(The above film is a representation of a typical lecture on the MSc Public Policy programme. Please note this is 53mins in length.)

The MSc Public Policy allows students to explore the changing nature of international public policy and consider key questions such as:

  • What is public policy?
  • Who are the key actors and what institutions are involved?
  • How is it shaped by, and how does it impact upon, an economic, social and cultural environment which is increasingly ‘globalised’?

The programme encompasses both a theoretical understanding of the policy process and models of appraisal with a practical orientation to evaluating research evidence. The programme consists of four mandatory units, two elective units and a dissertation.

Elective units enable students to further develop and specialise in the areas of policy analysis and public management, as well as provide the opportunity to choose from a range of substantive policy areas. These units are subject to change each academic year but may include:

  • The economics of public policy
  • Health and health care in a global context
  • An international analysis of crime, harm and justice
  • The international analysis of poverty and social exclusion
  • Cities, housing and public policy
  • Gender and violence: International and global perspectives
  • Critical policy studies and the internationalisation of public policy
  • The state of labour
  • The policy and politics of urban sustainability.

While all the programme units consider policy in an international and comparative context, particular emphasis is placed on Europe and East Asia.


Graduates of the MSc in Public Policy will have:

  • an understanding of the political, economic and institutional context of policy making in various international settings;
  • an understanding of the models of policy making and techniques for appraising policy;
  • the ability to pursue a self-directed research project in any relevant area of policy research;
  • a practical grasp of the nature of research evidence and skills in the evaluation of that evidence especially in a comparative context;
  • a grasp of international policy concerns in several substantive policy areas.


Each of the six taught units are assessed in the form of a 3,500 word essay. The dissertation (15,000 words) involves independent research into an area of policy.

The programme offers an extensive range of support for essay and dissertation writing. In teaching block one (TB1), a five-week study skills course is run in groups to support students in academic writing skills, covering topics such as referencing, essay planning, theorising and critical skills. As part of the study skills course, students submit a formative essay, which gives the first opportunity for students to get feedback on their writing.

Dissertation work is supported by workshops and training in research methodology. Students receive individual supervision from an expert in their chosen topic area, who will offer guidance and detailed comments on draft dissertations.

Teaching methods

A rich variety of teaching methods are used across the different units. Lectures are combined with seminars, and in many unit students are given the opportunity to develop presentational skills through group projects.


Since 2008 students have completed the following dissertations with an international focus:


  • Integration of migrants in Bristol, especially focusing on those who have come from Somalia,
  • What is the impact of HIV/AIDS on the socio-economic wellbeing of women in Zimbabwe?


  • Prevalence of Domestic Violence and Policy Analysis in China,
  • Should the Issue of Child Poverty be Mainstreamed in Government Policy in Hong Kong?


  • Comparative Analysis of Inequality and Poverty Trends in Russia and Ukraine for the period from 1990 to 2008,
  • Imposed Islamic Dress Code Regulation as a Specific Form of Violence Against Women in the Republic of Chechnya.

North America:

  • The effects of urban transport in Toronto: A case for public bikes and pedestrianisation,
  • What Explains the Privatisation of Security and Military Service? - An Examination of Trends and Prospects in the US and the UK.

South America:

  • Child participation in the formulation of policies to combat child trafficking in Paraguay,
  • Evaluation of SME Development Policies in Mexico.

Programme handbook

Please refer to the programme handbook MSc Public Policy handbook 2020 (PDF, 816kB) for further information.

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