This course aims to introduce different ways of thinking about what policy is and how it is formulated: the actors, institutions, ideologies, evidence, opinion and other factors that influence policy-making and policy outcomes. It explores different theories of the policy making process and how these relate to contemporary debates and practical challenges facing policy-makers. It considers what is meant by policy `success` and how this can be delivered and evaluated, raising important, contested issues about the complexity of public policy and the broad range of actors affected to question `success for whom`? It aims to explore how the changing macroeconomic environment presents particular challenges for public policy making.
By the end of this course, having undertaken the associated reading and assignment, students will be able to:
1. Describe and critically evaluate different theories of the policy making process, including the policy cycle, rational and incremental models of policy making, top down and bottom up understandings of implementation, and the role of evidence-based policy
2. Explain the role of power in the policy process and the ways it can be exerted in policy networks and more participative policy processes.
3. Critically account for the main internal and external factors shaping what government does and what actually happens `on the ground`, including the role of agencies, public servants, the private sector, the media and those subject to that policy
4. Critically evaluate the conditions which underpin relative policy success and failure
5. Apply assessment of key challenges and constraints facing contemporary public policy makers at local, national and international levels to explain real world policy choices
6. Make effective use of different types of evidence in evaluating policy processes and outcomes
7. Demonstrate competence in critical thinking and writing about the policy process