Politics of Social Policy Making

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Timothy Hildebrandt OLD.2.56

Dr Hakan Seckinelgin OLD.2.27


This course is available on the BSc in Criminology, BSc in International Social and Public Policy and BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

This course is not available to third year students.

Course content

The course introduces students to the way in which social and public policies are developed. It aims to provide tools to understand how policies are produced through political disagreement and negotiations and how policies reflect different needs and problems voiced by groups in societies. It focuses on the ways in which policy processes and decision making can be analysed. The course focuses on different models that are used in the analyses of policy processes in different international contexts. Furthermore, it links different analytical approaches to policy processes with political considerations of how political problems are framed and how policy goals are established. The course looks at these issues from the perspective of different actors and the ways in which different actors interact with each other within policy processes. The course brings together critical analytical frameworks for policy processes with empirical problems (cases). The course enables students to understand that policy processes are both about understanding society and shaping it. Furthermore, it introduces students to the various policy actors, including international actors and how these actors work together within socio-political and economic constraints. It also highlights the importance of identifying and understanding the different value positions and the associated negotiations that underwrite policy processes.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures, 15 hours of seminars and 4 hours of workshops in the LT.

The course is taught in 150 min blocks with some breaks in a combined short lecture, presentations and student group work. We will invite participants from our alumni network to bring their policy-making experiences into the course. We will have student poster presentations in LT . 

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 4 exercises and 2 presentations in the MT and LT.

Students will be expected to produce 4 x 500 word commentaries on specific questions and 2 presentations in the MT and LT.

Students will be working in groups which will present short in-class exercises. Through group work and the feedback they will get throughout  the 2nd half of MT and the 1st half of LT we will provide support for their poster preparations and presentations.

Indicative reading

Fischer, Frank (2010) reframing Public Policy: Discursive Politics and Deliberative Practices. London: OUP.

Hoppe, Robert (2011) The Governance of Problems: Puzzling, Powering and Participation. Bristol: Policy Press.

Kingdon, J. (1995) Agendas, alternatives and public policies, NY: Longman.

Ostrom, Elinor (2015) Governing the Commons: the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. London: CUP.

Pawson, Ray (2013) The Science of Evaluation. London: Sage.

Stone, Deborah (2012) Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. NY: Norton.


Coursework (30%, 500 words) in the MT and LT.
Presentation (25%, 500 words) in the LT.
Report (45%) in the ST.

We will assess students at three stages:

  • 4 short 500 word policy commentaries on specific questions which will be completed across the year. Students will get feedback on each and, the best of these will be taken as their 30% coursework mark;
  • Students will be put into groups of 4 in MT to choose a policy area of interest and use it to link analytical discussions from the class to their own analysis of a particular policy implemented in that field. Each group is expected to produce (with the support of their teachers) a poster to discuss their analysis and to present to the class during the LT. This exercise (both the production and presentation) will contribute 25 % overall mark.
  • Each student will write a 750 word report on their presentation and on the feedback they receive on their contribution to the poster. This is due in ST and will be the final 45% of their overall mark for the course.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2019/20: 20

Average class size 2019/20: 19

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness