BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Public Policy Problems

Unit code POLI30292
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The unit aims to: teach students key ideas in the field of public policy and give them an authentic experience of researching a public policy problem. The core of the course is learning the latest theories of public policymaking and governing. This will cover debates about the nature and scope of public policy problems, theories of the policy process, symbolic meaning and narratives in policy, theories of policy change, and the political power of government, business and non-government activists in policymaking. The research aspect of the course involves analysing a contemporary public policy problem, from its causes and effects through to possible solutions. Students will learn how to research a policy problem and produce practical recommendations to government for policy change. They will apply the theories learnt in the lectures to the case study, linking theory and practice. The course aims to give students a strong knowledge of public policy studies and also to train them to become policy analysts after graduation.


The case study for 2019-2020 is Manchester’s air pollution problem.

Teaching and learning methods

1 x pre-recorded lecture: 20 minutes

1 x lecture class: 1 hour

1 x tutorial: 2 hours


The unit will be a blended learning format with a strong focus on e-learning. It will use a flipped structure, with students required to watch one short lecture and complete one reading in advance of the lecture class. The 1-hour lecture class will involve review of the lecture material and in-depth discussion of concepts, application to examples, and critical analysis. The 2-hour tutorial will be a student-led, active research class, with the Convenor acting as facilitator and research director. Students will research a policy problem (in 2019-20, Manchester’s air pollution problem) over the course of the semester. Both the lecture and the tutorial involve a strong emphasis on e-learning. Students will use their own internet-enabled devices to conduct the research, so a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) requirement is stipulated for every lecture and tutorial.

Knowledge and understanding

Knowledge and Understanding: 

  • Understand and critically analyse theories of public policy
  • Understand the institutional and political context of UK governance
  • Understand the dimensions and causes of a contemporary policy problem
  • Understand contemporary public policy solutions to that problem
  • Understand the political process of policymaking

Intellectual skills

Intellectual skills: 

  • Critically analyse a social problem
  • Critically analyse government policy on that problem
  • Discover knowledge for policymaking and assess its quality
  • Identify and reflect upon the exercise of power in public policymaking
  • Develop persuasive arguments for policy proposals
  • Understand and strategise for political contingencies

Practical skills

Practical skills: 

  • Conduct research into policy problems
  • Work collaboratively on a policy research project

Devise and justify a practical recommendation to government for policy change

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Transferable skills and personal qualities:  

  • Present ideas effectively to an audience of their peers
  • Use digital sources and software in research and collaboration
  • Work autonomously in an independent manner
  • Acquire skills in public policy analysis
  • Acquire skills in collaborative work and project planning

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%
Report 50%

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Tutorials 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicholas Turnbull Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Total Learning Hours = 200

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