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The Puzzles of Policy: Policy in Politics and Practice


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

Module description

This module sets out to understand how ideas of measuring and understanding policy can be applied to a variety of high-profile and key case studies of policy implementation and influence. It begins by looking at the theoretical and empirical problems of how to understand and trace policy from idea to implementation, and the politics of judging if a policy is a success or a failure. It then turns to examine a series of policies that led to change, problems of implementation and ‘crisis’ policy. It ends by looking at the role of interests before returning to see if some of the puzzles have been resolved.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Making and Understanding Policy I: puzzles and methods
  • Making and Understanding Policy II: success, failure and something in-between
  • Making Change Happen I: the poll tax and the minimum wage
  • Making Change Happen II: Brexit
  • Implementing Policy I: FOI and government transparency 1997-2022
  • Dealing with Crisis I: Covid in the UK 2020-2022
  • Dealing with Crisis II: climate change
  • Interests in public policy: lobbying in Britain and the EU
  • Choose a policy to study (class option)
  • Conclusions: resolving the puzzles of policy

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • understand and be able to critically apply the key concepts and theories of how policy is understood, made and how success or failure are measured
  • be able to critically evaluate a series of detailed case studies of policymaking, and understand policy influences in different contexts
  • 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.