School of Economics


Economics has been studied at Edinburgh University for two hundred years, encouraging students to develop their interest in domestic and international economy.

In 1800 Dugald Stewart, who was a moral philosopher and friend of Adam Smith, gave the first lectures in political economy at the University of Edinburgh. Courses in economics continued to be available as part of studies in moral philosophy until 1871.

The Chair of Political Economy

William Ballantyne Hodgson was then appointed to the newly endowed George Watson's and Daniel Stewart's Chair of Political Economy, which is still the principal Chair of Economics.

The Chair has subsequently been held with distinction by:

  • Joseph Shield Nicholson
  • Sir Frederick Ogilvie
  • Sir Alexander Gray
  • Sir Alan Peacock
  • A J Youngson
  • Gordon Hughes
  • Gary Koop
  • John Hardman Moore

A second chair was established in 1964; it was held first by Nat Wolfe and then by Brian Main.

Teaching economics

Political economy was initially taught as a single course, but in 1892 it became part of the new MA Ordinary degree before an Economics honours degree was introduced in 1898.

The first two Economics graduates received their degrees in 1902: Over a century later there are over 200 MA graduates every year.

Postgraduate teaching took off in the mid-1950s and it now forms a part of the Scottish Graduate Programme in Economics.

Since 1989 the SGPE has become very successful, and approximately 75 students from all over the world graduate each year with a MSc in Economics. The SGPE also laid the foundations for the Scottish Institute for Research in Economics.

The creation of the Scottish Institute for Research in Economics has meant that Economics at Edinburgh has been able to expand and develop accordingly: New academic staff members have arrived, and their contributions have particularly enhanced the school’s strength in the field of behaviour, incentives and contracts.