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Theories of Public Policy-Making: Interests, Institutions, and Ideas


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Ben Worthy
  • Assessment: to be confirmed

Module description

How is policy made? This module aims to answer this question by explaining how general theories of policymaking can be used to understand developments in specific policy areas. The module introduces you to three dominant theoretical paradigms in this field: the first views self-interested actors both inside and outside government as the key drivers of public policy; the second focuses on the link between public policy and institutional factors with specific reference to the role of independent agencies in policymaking; the third explores how governmental actors, interest groups and scientific communities utilise specific ideas to influence the policy process.

Indicative module syllabus

  • How is policy made?
  • Interest group access
  • Institutionalism
  • The regulatory state
  • Advocacy coalitions
  • Policy paradigms
  • Agenda setting
  • Multiple streams
  • New directions in ideational research: modelling or ‘mess’?

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • have detailed knowledge of the different actors, processes and stages involved in formulating public policies in liberal democracies
  • have a critical understanding of the main theories of the policy process
  • be able to systematically investigate, evaluate and understand topical debates about policies, and how they fit with broader debates on measuring the impact of change
  • be able to synthesise a variety of materials across primary and secondary texts to explain and support your own arguments concerning the key problems of public policy
  • have developed skills of critical thinking, enquiry, synthesis, analysis and evaluation that can be employed on other modules studied at this level.