Seminar: Special Topics in Basic Income Studies

This module, facilitated by an alternating academic, aims to enhance students’ understanding of key concepts, controversies and emerging trends in basic income studies. Tailored to each academic’s expertise and current research, this seminar will allow students to gain valuable insights and perspectives from leaders in the field.

Please note, between semesters, the content and language of the course is likely to vary.

In WS2023/24 this course will be taught by visiting professor Prof. Dr. Jurgen De Wispelaere

WS 2023/24 Topic- Basic Income as Public Policy: An Introduction


This is an intro-level seminar course discussing basic propositions related to the idea of an unconditional basic income as a distinctive type of public policy. In this course students will learn how basic income is both similar to and distinct from other policies and programs that constitute advanced welfare states in Europe and beyond. Students will explore how basic income “works” and what sort of impact we can expect a basic income to have on a variety of economic and social variables. In addition, the course will also outline a series of challenges that need to be overcome for basic income to move from simple idea to becoming a policy reality. The course combines several introductory lectures with group seminars, optional individual tutorials, and a workshop at which students present their advanced draft assignments. Course material will draw from a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical studies and make students familiar with recent academic debates as well as several concrete policy developments. The course can accommodate up to 21 students.

Target Group, Eligibility, and Language

In Winter Semester 2023/24 this module will be entirely taught in English.

This course is available for all students enrolled in a master degree, and and bachelor students who are in at least their third semester.

There are no formal requirements, but a background in economics, political science or public policy is beneficial.

Aims and Objectives

This course aims to introduce students to universal basic income as a public policy instrument and make them familiar with the most recent advances in the social sciences and the policy sciences in relation to this novel and growing idea. Along the way …

  • Students will learn the specific features that set basic income apart from more traditional social protection programs and policies, while also appreciating the variation in detailed basic income models and proposals.
  • Students will also learn how in the context of mature advanced welfare states basic income must interact with a range of pre-existing programs, and the policy dilemmas this creates.
  • Students will learn to appreciate the wide range of effects attributed to basic income, learn to assess what we really know about these effects, and under what conditions they are most likely to manifest. Students will learn to distinguish the more pragmatic impact of basic income from its potential transformational goals or objectives.
  • Students will learn the difficulties involved in moving basic income from policy idea to policy reality, including understanding some of the key political economy challenges basic income faces and some strategies proposed to overcome them.

Throughout this course, students will learn to process information provided in lectures and reading material, engage in guided self-study and peer discussion to advance their insights in the topic. In addition, through the interactive format of this course students will learn to present their ideas to their fellow students, critically but constructively engage with each other’s ideas, and learn how to use peer review to revise and improve their individual work.

Format and Structure

The course is organised around 9 core topics, divided into three subject areas:

  1. Basic Income as a Pragmatic Policy Instrument
  2. Basic Income as a Transformative Policy Instrument
  3. Political Economy Challenges of Introducing Basic Income

Each student will be required to pick one specific topic, which will be the focus of their personal research and their final assignment. Maximum two students are allowed to cover the same topic, so students will have to sign up for topics on a list to be distributed at the start of the course. Students who have the same topic will also have to collaborate on a joint presentation at the final student workshop (see below for more info on specifc topics and reading lists).

The course features lectures, group seminars and individual tutorials, as well as a workshop at the end where all students present their draft assignment. The specific course modules are as follows:

  1. Introduction lectures

Prof. De Wispelaere will deliver three lectures offering a sustained introduction in basic income as an idea and a policy.

  • Lecture 1: What is basic income?
  • Lecture 2: How does basic income work?
  • Lecture 3: How to make basic income happen?

These lectures provide the necessary background for students to proceed engaging with the literature and group discussions around their chosen assignment topic.

  • Group seminars

Students participate in two small group seminars (7 students per seminar), in which students working on a similar topic can present and discuss their ongoing work under guidance of Prof. De Wispelaere. The aim is to assist students in working towards their final assignment on their chosen topic.

  • Group Seminar 1: all students will present a 1-page handout with their initial idea of how to approach the topic for their final assignment, with other students and Prof. De Wispelaere offering comments.
  • Group Seminar 2: all students present a more advanced draft outline and the key argument they want to make; other students and Prof. De Wispelaere again offer constructive feedback.

The purpose of the group seminars is to allow students not only to present their own work but also to learn from each other as they comment on each other’s work and learn how other students are approaching similar issues. Groups will be constructed around similar topics so there is considerable overlap and a well-integrated discussion.

  • Individual tutorials

Prof. De Wispelaere will make himself available for occasional individual tutorials in which students can raise specific issues and/or outline a particular point of their ongoing work and get feedback. These individual tutorials are optional and specific times will be posted at the start of the course. Students are required to book an appointment in advance during the advertised time slots.

  • Student workshop

The end of the course will feature an all-day workshop in which student pairs working on the same topic will present their work. Although each student will need to submit an individual written assignment at the end (see below for details), the workshop will feature pairs of two students working on the same topic collaborating on a joint presentation. After each presentation there will be Q&A session with other students participating in the audience asking questions and presenters responding.

Students will be graded on their actual presentation and how they are able to respond to questions. But mainly the purpose of this workshop is to allow students to present more advanced material of their ongoing research and receive one final round of feedback before writing up their final assignment.


The course will be delivered as a block seminar.

16 October14-16Intro Lecture 1Niemensstr 10
R3 (Peterhof)
All students (21)
18 October14-16Intro Lecture 2HS 1243 KGIAll students (21)
20 October14-16Intro Lecture 3Niemensstr 10
R3 (Peterhof)
All students (21)
30 October10-12Group A, Seminar 1Rempartstr. 16, 01 012Group A (7)
30 October12-14Group B, Seminar 1Rempartstr. 16, 01 012Group B (7)
30 October16-18Group C, Seminar 1Rempartstr. 16, 01 012Group C (7)
20 November10-12Group A, Seminar 2Rempartstr. 16, 01 012Group A (7)
20 November12-14Group B, Seminar 2Rempartstr. 16, 01 012Group B (7)
20 November16-18Group C, Seminar 2Rempartstr. 16, 01 012Group C (7)
15 December09-18 Final Workshop with student presentationsHS 1023 KGIAll students (21)

Please note, to pass this course, students need to attend 80% or more of classes. As there are so few events for this course, please ensure you can attend all events before registering.

Course Assessment

The course will be assessed on the basis of three components:

  1. Participation in the Group Seminars (20% in total)
  2. Presentation in the Student Workshop (30%)
  3. Written Assignment (50% )

More details related to different components of the course assessment will be provided at the start of the course.

Credit Points

Bachelor Students: 4 ECTS

Master Students: 6 ECTS

Area of Study

For Bachelor Students:

  • B.Sc. BWL (Public and Non-Profit Management)
  • B.Sc. VWL
  • Polyvalenter 2-Hauptfächer Bachelor (Wirtschaftswissenschaften)

For Master Students:

  • M.Ed.
  • M.Sc. BWL (Public and Non-Profit Management)
  • M.Sc. VWL (PO 2014)
  • M.Ed. Erweiterungsfach
  • M.Sc. in Economics: Internal Elective for profiles ‘Economics and Politics’, Exteral Elective for profiles ‘Finance’, and ‘Information Systems and Network Economics’.


Registration will open on Sunday 24 September at 10am on ILIAS and will operate on a first come, first served basis. Please ensure you fulfil course eligibility (see above). If you are no longer able to complete the course, please leave the ILIAS so that your place may be taken by another student.

Link to register:


For questions on course content, please contact the Professor directly. Jurgen.DeWispelaere AT

For other questions, including on registration, please contact the course support Clem Davies: clem.davies AT