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MSc Global Urban Development and Planning / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Political Analysis of Development Policy

Unit code MGDI60522
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 Global Development Institute
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit offers a solid grounding in the different types of policy analysis, encourages critical reflection on their application to policy processes in the global south through a series of case-study presentations, and enables students to develop their skills in policy analysis through the applied exercises in class and the assignment. Each aspect of the policy process (policy design, policy implementation and policy assessment) will be subject to analysis from different perspectives, including mainstream and more critical approaches, and exemplified through real-life examples.

Students will be introduced to the main theoretical approaches and some key case-study exemplars and encouraged to explore these in interactive teaching and learning sessions. Case studies of policy analysis in practice will be drawn from those produced by leading GDI researchers, spanning the limits of good intentions in urban housing policy in South Africa, the new political economy of development planning in Uganda, and the rise of social assistance policy in Brazil.


The unit aims to provide:

  • A critical overview of theoretical approaches to understanding the links between politics, governance and development
  • Insights into how politics, governance and development interact in the global South
  • A critical overview of the key strategies and practices currently employed to promote policy processes in the global South
  • An opportunity for students to develop their range of competencies in transferable areas, including research, analysis, team-work and both written and verbal forms of communication

Learning outcomes

On completing this course students will have:

  • A thorough knowledge and critical understanding of different theories of the public policy process
  • A thorough knowledge and critical understanding of the key strategies, policies and practices currently employed to promote ‘good governance’
  • A specific understanding of some of the key links between politics and the policy cycle, and between different elements of the policy cycle
  • The analytical skills required to critically evaluate and employ different theories of policy analysis and to apply these to specific cases of development policy processes
  • Professionally-oriented skills related to formulating, investigating and implementing different approaches to promoting better formulation and implementation of policies
  • Improved competence in transferable areas, including developing reasoned arguments, gathering, organising and using evidence and information from a wide variety of sources, undertaking both team-based and independent work to deadlines, and both written and verbal forms of communication

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning will occur mainly through two- and three-hour composite sessions, which will generally each include an element of lecturing, small group-work, and plenary discussion.

Blackboard will be used to share key resources and stimulate discussions of critical issues amongst course participants.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Recommended reading

 Campbell, John L. ‘Ideas, Politics, and Public Policy’. Annual Review of Sociology 28, no. 1 (2002): 21–38.

Carothers, Thomas, and Diane de Gramont. Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013.

Geddes, Barbara. Politician’s Dilemma: Building State Capacity in Latin America. Berkeley, CA: California University Press, 1994.

McPhail, Beverly A. ‘A Feminist Policy Analysis Framework’. The Social Policy Journal 2, no. 2–3 (1 March 2003): 39–61.

Sabatier, Paul A., ed. Theories of the Policy Process. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2007.

Wild, Leni, David Booth, Clare Cummings, Marta Foresti, and Joseph Wales. ‘Adapting Development: Improving Services to the Poor’. London: Overseas Development Institute, 2015.

World Bank. World Development Report 2004: Making Services Work for Poor People. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2004.

Yanguas, Pablo, and Badru Bukenya. “‘New’ Approaches Confront ‘old’ Challenges in African Public Sector Reform.” Third World Quarterly 37, no. 1 (2016): 136–52.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 126

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Pritish Behuria Unit coordinator

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