MA Politics

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Understanding Governance: Policymaking in the 21st Century

Unit code POLI70272
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course is a core module for the MA in Governance and Public Policy and is available as an option across some other Masters level programmes (Democracy and Elections, Politics, European Politics and Policy). There are no pre-requisites for this course.



The course aims to introduce you to theories, concepts and practice associated with contemporary governance and policy making.  It will explore the meaning of governance and the changing nature of the state and drawing on theories and practice of policymaking, seek to understand how policy is made and how it is effective or ineffective. The course will provide you with the opportunity to develop skills in applying theoretical concepts and understanding to practical policy environments and vice versa, in the assembly and presentation of materials and in small group and written work.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course unit and demonstrated by means of written assessed work and oral presentations you will -

  • have a greater awareness of the concept of governance and the key concerns and ingredients of policy making;
  • utilise theories, models and practice associated with contemporary public policy making;
  • relate these theories and concepts to actual policymaking examples and live political issues; 

And be better able to:

  • utilise theories, models and practice associated with contemporary public policy making;
  • relate these theories and models to real political and policymaking areas;
  • use primary materials;
  • record key points of discussion;
  • précis and present arguments and policy ideas in written materials.

Teaching and learning methods

The course is organised into weekly one hour lectures and one hour seminars.   There are ten sessions (including the introductory session).  There is no reading week and part of the session in week 7 will be used to organize presentations in weeks 8, 9 and 10 and offer consultations on assessed work.

Attendance at seminars is compulsory.  If you know in advance that circumstances beyond your control will prevent you from attending a seminar, you should contact me as soon as possible to explain your absence.

It is essential that you read in advance of course meetings, so that you are able to take a full part in class discussions.  This is facilitated by the workshop approach in which everyone does a manageable amount of reading for each seminar and anyone may be called upon to introduce the discussion on the basis of the reading they have done. The details of the workshop approach and the system of assessment are given below.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

The course will be assessed in two ways:


Assessed Essay     50% of the final course mark will derive from a 2,000 word written assessment.   You must submit your written assessment via Turnitin by 3pm on 6th May (to be confirmed) 2022.

I will provide a list of suggested essay titles by week five and have set aside time for consultations in week 7 to finalise a title and discuss supplementary readings.  

Please note that:

·        plagiarism is a serious offence, you should consult the University’s statement on plagiarism, which can either be found in your programme handbooks which is distributed during registration or which can be obtained from the Graduate Office;

·        essays must not be e-mailed to the Politics Graduate centre or to a member of staff;

·        essay deadline extensions are granted only by the MA tutor and must be sought prior to the deadline;

·        proper bibliography and appropriate reference styles must be used - if incorrect will be penalised by the deduction of marks

Policy Briefing Presentation: 50% The final weeks will involve individual student presentations in weeks 8, 9 and 10. 

Guidance will be offered on the presentations during weeks 6 and 7.  Marks will be awarded for the quality and pertinence of a short written and orally presented policy briefing.  We recognise that some are more natural seminar performers than others are and will make allowances for this. We are not seeking to reward gregariousness and penalise shyness. However, we do want all class members to be able to present a summary of a policy idea in the style of a civil service briefing and one of the objectives of the course is to help you develop the ways in which you summarise and put over information and argument.

Please note that the University’s Academic Standards Code of Practice specifies that a 15 credit course is expected to require about 150 hours work by students.


Recommended reading

The following books will be relevant for several sessions of the course and provides an excellent overview of contemporary governance debates as well as a strong analytical framework for considering these debates.  An electronic copy is available through the University Library (see link to lists).

  • Bell and Hindmoor (2009) Rethinking Governance, Cambridge
  • Dorey P, ‘Policy Making in Britain’, Sage, 2014
  • Richards, D and Smith, M, J. 2001.  Governance and Public Policy in the UK, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

On public policy

  • Ball S, The Education Debate, Policy Press, 2008
  • Collier P, ‘The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties’, Penguin 2019
  • Goodhart D, ‘The Road to Somewhere: the Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics’, Hurst, 2017
  • Fukuyama F, ‘Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, Picador, 2018
  • Judt T, ‘Ill Fares the Land: A Treatise On Our Present Discontents’ Penguin, 2011
  • King A and Crewe I, ‘The Blunders of Our Governments’, Oneworld, 2013
  • Kingdon J, 'Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies', 1984
  • Newman, J. ‘Beyond the New Public Management? modernising public services, in: J. Clarke et al. (Eds.), New Managerialism, New Welfare? (Sage and Open University Press) 2000
  • Runciman D, ‘Politics’, Profile, 2014
  • Seldon A and Lodge G, ‘Brown at 10’ Biteback, 2010 
  • Seldon A and Snowdon P, ‘Cameron at 10: The Verdict’ Biteback, 2016
  • Seldon A, ‘May at 10’ Biteback, 2019
  • Shipman T, ‘All Out War: the Full Story of Brexit’ William Collins, 2017
  • Yong, B and Hazell R, ‘Special Advisers. Who They Are, What They Do and Why They Matter?’, Hart, 2014

Political memoirs:

  • Cameron D, ‘For the Record’, William Collins, 2019
  • Campbell A ‘The Blair Years’ Arrow 2008
  • Mandelson P ‘The Third Man – Life at the Heart of New Labour’, Harper Collins, 2010
  • McBride D, ‘Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin’, Biteback, 2013
  • Mullin C, ‘View from the Foothills’ Profile 2009 & ‘Decline and Fall’, Profile, 2011
  • ‘Ministers Reflect’ Institute for Government, various.

In addition read political and media commentary when you are able – broadsheets, tabloids, blogs – as well as pamphlets, think tank reports and contemporary debates discussed in parliament.

  • Podcasts – ‘BBC Newcast’, ‘Times Red Box’, ‘Institute for Government: Inside Briefing’, ‘Talking Politics’ and ‘Talking Politics: History of Ideas’
  • Columnists – Rachel Sylvester, Martin Wolf, Phil Collins, Paul Johnson and many more!
  • Think Tanks – Institute for Government, IFS, NIESR, Resolution Foundation, Policy Exchange, IPPR and IPPR North, Centre for Cities, Centre for Towns, CLES

Each week I’ll circulate a few items – articles, blogs, news items, podcasts or clips to help us with each weekly seminar topic.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Westwood Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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