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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Politics of Public Policy (PGSP11309)

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 seeks to acquaint students with the literature on policy-making and on the principles of public policy from the perspective of the institutions and practices of political systems. It is particularly concerned with the exploration of issues which cross the remits of different levels of government (local, regional/provincial, nation-state, supranational, international). The course provides a framework for a discussion of the mechanisms and processes of government, presented in a way that facilitates comparative analysis of political systems at multiple levels of government. The course aims to equip students with applied knowledge of policy-making, and will also enable students to build a critical understanding of the degree of value of general models and concepts of the policy-making process. Finally, the course will also bring together academic expertise and practical experience, by inviting policy practitioners to present case studies on issues of policy or administrative concern.
Course description 1. 'Politics matters' theories
Topics addressed: veto points, legislative behaviour, government formation, reconciliation of party policies, role of political parties
Case-study: coalition formation in Germany, Scotland, UK; majority-building for health care reform in the US

2. Analysing the policy process
Topics addressed: definition of the policy process, agenda-setting, process streams, street-level bureaucratic implementors, use of evidence
Case-study: policy formation in the time-frame of a single administration e.g. US, UK, Germany

3. Theories of governance and governability
Topics addressed: the role of government in governance and societal steering, the distribution of responsibility for the overall performance of the social and economic system
Case-study: 'big society' and 'we're all in this' themes of UK government

4. Policy and the regulatory state
Topics addressed: types of public policy instruments, positive and regulatory state systems, definition of regulatory bodies, use of private and non-profit providers and arm's length state instruments
Case-study: contract provision of public services (e.g. health, employment activation)

5. Forces for stability in the system: interests, institutions and ideas
Topics addressed: institutionalism, legal inheritances, protocols of consultation, structure of political parties, interest group behaviour, resistance to cuts and changes
Case-study: cutbacks in pension provision

6. Constraints on change: path dependency, inertia and lock-in
Topics addressed: path-dependent policies, incrementalism, orders of change, public sector reform, changing paradigms on economic policy and public finances
Case-study: international variations in health systems

7. Theories of Policy Learning and Transfer
Topics addressed: coercive and voluntary learning over space and time
Case-study: influence of world and European financial bodies on deficit reduction policies in 2010

8. Political power in the core executive
Topics addressed: elected politicians and unelected officials, power of the bureaucratic machine, attempts at co-ordination, central institutions supporting the head of government and finance functions
Case-study: policy-making capability supporting heads of government

9 Multi-level governance/horizontal differentiation
Topics addressed: theories of multi-level government, EU and devolution, service delivery at the local and individual level
Case-study: the international presence of intermediate governments (e.g. in EU)

10. Ethics/values in public policy
Topics addressed: transparency, equality standards, evidence-based policy, means of redress, accountability of public officials, roles of media and whistleblowers
Case-study: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To have an in-depth applied knowledge about the structures and processes of policy-making within and across multiple spheres of government
  2. To understand the relation between policy development through rationalist models of the policy process and through events-driven, reactive governing styles
  3. To be able to apply theories and insights from scholarly enquiry to practical issues and problems of public policy.
  4. To reflect upon the politics of policy-making in a range of international contexts since the financial crisis of 2008
  5. To locate relevant information on policy-making processes through library and IT resources and to analyse and present these in a professional fashion
    6. To exercise informed independent thought and critical judgement, as well as demonstrate collaborative and team-working skills
Reading List
- Michael Hill, The Public Policy Process (Pearson Longman 5th ed 2009)
- Michael Hill and Peter Hupe, Implementing Public Policy (Sage 2nd ed 2009)
- John Hudson and Stuart Lowe, Understanding the Policy Process (Policy Press 2nd ed 2009)
- Michael Moran, Martin Rein and Robert E. Goodin eds, Oxford Handbook of Public Policy (Oxford University Press 2006, paperback edn 2008)
- Paul Sabatier (ed), Theories of the Policy Process (Westview Press, Oxford, 1999)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf James Mitchell
Course secretaryMr Lee Corcoran
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
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