Paying for Public Policy PUBPOL4039

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

Paying for Public Policy provides a broad critical introduction to funding debates around core public policy areas. It is set in the current context of austerity, unprecedented pressures on resources and the upcoming independence referendum. The course draws on a range of social sciences disciplines and has a strongly international and comparative orientation.


2 hours per week of lecture and seminar - for 10 weeks (and first two weeks are lecture and discussion only),


This course may not be running this year. For further information please check the Social & Public Policy Moodle page or contact the subject directly.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory entry requirements


Entry to Public Policy Honours requires a grade point average of 12 (Grade C) over Public Policy 2A and Public Policy 2B as a first attempt.

Excluded Courses






One essay/report of 2,500 words (40%) and one 120 minute exam where students answer 2 out of 5 exam questions (60%).

Main Assessment In: December

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to provide the student with a critical overview of current practice and controversies surrounding the financing of public policy. It is contextualised by international comparisons, the age of austerity in public finances and by devolution/independence debates within the UK and particularly Scotland. The course is also distinctive because though it draws on economics and finance material, it remains a broad public policy course that both is critical of aspects of mainstream economics but also employs aspects of heterodox economics thinking. There are no disciplinary pre-requisites required to take this course. The course is in three parts. First, we set out the contemporary context for funding public policy and the lenses with which we analyse key debates. Second, we look at a series of major public policy areas in case study detail. Third, we synthesise findings to look at cross cutting issues such as the funding of policy within an independent Scotland; asking how we resolve specific 'wicked' public policy problems.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- map the range, diversity and scale of the funding of public policy in the UK

- set funding debates in their wider political economy, austere and international contexts

- appreciate the diversity of economic and financial approaches to the study of public policy

- draw generalizable insights from specific policy area-based case studies

- apply sector-based insights to a broader set of questions relating to the constitutional future of Scotland and to a series of intractable or wicked public policy problems

In addition, by the end of the course and through participation in the seminars, student should be able to augment the following transferable skills::

- interpretation of numerical and financial data, in part to test empirically the quality of specific arguments made in the literature and elsewhere

- make effective use of bibliographical and other online sources of information

- develop written and oral communication skills

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.