Thinking Like a Policy Analyst

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Gwyn Bevan 


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Public Management and Governance. This course is available on the MPhil/ PhD in Employment Relations & Org Behaviour and MPhil/ PhD in Management. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The first term of MG415 focuses on concepts and cases relevant to understanding economic appraisal and evaluation (including cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis and multi-criteria decision analysis). The second term focuses on forms of governance: of publicly-financed services (focusing on health care and education), privatisation of utilities, and international trade.

This course develops concepts for analysis of public policy and the processes of policy making; and considers how policy analysis needs to be designed to relate to, the processes of policy making for successful implementation. You will learn how, for policy analysis, that the concepts of micro-economics are necessary but not sufficient by studying case studies and relating the issues that emerge from them to major intellectual arguments of the 20th Century.  These are arguments over the nature of science, positivism, power, efficiency, equity, justice, and market and government failure. By studying case studies of ambitious analyses that promised much but failed to have any impact, and more carefully crafted analyses that succeeded and have been widely copied, you will learn what characterises policy analysis that is likely to succeed or fail.



15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of lectures in the MT. 12 hours of lectures and 12 hours of lectures in the LT.

For the 10 weeks of MT, and the first eight weeks of LT, there is a 1.5 hour lecture and a 1.5 hour seminar each week. In the last two weeks of LT students present projects.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 in each term, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

One individual essay of 2,500 words on economic evaluation to be produced early in Lent Term as preparation for the summative assessment.

Indicative reading

The course text is D M Hausman and M S McPherson, Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, 2006. In addition students will be introduced to extracts from classic works of leading scholars including: AO Hirschman. Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. London: Harvard university press, 1970. T S Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (2nd edn), University of Chicago Press, 1972; J Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Oxford University Press, 1971; M Sandel, Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? London: Penguin; S Lukes, Power: A Radical View, 2nd edn, Palgrave, 2005; T C Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict, Oxford University Press, 1973; D W Hands, Reflection without Rules, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001; O E Williamson, Markets and Hierarchies, The Free Press, 1975; O E Williamson, The Economic Institutions of Capitalism: Firms, Markets and Relational Contracting, New York, The Free Press, 1985; J Le Grand, The Other Invisible Hand: Delivering Public Services Through Choice and Competition, Princeton University Press, 2007; R H Thaler and C R Sunstein, Nudge, Penguin, 2009. Students will also examine extracts from official reports.


Essay (25%, 2500 words) and project (25%) in the LT.
Essay (40%, 5000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (10%) in the MT and LT.

A Group Project will consist of one individual essay and a group presentation. There will also be a individual essay on Governance (40% 5000 words) in the ST and individual presentations in MT and LT. 


Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2014/15: 41

Average class size 2014/15: 20

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 75.3%



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