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The Public Policy Process

Module titleThe Public Policy Process
Module codePOC1014
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr David Benson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The public policy process is a critical component of everyday politics and an important focus of political science. Understanding how public policy is initiated, formulated, adopted and implemented remains central to explaining the broader exercise of political power – in other words ‘who gets what, when, how’ (Lasswell 1936). The module therefore provides an introduction to public policy making by defining key concepts, outlining major theoretical arguments and discussing the entire policy cycle, from agenda-setting to final implementation and policy succession. Illustrative examples of policy processes will be drawn from the UK and elsewhere.

No prior knowledge skills or experience are required to take this module and it is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students. The module is suitable for students on interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide an introduction to the public policy process by presenting major concepts, theoretical debates and key academic texts. It also aims to link theoretical arguments to empirical examples through employing material from different national contexts, primarily the UK. By undertaking the module, you will also develop your research, analytical and writing skills.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate knowledge of the public policy process specifically, through engagement with key concepts, debates and major academic texts;
  • 2. demonstrate the ability to understand theories of the policy process and apply this knowledge to the explanation of empirical examples;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. demonstrate knowledge of political processes generally, debates and major academic texts;
  • 4. demonstrate the ability to understand political theory and apply this knowledge to the explanation of empirical examples.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. research and write analytical essays;
  • 6. formulate critical arguments; and
  • 7. communicate arguments effectively through written submissions.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following themes:

  • Introduction to the policy process – policy types and stages, module assessments, reading
  • Major theories of the policy process – pluralism, neopluralism, structuralism, institutional theory, advocacy coalition framework, implementation theory, policy evaluation, policy streams
  • Relating theories to a case study
  • The decisional phase
    • Issues and agenda-setting
    • Policy formulation
    • Policy instruments
    • Decision-making
    • The post-decisional phase
      • Implementation
      • Evaluation, succession/termination
      • Conclusions and new horizons in public policy research

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activity16.5 hours11 Lectures – 1.5 hours each
Scheduled learning and teaching activity11 hours11 Seminars – 1 hour duration
Guided independent study122.5 hoursPrivate study. Students will be given directed reading to complete which will support the lectures, seminars and coursework (approximately 50% of the allocated time). Students will be expected to devote the rest of this time to the formative exercise and completing the summative case study. The case study will also require some independent research, although guidance will be given in class and on request.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Policy case study proposal200 words1,6Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Policy brief/essay 331,200 words1-7Written feedback
Policy case study/extended essay672,400 words1-7Written feedback


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Policy brief/essayPolicy brief/essay (1,200 words)1-7August/September reassessment period
Policy case study/extended essayPolicy case study/extended essay (2,400 words)1-7August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Dryzek, J. and Dunleavy, P. (2009) Theories of the Democratic State. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Hill, M. (2009) The Public Policy Process. Harlow: Pearson.

Howlett, M. (2010) Designing Public Policies. London: Routledge.

Wu, X., Ramesh, M. and Howlett, M. (2010) The Public Policy Primer. London: Routledge.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Public policy, policy formation, policy decision-making

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date