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If you are an international applicant and already have your exam results, meet the entry requirements, and are not holding an offer from a university or college, then you may be able to apply to this course.

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BASS Social Anthropology and Philosophy

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Politics of Policy Making

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI20802
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Public policy is at the heart of politics – it is how we turn our ideas into reality for fellow citizens. This course aims to equip you to understand that process, from inception to evaluation. We explore this through a series of questions, such as – who has power over policy making, how can we influence people’s choices, and should officials be free to choose how they perform their role? These are big questions which go to the heart of what it means to live in a democratic society, and be a democratic citizen.

To explore this, students and teachers on this course will engage with policy examples of their own choosing, to explore how the big ideas we identify in the abstract play out in practice. Students are encouraged to engage with policy areas they are passionate about from any country they wish to focus on – countries from the US to Tanzania, Brazil to the Solomon Islands have featured in past discussions. These examples will equip you both to effectively respond to the assessment on this course, but also to make the most of the tools we give you to understand policy, and carry them out into the world. 


Original ideas and a commitment to working hard,


This course will aim to provide students with conceptual and empirical insights into the  
development and implementation of public policies. On completion students should  
possess an understanding of models of policy making and implementation and be able to  
apply this understanding to contemporary policy examples from the UK, and elsewhere in  
the world. Case studies will be examined and will include examples from current policy  

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course unit, students should be able to

- Demonstrate a critical awareness of the role of concepts and theories applicable to the study of public policy making;

- Apply relevant concepts and theories to substantive case material drawn from the field of public policy.

- Use electronic resources to identify relevant empirical material, summarise key ideas and concepts both in writing and verbally, and work in small groups

Employability skills

See additional notes at the end

Assessment methods

Assessment will be by:

2,600 word essay (40%) 

Exam (60%)


Feedback methods

We offer feedback before submission on plans, drafts, or  ideas. We do this by email, on the phone, in drop-in sessions, and comments on written documents.  Students then also receive feedback on their marks (within 15 working days of the hand-in) through Turnitin as usual, or comments on exams.Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

Cairney, Paul. (2020) Understanding Public Policy, 2nd Edition, Houndmills, Palgrave,  

Hill, Michael, (2021) The Public Policy Process, 8th Edition,  

Cairney, Paul (2016) The Politics of Evidence-based Policy Making, Houndmills, Palgrave  

Knill, Christoph and Tonsun, Jale. (2020) Public Policy An New Introduction, [2nd Edition]  Houndmills, Palgrave

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Timothy Oliver Unit coordinator
David Richards Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This is a great module for students wishing to develop and demonstrate skills that can be applied in a wide range of different jobs, voluntary roles, internships and work placements. It could be particularly useful for people considering careers in the civil service, journalism, think tanks, research and policy, and charitable organisations.
It requires students to:
- grasp detailed and concrete policy and political problems across a range of topics, places and contexts
- understand the challenges and difficulties of making good decisions, and making things happen as intended, in policy and practice
- understand how processes of problem identification and problem solving might be improved


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