Making Policy

School: School of Government
Institute of Local Government Studies

Modular value: 20 credits 
Duration: 2 x 2 full day seminars

This module provides an understanding of how policy is formulated, developed, negotiated and changed. The module introduces the participant to a series of frameworks and approaches, and both their power and their limitations are explored. The module draws on approaches from political science, public management, public administration, organisational sociology, anthropology and social policy. 


The objectives of the module are

  • to give an overview of the main theories and ways of understanding the process of policy formulation, development and implementation;
  • to examine how institutions affect the content of policy and constrain the set of policies that can feasibly be adopted in particular situations;
  • to examine the scope for special interests, lobbies, interest groups and pressure groups to influence the policy process and the content of policy;
  • to give an overview of the ways in which particular tools or instruments are chosen, designed, crafted and negotiated;
  • to provide a high level introduction to some key approaches to policy analysis and evaluation; and
  • to provide an understanding of the factors that shape the implementation of policy.

Content, teaching style, case studies and syndicate work

The module is delivered in five full day sessions. Each session consists of a mix of lectures and work in groups. We will also have a series of speakers presenting various policy scenarios.

The didactic parts of the module will provide a fairly high level overview of the main topics. However, reliance upon lecture notes will not suffice for participants to secure good marks for their assignments. Background reading will be required.

The focus of this module is comparative throughout. Participants are encouraged to relate the theory and models to their own experience of the policy process as it affects their organisation or sector. Participants will examine issues studied by comparing how they play out in various case studies. Your case studies will be based on current policy areas determined by participants themselves during day one of the module. In addition, reading material is provided in the appendix to this handbook for four further policy case studies which, although they will not be specifically addressed in the teaching sessions, participants may wish to use in their assignments or examination preparation.

The module involves group work. Students will be expected to provide a group presentation during Unit 2 based upon a policy case study, which will require research during the interim period. The presentation topic will then be used However, work done in the groups is not used in individual assessment. Assessment will be carried out on the basis of individual assignments, which, while they may draw on work in groups, will require additional individual work.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to

  • understand and critically appraise the principal theories and models of the policy process;
  • analyse the factors that shape the policy agenda;
  • understand the roles of key interest groups and pressure groups and their networks and institutions in shaping policy outcomes;
  • understand the principal factors that lead to the choice of particular policy instruments and
  • examine the factors that shape implementation.


The module will be assessed through the completion of two written assignment:

  • 2 x 3,000 word assignments (each 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.