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SP50323: Public policy portfolio

[Page last updated: 01 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 30 [equivalent to 60 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 600
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: CW 15%, PF 85%
Assessment Detail:
  • Portfolio Synopsis 15% (CW 15%)
  • Portfolio 85% (PF 85%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: Students will have:
* comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the parameters and conflicting positions on a specialist (self-chosen) policy challenge. (F/A)
* 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. (F/A)
* critical understanding of key tools and methods, including their relevance for evaluation of alternative solutions to public policy challenges in different contexts (T/A)
* 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) (T/A).

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.

Skills: Students will be able to: Intellectual
* systematically review existing research to identify specific societal challenges that can be addressed by public policy.
* critically evaluate the political, economic and operational context of this challenge, and its implications for developing public policy to address it. Professional/practice
* systematically assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, data and evidence, relating to public policy challenges and identify alternative/new evidence required.
* apply public policy tools (e.g. SWOT, traffic light, scorecard) to systematically assess alternative public policy options to address these specific societal challenges.
* design a development and/or delivery strategy for a preferred option to the public policy challenge identified. Transferable
* synthesise, organize and communicate clearly complex material and argumentation to generate robust arguments for policy action.
* work on extended detailed project of independent research and analysis, with limited supervision to agreed deadlines.

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 adaptation/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 synopses, and detailed feedback is provided on the synopsis as submitted (shortly after residential 4).

Programme availability:

SP50323 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
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