PP405      Half Unit
Public Policy Applications

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Nicholas Barr and Dr Simon Bastow


This course is compulsory on the Master of Public Policy. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course will introduce students to the application of social science literatures to concrete policy issues with significance for developed and developing countries. The course will be organised around ‘big topics’ which are both being actively discussed in the policy world and researched in the academic world. The emphasis will be on harnessing different theoretical and disciplinary approaches to analyse a particular policy topic and problem. The precise topics will be decided each year, depending on academic and practitioner availability. We aim to attract speakers who are working at the highest levels of research and practice. The course explores these big topics specifically as ‘craft of government’ challenges, with emphasis on the integration of economics, political science, public management, and philosophy. It offers MPP students an opportunity to enrich and integrate their learning from these other core disciplines of the programme.


This course is delivered through a combination of pre-recorded lectures, flipped lectures, interactive seminars, and group-project tutorials, totalling a minimum of 35 hours in Lent Term and Summer Term. Office hours will be available for students who would like to discuss the content of the course or their group projects in more detail. There are 11 weeks of teaching in the Lent Term and no Reading Week. Group project tutorials will also continue into the Summer Term.

Formative coursework

Formative coursework will include ongoing support and tutorials for group policy projects, from setting them up at the beginning of the Lent Term through until the submission of final project deliverables in the Summer Term. Students will work in project groups of no more than 5 people and will meet with course faculty to develop (a) the proposed focus of the project, (b) the proposed research method and approach, (c) identification of relevant existing research and literature, and (d) an outline of the structure of the project. Groups will a 2 -page outline and received detailed comments on the outline in the LT.

Indicative reading

This will depend on the topics covered week by week.  A full reading list for each week will be provided at the start of the course.


Group project (50%), policy memo (20%) and group presentation (10%) in the ST.
Report (20%) in the LT.

Group project final report (4000 words) in the ST (50%)

‘Introduction’ section for the final report (800 words) end of LT (20%)

Two-page policy memo (800 words) in the ST (20%)

Group presentation in the ST (10%)

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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: School of Public Policy

Total students 2020/21: 47

Average class size 2020/21: 47

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills