BA Politics and German

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Public Policy Problems

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI30291
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Politics
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 write a Briefing Paper that provides analysis of the problem and makes policy recommendations to government. They will consider whether the theories learnt in the lectures apply to the case study, whether theory explains 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 2021-22 is the UK river pollution problem.


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
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicholas Turnbull Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Total Learning Hours = 200

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