Making Policy

School: School of Government
International Development Department

Modular value: 20 credits

Module Convenors: Adrian Campbell and Fiona Nunan

Aim of the Module

Making policy is at the heart of government. It sounds simple, but in reality policy making is a complex process, with competing interests trying to influence the agenda and design of solutions, with those with more power and resources more likely to influence policy. A wide range of strategies are used by those seeking to influence policy, making it important to understand how a policy process works and which strategies are best to use to gain influence.

This module is essential for those students working in government, or intending to work in government, and playing a role in making, implementing and/or evaluating policy. It is also essential for those who hope to play a role in influencing policy, whether that’s through an NGO, a campaign group or a think tank. You will gain knowledge of policy-making and skills in making, analysing and influencing policy that will be of real use to you in the policy world.

The emphasis of the module is on the process of making policy, rather than on the content. Key concepts associated with policy analysis are introduced to analyse the process of policy-making, providing students with: a better understanding of how policies are made; an appreciation of the complexity of the policy process; familiarity with key factors that limit the government’s ability to achieve its goals; and the ability to identify links between the various levels of constraints facing policy makers.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will be able:

  • Critique the main decision-making theories and models of the policy process.
  • Apply institutional analysis to policy-making situations to explain the roles and interests of institutions
  • Analyse the role of policy communities and policy networks and critique these approaches
  • Evaluate policy issues in terms of agenda-setting and relationships between policy decision and policy implementation
  • Critically evaluate and assess the outcomes of policy decisions
  • Be familiar with key concepts and theories from the policy analysis literature
  • Apply policy analysis concepts and theories to ‘real world’ scenarios
  • Have a deeper understanding of the richness of the policy process
  • Think more rigorously about the ways in which public policies might be formulated
  • Appreciate the difficulties facing those who seek to tackle social problems

Teaching and learning approach

The module will be delivered using a range of teaching and learning methods encouraging student participation, drawing on their own experience and on literature and case studies, with interactive lectures, group discussions, student presentations, case studies and invited speakers.

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to theories and concepts within policy-making
  • Decision-making
  • Influencing policy: interest groups, advocacy and policy networks
  • Discourse theory and policy-making
  • Evidence, research and policy transfer
  • Tools for policy analysis
  • Policy integration and coordination
  • Policy implementation
  • Impact and evaluation


The assessment for the module will consist of:

  • Small group presentations (10% of overall mark)
  • Written assignment of 1,500 words (40%)
  • One essay of no more than 2,500 words (50%)

Related courses:

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.