The Politics of Regulation: Risks and Regulatory Failures

Module titleThe Politics of Regulation: Risks and Regulatory Failures
Module codePOL3195
Academic year2016/7
Module staff

Dr Madalina Busuioc (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Regulation is a tricky business. It is a field characterised by complexity, uncertainties, conflicting goals and a multiplicity of vested interests. Unintended consequences and negative side effects of today’s regulatory choices can become the sources of the next crisis. The recent financial crisis has further underscored the fundamental importance of regulation to social and economic life and the high stakes of regulatory success and failure.

The course will critically examine, in a comparative fashion, the politics surrounding the adoption, implementation and enforcement of regulatory policy as well as the limits of regulation in anticipating and managing risks. It will look at the specificities and challenges involved in regulating specific areas as varied as food safety, internet (security), financial markets or utilities. It will also cover overarching key themes such as: theories of regulation; tools and techniques of regulation; regulatory failure and side-effects; risk regulation and crisis management; regulatory enforcement and oversight. For instance, we will specifically discuss the various ways in which risk is governed and regulated in modern societies and the complexities and challenges inherent to various approaches to risk regulation. We will address questions such as: Why are there different perceptions of (the severity of) risks? And given these varied public perceptions, how should regulators assess, prioritise and regulate risks? What should the role of ‘experts’ be in terms of decisions on how to regulate risks? What about that of public opinion?

Module aims - intentions of the module

The course will aim to: provide you with a good grasp of the most important debates and approaches to regulation; enhance your understanding of the challenges and trade-offs involved in regulatory policy; develop your ability to apply key insights to a variety of regulatory fields; advance your understanding of risk and the role of regulators and businesses in anticipating and managing risks.

To illustrate theoretical approaches, the course will draw on extensive empirical examples of regulatory policy in various domains (ranging from utilities, to financial or social regulation), with an emphasis on UK, EU and US examples.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. demonstrate understanding of key theoretical debates and approaches to the study of regulation
  • 2. demonstrate understanding of both generic regulatory issues as well as specificities of regulating key regulatory domains
  • 3. demonstrate critical awareness of the challenges and trade-offs involved in anticipating and regulating risks and the limits of regulation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. apply key theories, models and concepts within the discipline
  • 5. draw on and apply key theoretical insights and frameworks to specific empirical examples

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. demonstrate advanced skills in written and oral communication, research and critical analysis
  • 7. digest and dissect complex information and to build and present rigorous, adequately supported arguments

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

While the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, this plan is indicative of some of the main topics to be covered by the module. More details will be given and the plan finalised in the module syllabus available on ELE prior to the start of the course.

What is Regulation?

The Regulatory State &the ‘Risk Society’

Theories of Regulation: Public Interest, Capture, Rational Choice

Regulatory Tools and Approaches

Regulatory Agencies

Regulating Risks

Risk Governance: Comparative Approaches

Regulatory Enforcement

Regulatory Failures and Unintended Consequences

Regulatory Competition: Races to the Top, Races to the Bottom

Regulatory Reform &Innovation

Crisis Management &Preparing for Future Crises

Regulatory Oversight

The Future of Regulation

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 teaching4422 weekly sessions each lasting 2 hours, each consisting of a mix of formal lecture, student-led seminar, collective discussion and presentations
Guided independent learning256A variety of private study tasks directed by the module leader, including: reading and preparation of assigned readings for seminars (roughly 130 hours); the research, preparation and completion of essays (roughly 50-60 hours/per essay); research and preparation of the presentation (roughly 10 hours).


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Presentation10-15 min1-7Verbal 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
Essay 1503,000 words1-7Written
Essay 2 402,500 words 1-7Written
Seminar contribution10Assessed across the module1-7Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay 3,000 words 1-7August/September reassessment period
Essay 2 Essay 2,500 words1-7August/September reassessment period
Seminar contributionShort overviews of 5 module topics (5 x 150 words)1-7August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


Baldwin, R, Cave, M and Lodge, M eds (2010) The Oxford Handbook of Regulation, Oxford: OUP

Carpenter, D (2013) eds. Preventing Regulatory Capture: Special Group Interest Influence and How to Limit It, Cambridge University Press.

Carpenter, D (2010) Reputation and Power: Organizational Image and Pharmaceutical Regulation at the FDA, Princeton University Press.

Hood, C and Rothstein H and Baldwin, R (2001) The Government of Risk: Understanding Risk Regulation Regimes, Oxford: OUP

 Slovic, P (2000) The Perception of Risk. Routledge

Renn, O (2008) Risk Governance: Coping with Uncertainty in a Complex World, Routledge.

 Kelemen, R D, Vogel, D (2010) ‘Trading places: the role of the United States and the European Union in international environmental politics’ Comparative Political Studies 43: 427

 Vogel, D (2003) ‘The hare and tortoise revisited’ British Journal of Political Science 33: 557-80

 Ayres, I and Braithwaite, J (1992), Responsive Regulation: Transcending the Deregulation Debate, Oxford: OUP

 Moran, M (2013) The British Regulatory State, Oxford: OUP

 Alasdair, R. (2011) The logic of discipline: global capitalism and the architecture of government, Oxford: OUP

 Mayntz, R ed (2012) Crisis and Control: Institutional change in financial market regulation, University of Chicago Press


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

A number of articles, reports or book chapters will be available for every topic on the module website. These will be supplemented with empirical materials from different government and non-government regulatory sources, as appropriate.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Regulatory policy, regulation, governance, risk, regulatory failure, risk
management, public policy.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date