University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Policy in Action: case studies (PGSP11462)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits15 ECTS Credits7.5
SummaryThis course focuses on the properties of the different tools and instruments available to policy makers in pursuing their goals. It is structured around a core text: Hood's Tools of Government, which provides a framework in which to explore and evaluate initiatives in specified empirical fields or cases. It comprises:

- nodality: government's use of its position as centre of information and communication;
- authority: government use of its powers of regulation to require certain kinds of action;
- treasure: government's deployment of resources, principally money, to effect change;
- organization: government's capacity to act, to get things done on its own account.

Students are divided into work groups of no more than 4, each working on a portfolio of materials specific to a given area or domain of social and public policy. These include:

migration/refugee integration
equalities (gender)
alcohol/drugs policy
cultural policy

Case study portfolios typically include: an introductory framing document; post-devolution timelines of key events (ie ca 1999-2015); white papers and other significant national and local government documents; legislative and parliamentary papers; European initiatives; NGO statements; links to statistical and other data; research reports and related studies (the grey literature). They will not usually include academic material in the form of monographs or journal articles.

Portfolios are mounted on Sharepoint, a file-sharing system widely used in the corporate and public sectors. Portfolios can be linked to twitter feeds, both to facilitate collaboration in groups and to connect to with up-to-date-policy discussion.

Each work group is tasked to critically review the structure and development of policy initiatives in its respective domain. Students are encouraged to carry out limited research of their own, identifying new materials, and will have opportunities to consult a key practitioner in their field.

Course description The first session introduces the course; in groups, students make a first cut at describing and appraising their policy domain. What kinds of activity does this field consist of and who are its principal actors? What issues or problems do they raise and confront? The second session then introduces the Tools of Government framework; in groups, students begin to work out how it applies in their domain.

There is no scheduled class in the third week, though students may meet in their work groups; this 'research week' gives them time to explore, deepen and consolidate their initial understanding of their case. Similar research time in week 8 allows them to consolidate, at a higher level, how they understand the case in respect of each dimension of the framework, and to formalise some policy options.

Weeks 4-7 address different kinds of tool in turn: the relevant chapter in Hood will be set reading, and class time will be more or less wholly devoted to discussion in work groups, exploring issues and instruments of information ('nodality'), authority, resources ('treasure'), and organization in turn, as they are exhibited in respective cases/fields. Week 9 is used for summary group presentations, which will also serve as formative assessment, and week 10 to identify policy options.

1 introduction: case studies: actors and issues
2 policy instruments: The Tools of Government
3 research week
4 nodality
5 authority
6 treasure
7 organization
8 research week
9 case studies: group presentations
10 options

The course will be delivered in 3-hour sessions, over ten weeks, consistent with other core course designed for the MPP. Sessions begin and end with whole group discussion (2x25 minutes); the middle period (2x50 minutes) is spent in groups, working on cases. Each group will be facilitated by an academic tutor. Each will also have access to a named key practitioner in the field, whom students may consult periodically for information and advice. Key practitioners will be AoG associates/Honorary Fellows.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 150 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 3, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 147 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam 0%
Coursework 100%
Practical Exam 0%

Students are to write a critical, collective appraisal of the deployment of different policy instruments in their field. Each student will act as lead author for one of the sections nodality/authority/treasure/organization, and responsibility will be shared for drafting (i) discussion and (ii) policy options. The whole report should be no more than 10 000 words long and each section no more than 2 000 words. The section each student writes will count for 60% of their final mark, and discussion and policy options 20% each. Discussion and option sections will each be given a mark out of 100, distributed evenly across the group.
Feedback Feedback is given each week in the course of facilitated group discussions, in response to group presentations and in written commentary on both individual and jointly-written sections of final reports.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. describe and critically assess the range of policy instruments available to government in theoretical terms;
  2. analyse and critically appraise the application of those instruments to a specific field;
  3. identify and evaluate options for intervention by policy makers;
  4. negotiate and deliver a specified individual contribution to the work of a task group;
  5. access and share information with others using appropriate information technologies.
Reading List
Essential reading:

Hood, C and Margetts, H (2007) The Tools of Government in the Digital Age, London: Palgrave Macmillan

Supplementary reading:

Lascoumes, P and Le Gales, P (2007) 'Introduction: understanding public policy through its instruments┐from the nature of instruments to the sociology of public policy instrumentation', Governance 20 (1) 1-21
Lowi, T J (1972) 'Four systems of policy, politics and choice', Public Administration Review 32 (4) 298-310
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills the ability to identify, understand, analyse and critically review primary materials, including policy and organizational statements, documents and reports;
the ability to work in a group, taking responsibility for the distribution and articulation of specific tasks, and reaching substantive agreement;
the use of a document-sharing platform
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Richard Freeman
Tel: (0131 6)50 4680
Course secretaryMr Lee Corcoran
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information