BASS Politics and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Public Policy Problems

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI30292
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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 2023-24: The UK Water Pollution Problem 

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to demonstrate:

  • an ability to describe how a feminist lens might be used to critique mainstream and critical approaches to IPE
  • an ability to identify the distinctive characteristics of several different feminist approaches to IPE
  • an ability to think critically about some of the ways in which gender has intersected with class, race, citizenship and sexuality, historically and up to the present
  • an ability to critically reflect on the gendered nature of global markets, the gender biases and other that are created and reproduced through the operation of global markets and the new spaces that have emerged for the negotiation of gender, sexual and racial identities in the contemporary era
  • an ability to identify the ways in which macoreconomic policymaking may work to undermine and/or to deepen existing forms of inequality  
  • an ability to develop and defend an original argument
  • an ability to present research findings in written form at a 3rd year undergraduate level

Teaching and learning methods

The unit will be a blended learning format with a strong focus on e-learning. Students will attend a one-hour lecture, with guided reading lists provided for each week to support exam preparation. They will also access 2 x 15 minute lectures online, the first explaining how lecture theory content has been applied in empirical policy research, the second setting out preparation tasks for the tutorial session. Students will then undertake 30 minutes of small group exercises, online, before the tutorial. This will facilitate social distancing in the classroom and better online tutorials. The 1-hour tutorial and will be an 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. The tutorials involve a strong emphasis on e-learning. Students will use their own internet-enabled devices to conduct the research in class, so a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) requirement is stipulated for every 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
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Tutorials 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicholas Turnbull Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Total Learning Hours = 200

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