You will study these units in 2018/19 if you apply for the MSc Public Policy course.

Public policy: politics, theory and practice

Aims

This unit provides:

  • a comprehensive introduction to, and critique of, the dominant theories of public policy, their historical origins and contemporary applicability
  • advanced critical introduction to the links between state transformation and social, economic and political change, and the challenges that these pose for contemporary public policymaking
  • in-depth and critical introduction to the economic, political and social contexts that shape how public policy is understood, made and contested in diverse settings

Learning outcomes

At the end of the unit, students will have:

  • critical and in-depth understanding of the forces and interests that shape public policy, internationally, nationally and locally, and how these vary across different policy and political settings
  • comprehensive knowledge of dominant and cutting edge theories of what public policy is for, how public policies are made, and how they shape social, political and economic life
  • critical understanding of the political and normative origins, and strengths and weaknesses, of these explanations, applied to a diverse range of policy cases
  • in-depth understanding of how global, regional and national political economies intersect with social and political forces to transform – or reproduce – public policies and politics

Content

This unit offers a comprehensive, critical and advanced introduction to the theory and practice of public policy. It is organised in 3 main parts.

Part one: theories and approaches

How do we think about public policy and how it is made? This covers issues like values and ideologies, as well as mainstream, emerging and critical theories of public policymaking and the state. Delivered during the residential and online.

Part two: contexts and challenges

What frames, drives and contests public policy and political action? This covers issues of international political economy, understanding the diversity of states and state transformation, and the politics of public policy inside and outside the state. Delivered online with 2 webinar/tutorial sessions.

Part three: public policy in practice

How is public policy structured, practiced and understood? This covers issues of how public policy can be organised, by whom, and how different approaches are justified in relation to public policy goals. It also assesses alternative approaches to the design, delivery and analysis of public policy. Delivered online with 2 webinar/tutorial sessions.

Each part is composed of shorter blocks of teaching materials around particular sub-topics, such as 'international political economy', 'politics of public policy beyond liberal democracy', 'diversified public policy delivery – organising private and voluntary sectors'.

The final block of teaching, delivered in part 3, and the main part of the assessment, both focus on how these three dimensions of public policy are linked together to enhance understanding of how public policy is made, and with what consequences.

Public policy and economics

Aims

​This unit is oriented to students with no necessary previous economics training and offers:

  • introduction to key concepts used in the economic analysis of public policy
  • review and interpretation of the key approaches and tools typically used in the economic analysis of public policy
  • wide-ranging review and in-depth analysis of key economic issues in transnational and national government spheres that shape public policy, applied to specific areas of contemporary public policy.

Learning outcomes

​At the end of this unit, students will have:

  • robust understanding of key economic concepts, their application and relevance to diverse areas of public policy
  • in-depth understanding of how economics of public policy and public finances shape the framing and practicability of policy choices and modes of delivery
  • wide-ranging understanding of key contemporary economic issues and their implications for the development of public policy in a range of national and transnational settings

Content

The unit has three main blocks. The first of these is introductory and designed to familiarise students with conceptual tools relevant to economic analysis of public policy, that are explored and applied in the substantive remainder of the unit.

Block one: core economic concepts

The first sub-unit will introduce core economic concepts and their application to topics in public policy. These core concepts will include micro- and macro-economic concepts, such as: incentives, opportunity cost, market failure, risk aversion, time discounting, generational implicit contracts, productivity and human capital theory.

Block two: government finance and intervention

As part of the residential the second sub-unit will start to discuss the economics of public policy using and assessing these concepts and tools.

  • Taxation, government debt and generational contracts.
  • Government provision, regulation and its economic rationales: 'market failure', equity, efficiency.

The approach is both theoretical and applied with students being asked to assess arguments for and against new policy initiatives across areas: such as taxation, social security, labour markets, education, health and housing, etc. Examples would be a tax on sugar, rent controls, charges for seeing a GP, outlawing tobacco, and will include quantitative economic data and comparative cases. The residential will also introduce students to critical readings of public budgets in a range of settings.

Block three: key economic challenges

This introduces students to the analysis and critique of key economic challenges and debates, and includes quantitative and comparative analysis. This will cover up to five topic areas in any year but the set of topics will evolve to cover current debates and decisions. Examples would be technological change, productivity and jobs around computerisation and artificial intelligence, international labour migration, optimal currency areas and free trade agreements, labour market regulation (e.g. National Living Wage), inequality and social mobility and reducing carbon emissions. ​

Evidence knowledge and data in public policy

Aims

​This unit provides:

  • advanced introduction to data, knowledge and evidence and how their changing conceptualization has shaped public policy historically and in contemporary policy work
  • in-depth review of major approaches and techniques to the use and evaluation of data, knowledge and evidence in public policy
  • comprehensive and in-depth review of the politics of knowledge and evidence production and how this shapes public policy
  • exploration of the conceptual issues, politics and ethics of knowledge and data use for public policy in the digital era

Learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will have:

  • critical understanding of the differences between data, knowledge and evidence and how these shape public policy, governance and outcomes
  • in-depth knowledge of major approaches to the use and evaluation of data, knowledge and evidence in, and for, public policy
  • in-depth critical understanding of the politics of knowledge and evidence production and how this shapes public policy development and outcomes
  • in-depth critical understanding of how the politics and ethics of knowledge and data generation in public policy are being transformed in the digital era

Content

The three parts of the unit are not equally weighted in terms of student learning and the assessment burden. Part one is shorter, and designed to orient students to the dual emphasis in this unit, on a) the role of knowledge production, management and use in public policy, and b) on the different techniques and approaches. Parts two and three form the main part of the unit.

Block one: politicising knowledge in public policy

  • What is knowledge/data/evidence, and what are the differences between them?
  • Public policy, quantification & the rise of the Data Society
  • The social and political lives of methods /knowledge production in public policy
  • Changing sites of knowledge production: universities, think tanks, experiential knowledge, social media

Block two: generating and interpreting evidence in public policy

This part of the unit teaches key approaches and techniques to research and analysis in public policy, according to staff expertise and contemporary relevance in public policy. This includes both:

  • analysis of policy & policy making, e.g.: Network analysis (SNA); Policy & institutional ethnography; Investigative methods, including freedom of information; Interpretive Policy Analysis; Governance Analysis; case study & comparative analysis (including quantitative data analysis)
  • analysis for policy & policymaking, e.g.: policy evaluation; CBA; Secondary data analysis & indicator construction; Delphi methods; citizens' juries; Deliberative policy analysis; Policy Labs and policy design; systematic review

For each technique there are 3 elements:

  • how is the knowledge generated related to the creation & contestation of public policy? What is it typically used for, in which contexts and why?
  • what are the methods and techniques?
  • how do we read research produced in this way in order to create, shape, contest public policy? What are its strengths and weaknesses in different policy contexts?

Block three: going digital

This part of the unit addresses the rapidly changing knowledge and public policy environment. It familiarises students with the production, generation, control, and use of digital data, and explores how these affect public policy, how it is interpreted and how 'digital government' is achieved. It comprises two topics:

  • information infrastructure - digital methods - platform and software
  • ways of seeing data & data visualisation - data worlds - data publics "open data" initiatives and participatory design

Public policy case analysis

Aims

​This unit:

  • facilitates students' understanding of how multiple forces and constraints (units I & II), and forms of knowledge (unit III) come together to shape specific policy cases
  • advances students' experience and expertise in practice-oriented policy analysis through the synthesis of conceptual knowledge and empirical application to support recommendations for policy development and delivery
  • enhances students' in-depth knowledge and understanding of their specialist policy areas, whether professionally or by drawing on the research and scholarship of the University of Bath

Learning outcomes

At the end of this unit, students will have:

  • in-depth critical understanding of how data and politics of knowledge production intersect with economics and politics to shape public policy in a self-chosen specialist policy area
  • in-depth critical understanding of the key economic, political and social forces, in a specialist policy area, and how these interact to shape dynamics of public policy in a self-chosen case
  • in-depth critical understanding of the implications of public policy development and operationalization, for social, economic and/or political outcomes in a specialist policy area

Content

The public policy case analysis requires students to prepare a contextualized analysis of a specified public policy problem (as if) for a key public policy decisionmaker. The bulk of the case analysis reviews existing data, knowledge and evidence. It identifies and explains key gaps in knowledge and evaluating their implications for public policy.

This unit comprises supervised but self-directed learning. It is designed to challenge students' ability to set clear research/project objectives and self-manage their completion.

Students are supported by individual tuition with an academic supervisor and use of the library of Public Policy Case Study Library (PPCS) that accompany the programme. Under supervision, students may also undertake their case analysis using a case from their professional context.

Each PPCS in the Library is compiled, structured and led by University of Bath staff who have research expertise in area. Each PPCS relating to a specified social, political, and/or economic challenge, comprises:

  • a paper outlining key contexts, conditions and issues and exploring key dimensions of the policy domain
  • key sources of data and existing research from diverse perspectives and institutions
  • secondary sources, reports and online materials, organised around key relevant dimensions of the specified challenge

Initial discussion of case study selection (how to think about selection; how to use professional experience) will be introduced in residential 2.

The Academic Tutor is responsible for assigning students to designated supervisors in the student's broad field of interest by residential 3.

Supervisors are responsible for helping students specify their 'public policy case' and for formative feedback during this unit.

Written protocols and guidance on format and structure of the case analysis are available for students from residential 2.

Public policy dissertation

Aims

This research phase of the Masters in Public Policy provides:

  • the opportunity to identify a feasible research question and relate it to relevant conceptual approaches, existing research and empirical material
  • the opportunity to explain and apply theoretical framework(s) to public policy and/or evaluate their political, normative or analytical value
  • opportunity to develop a cogent, credible and sustained argument that addresses the research question, and to do this within a fixed time period

Learning outcomes

​Students will have:

  • comprehensive and in-depth understanding of theories of public policy, governance and statehood, their strengths and weaknesses
  • critical understanding of the relevance and applicability of such theories to specific public policy areas or challenges
  • robust understanding of the implications of this case for our wider understanding of public policy, politics and the state

Content

This pathway is oriented to developing students' knowledge, skills and understanding relating to the analysis of policy and policymaking (contrasting with the portfolio pathway, oriented to analysis for policymaking).

The dissertation should make explicit reference to at least one important public policy theory, concept, or analytical issue covered as part of the taught stages of the MSc in Public Policy.

Students may choose to investigate an empirical public policy problem related to that chosen for unit four (Public Policy Case Analysis), and they are encouraged to use a case from their professional context, or from Public Policy Case Library.

Dissertations may be based on any combination of:

  • review of published literature
  • secondary data analysis

The dissertation may include analysis of primary data collected by the student provided the student has 1) a strong rationale for doing so and 2) the necessary skills to undertake primary research.

The unit mostly comprises independent learning and research. However, students on this pathway will have specialist teaching during residentials 3 (Bath, month 12) and 4 (London, month 18), supported by supplementary online materials. This teaching will address:

  • conducting effective literature reviews
  • identification and specification of research problems
  • robust, relevant and practical research design
  • the principles and practice of different methodological approaches to policy analysis and the application of methods - and implications for findings

Students receive online and in-person supervision from a specialist academic member of staff. At residential 4, formative feedback is provided on students' presentation of draft synposes, and detailed feedback is provided on the synopsis as submitted (shortly after residential 4).

Public policy portfolio

Aims

This research phase of the Masters in Public Policy provides opportunity to synthesise, apply and develop public policy tools and methods for the:

  • identification of a specific policy problem
  • review of alternative framings of the policy problem and social, political, economic context within which the specified 'problem' has emerged
  • summary, interpretation and critical assessment of existing evidence and data sources, and identification of knowledge/evidence gaps
  • application of public policy tools to evaluate alternative policy/operational responses, including social, political and economic risks and obstacles over diverse time-scales
  • development of policy design, development, delivery and/or communication plan, including criteria for success/failure

Learning outcomes

Students will have:

  • comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the parameters and conflicting positions on a specialist (self-chosen) policy challenge
  • comprehensive and critical understanding of the data and evidence that can be deployed to mediate between conflicting positions on this policy challenge, and the limits of such data and evidence
  • critical understanding of key tools and methods, including their relevance for evaluation of alternative solutions to public policy challenges in different contexts
  • robust understanding of how different dimensions of public policy development can be deployed to achieve public policy goals (e.g. strategic review, co-production, process evaluation)

Content

This pathway is oriented to developing students' knowledge, skills and understanding relating to the analysis for policy and policymaking (contrasting with the dissertation pathway, oriented to analysis of policymaking).

The portfolio should make explicit reference to public policy contexts, issues and conditions covered during the taught stages of the MSc in Public Policy. The portfolio may draw on the Public Policy Case Library or on professional case material, or an independent topic, subject to approval from the Director of Studies.

The portfolio is a highly-structured multi-part, formally presented project report with key elements typically comprising:

  • summary, list of recommendations
  • review of literature, data/evidence
  • small project of data/evidence generation OR detailed proposal and justification for supplementary evidence generation
  • selection and application (and where appropriate adapatation/development) of policy analysis tool for review of policy alternatives (e.g. scorecard, benchmarking, CBA, SWOT, indicators)
  • policy design/development/delivery/communication plan
  • overall portfolio self-assessment

The unit mostly comprises independent learning and research. However, students on this pathway will have specialist teaching during residentials 3 (Bath, month 12) and 4 (London, month 18), supported by supplementary online materials. This teaching will address:

  • in-depth critical review of methodologies and methods for policy design and evaluation;
  • critical evaluation of the purpose, strengths, weaknesses of key policy analysis tools and the implications of their application for policymaking decisions;
  • review of the principles of, and strategies for, policy delivery, and the development of responses to pragmatic political, economic and social conditions and risks

Students receive online and in-person supervision from a specialist academic member of. At residential 4, formative feedback is provided on students' presentation of draft synposes, and detailed feedback is provided on the synopsis as submitted (shortly after residential 4).