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Government and policy engagement

How does Government work, what is the role of the civil service and where are there opportunities to engage with policymakers?

Understanding Government

The term ‘Whitehall’ refers to the executive branch of the UK Government, comprising Ministers and civil servants. The UK Government is made up of 24 Ministerial departments, covering policy areas from Business and Trade to Energy Security.

Government departments are headed by Permanent Secretaries who are senior civil servants appointed by the Prime Minister. Most departments have a Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) who, in turn, form a network supporting the Government’s CSA. Ministers usually appoint two Special Advisers who are political appointees.

Departments are staffed by civil servants. The Civil Service helps the Government of the day to develop and implement its policies as effectively as possible. Many civil servants are based in London, but increasing numbers now work in the regions.

Examples of government departments with offices in the South West include:

In addition to Government Departments, non-ministerial departments exist, including regulators such as The Charity Commission, Competitions and Markets Authority, and the Food Standards Agency.

There are also over 400 non-departmental public bodies and agencies – quangos, advisory committees and other public organisations.


It can sometimes be hard to know where to start when it comes to engaging Government. Here are various routes to engage with Government Departments as a researcher:

Learning from others

Read about Bath academics who have worked with or in Government as part of their research:

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