MAS364 Bayesian Statistics

Semester 1, 2022/23 10 Credits
Lecturer: Prof Paul Blackwell Home page Reading List
Aims Outcomes Assessment Full Syllabus

This unit develops the Bayesian approach to statistical inference. The Bayesian method is fundamentally different in philosophy from conventional frequentist/classical inference, and has been the subject of some controversy in the past. It is, however, becoming increasingly popular in many fields of applied statistics. This course will cover both the foundations of Bayesian statistics, including subjective probability, inference, and modern computational tools for practical inference problems, specifically Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods and Gibbs sampling. Applied Bayesian methods will be demonstrated in a series of case studies using the software package R.

Prerequisites: MAS223 (Statistical Inference and Modelling)
No other modules have this module as a prerequisite.

Outline syllabus

  • Subjective probability.
  • Inference using Bayes Theorem. Prior distributions. Exponential families. Conjugacy. Exchangeability.
  • Predictive inference.
  • Hierarchical models.
  • Computation. Gibbs sampling. Metropolis-Hastings. Case studies.


  • To extend understanding of the practice of statistical inference.
  • To familiarize the student with the Bayesian approach to inference.
  • To describe computational implementation of Bayesian analyses.

Learning outcomes

  • Carry out Bayesian analysis for a range of standard statistical problems.
  • Apply the Bayesian approach to straightforward novel situations.
  • Use Bayesian computational software, e.g. R, for problems that are not analytically tractable.

20 lectures, no tutorials, 3 practicals


One formal 2 hour written examination [85%]. One project [15%] due by the end of the semester.

Full syllabus

Bayesian theory

  • The subjective interpretation of probability. Constructing subjective probabilities.
  • Independence and exchangeability.
  • Inference using Bayes Theorem. Discrete examples.
  • Prior distributions. Exponential families. Conjugacy.
  • Learning.
  • Predictive distribution.
  • Inference.
Bayesian modelling
  • Hierarchical models.
  • Gibbs sampling, graphical models.
  • MCMC using R.
  • Case studies.

Reading list

Type Author(s) Title Library Blackwells Amazon
B DeGroot, M.H. and Schervish, M.J. Probability and Statistics Blackwells Amazon
B Gelman, Carlin, Stern and Rubin Bayesian Data Analysis 519.42 (W) Blackwells Amazon
B Lee Bayesian Statistics: An Introduction 519.542 (L) Blackwells Amazon
B Spiegelhalter, D.J., Abrams, K.R. and Myles J.P. Bayesian Approaches to Clinical Health-Care Evaluation Blackwells Amazon

(A = essential, B = recommended, C = background.)

Most books on reading lists should also be available from the Blackwells shop at Jessop West.