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Unit information: Understanding Public Policy in 2015/16

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Unit name Understanding Public Policy
Unit code SPOL20054
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Ayres
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Policy affects, directly or indirectly, every aspect of our lives. Questions regarding, for example, how policy is made and who has influence over the content of policy are therefore of the utmost importance. This unit provides students with an overview of social scientific analysis of the policy process, drawing primarily on the policy studies literature. The students will be introduced to a range of theoretical perspectives on policy making, and given a sense of how thinking has developed over time. The unit will also explore recent debates at a political level and it will seek to evaluate current thinking by placing it in the context of the academic literature on how policy is made.

This unit aims to:

  • introduce students to the development of theoretical analysis of the policy process
  • critically review several leading contemporary theoretical perspectives on policy making.
  • examine the relationship between research and policy making.
  • encourage critical reflection on contemporary debates about new approaches to policy making in governmental and non-governmental settings.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students will:

  • have an appreciation of a range of theories and models of the policy process
  • be able to give an account of how different theoretical perspectives could be applied to case studies of the policy process.
  • be able to critically review contemporary debates about policy making.

Teaching Information

Lectures and seminars.

Assessment Information

Formative assessment: (max) 2000 word essay chosen from a list of titles reflecting the learning outcomes and content of the unit.

Summative assessment: 3000 word essay chosen from a list of titles reflecting the learning outcomes and content of the unit.

All assessments will be assessed against the published marking criteria for Level 5 (programme handbook).

Reading and References

  • Bochel, H. and Duncan, S. (2007) Making Policy in Theory and Practice, Bristol, Policy Press.
  • Bovaird, T. and Loffler, E. (2009) Public Management and Governance 2nd edition, London, Routledge.
  • Eliassen, K. A. and Sitter, N. (2008) Understanding Public Management, London, Sage.
  • Flynn, N. (2007) Public Sector Management, London, Sage.
  • Geyer, R. and Rihani, S. (2010) Complexity and public policy, London, Routledge.
  • Hartley, J., Donaldson, C., Skelcher, C and Wallace, M. (2009) Managing to Improve Public Services, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
  • Hill, M. (1997) The Policy Process in the Modern State, London: Sage.
  • Hodgson, S, M. and Irving, Z. (2007) Policy Reconsidered, Bristol, Policy Press.
  • John, P. (2010) Making policy work, London, Routledge.