Maths Workbook and prepare written answers to the following questions:

Ch. 6: 3, 6, 9; longer questions 1, 2
Ch. 7: 1, 5, 6; longer question 1

Tutorials this week will cover monopoly in greater detail (e.g. price discrimination), along with models of oligopoly. Please prepare written solutions to the problems you will find here and bring them to your tutorial.


MKR: Chs. 14-15 - More on price making firms; Oligopoly and strategic behaviour
F: Ch. 13 - Imperfect competition
V: Ch. 25, 27 - Monopoly behaviour; Oligopoly
P: Chs. 12, 14 - Pricing and advertising; Oligopoly

Week 6: Individual choice - utility maximisation


Class: please prepare written answers to the problems here and submit them at your class meeting.


MKR: Chs. 2-3
F: Chs. 3-4
V: Chs. 2-6
P: Ch. 3

Week 7: utility maximisation, cont.

Class: Please read Chapters 8 and 9 of the Maths Workbook and prepare answers to the following questions:

Ch. 8: 4, 5, 6
Ch. 9: 4; longer q'n 3

Tutorials: please prepare written solutions to the problems you will find here and bring them to your tutorial.


MKR: Chs. 4-5
F: Chs. 5, 14
V: Chs. 7-10
P: Chs. 4-5

Week 8: market failure


Class: please prepare answers to the problems you will find here and bring them to your tutorial.


MKR: Ch. 18 (review 13)
F: Chs. 16-17 (review 12)
V: Chs. 34, 36 (review 25)
P: Ch. 16 (review 12)
"Review" chapters have material on price discrimination relevant for the problem set.