Making Public Policy in the Real World PUBPOL4040

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines policy making in the real world, about how policy agendas and ideas develop and how solutions are produced. Drawing on a broad range of policy examples, from terrorism to mad cow disease (BSE) the course explores how ideas get translated into practice and what can go wrong for the policy maker.


Ten 2-hour classes

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to Honours Social & Public Policy normally requires a grade point average of 12 (grade C3) over Social & Public Policy 2A and 2B (formerly Public Policy 2A and 2B) as a first attempt.

Excluded Courses

PUBPOL4036 - Policy Design and Delivery

PUBPOL4032 - Policy Analysis and Evaluation




One 2500 word written assessment (worth 50%) and one 90 minute exam (worth 50%). The exam is 'seen', students will receive notification beforehand as to the questions set.

Main Assessment In: December

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

■ To provide a broad appreciation of what can be learned from studying the policy process

■ To develop a deep understanding of different conceptual approaches to policy analysis

■ To develop skills in using policy analysis tools to real world problems.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Contrast understandings of policy making as a rational or incremental processes and how these relate to the use of evidence in policy process

■ Appreciate the role that institutions and institutional arrangements have in shaping policy types and styles.

■ Explain the challenges to policy making posed by multi-level government and supranational organisations

■ Describe the actors involved in policy networks and communities and explain how power may be exercised within such arrangements. 

■ Critically assess alternative approaches to citizen involvement - FOI, citizen's juries, referenda and so on.

■ Appreciate the purpose and requirements of assessments for new policy development - particularly risk, environmental impact and equalities assessments.

■ Discuss the advantages of, and problems with, policy transfer from other countries

■ Evaluate the merits of different approaches to policy evaluation

■ Critically assess how judgements of overall policy failure or success can be made

■ Demonstrate the relevance and applicability of these concepts and techniques to specific domains of social and public policy.

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.