Public Policy: Theories, Traditions and Transitions

Course Description: 

This course covers contemporary scholarly debates around policy analysis and aims to deepen participants’ knowledge of the theory and practice of public policy.  The course has three key aims: (1) to evaluate the concepts, techniques and methods employed in policy analysis; (2) to evaluate the credibility of policy analysis as an understanding of policy-making in the real world; and, (3) to apply this knowledge to specific policy issues. These aims are wrapped around a central question: What is Good Policy? Policy analysis has been described as “knowledge of” and “knowledge in” the policy process. It includes knowledge of the broad macro-level forces which constrain policy processes such as the political or economic contexts or processes of globalisation (e.g. geopolitics, political integration, global communications, internationalisation of capital); understanding the institutional processes which shape policy agendas and the solutions we apply to them (e.g. network governance, policy learning from overseas exemplars); the application of knowledge at the decision-making (e.g. problem definition, agenda-setting; policy formulation) and the field levels (implementation, evaluation); and technical tools of analysis (e.g. cost-benefit analysis and programme evaluation). Topics covered include: policy design; the role of values in policy making; evidence-based policy making; public goods theory; the democracy-policy nexus; and the challenges raised by wicked problems.