Postgraduate Course: Policy in Action (PGSP11522)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course is concerned with the capacity to govern, that is with the aims and achievements of policy, and the resources available to policy makers in pursuing their goals. Students are divided into work groups of no more than 4. Each group is assigned to a specific policy domain and tasked to report on its structure and development to an incoming minister. In workshop format, the course sets a series of structured questions through which groups explore: the organization of actors and interests in a policy domain; the distribution of money, people, ideas and information; the current and future role of government and options for change.
Students are assigned to groups, and each given a portfolio of materials specific to a domain of social and public policy in Scotland. These include for example: immigration and asylum; equalities (gender); prisons; alcohol and drugs; cultural policy; higher education. Workshops are organised in three sections as follows:
Section one (typically weeks 1-3): 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? Due attention is paid to working in groups and the design and production of effective report.
Section two (typically weeks 4-8) addresses different dimensions of governing capacity in turn: organization, resources and regulation. Each session is led by an introductory presentation and discussion; class time will be largely devoted to working in groups, exploring issues raised in respect of different cases and fields. Substantive sessions are preceded and followed by research weeks, in which students have time to explore, deepen and consolidate their initial understanding of their case.
Section three (typically weeks 9-10) is used for summary group presentations, which will also serve as formative assessment, and for comparative analysis and review across cases.
The course is delivered in 2-hour sessions, over ten weeks. 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.
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.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||40% - 1000 words Policy Brief
60%- 3,000 analytical report (submitted on an individual basis)
||Feedback is given in written commentary on the briefing and reports and in skills sessions.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Critically assess a specific domain of public policy
- Propose, examine and analyse a critical problem for Government within the policy domain
- Appraise and debate a range of information and evidence in relation to the policy domain
- Demonstrate comprehension of the course themes (actors and interests, goals and governance, information and evidence, resources ¿time, money, and people) and their application
- Identify and evaluate options for intervention by policy makers
|Bradbury, J and Mitchell, J (2005) 'Devolution: Between Governance and Territorial Politics', Parliamentary Affairs 58, 287-302 |
Bryman, A (2012) Social Research Methods, fourth edition, Oxford: Oxford UP
Goodin, R E, Moran, M and Rein, M (eds) (2008) The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, Oxford UP
Hood, C and Margetts, H (2007) The Tools of Government in the Digital Age, London: Palgrave Macmillan
Lowi, T (1972) 'Four systems of policy, politics and choice', Public Administration Review 32 (4) 298-310
Robson, C (2002) Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers, Oxford: Blackwell
Stone, D A (1989) 'Causal Stories and the Formation of Policy Agendas', Political Science Quarterly 104, 281-300
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||1. Applied policy analysis, according to a comprehensive framework;
2. Data collection and analysis, using available datasets, primary documents, secondary literature and expert interviews;
3. Organization, scheduling and completion of work in groups;
4. Information sharing and presentation;
5. Writing for policy and practice.
|Course organiser||Dr Claire Houghton
|Course secretary||Mrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456