Accessibility statement

Principles of Policy Advice

Module Description

Many graduates in public policy go on to work in organisations that produce or consume policy advice and governments are increasingly in need of high quality policy advice as they grapple with complex social, environmental and economic policy issues. In this light, the course aims to enable students to produce and evaluate policy advice. Students should develop the capacity to perform basic policy analysis and to provide policy advice on the basis of this. Students should also develop the ability to critically assess the validity of different forms of policy advice and the constraints on those offering and receiving it.

While the course introduces students to the technical steps of policy analysis (including problem definition, construction of policy alternatives and outcome projections), it also recognises policy analysis and advice as a fundamentally political activity. The course hence exposes students to literature on policy advice as rational-technical exercise, as well as literature on the politics of policy advice. Students will conduct policy analyses and produce policy advice by working on real-world policy cases in teams over several weeks. In the final summative assessment students will apply the tools of policy analysis to a real-world policy issue of their choosing. 

A large portion of the seminars will be devoted to student teams working through particular policy cases over the course of several weeks to develop written and oral presentations. Students will therefore be expected to be able to work with others, examine an issue and present a clear set of conclusions to others.

Module Objectives

Subject Content: 

  • Identify policy issues and persuasively frame them as policy problems.
  • Identify and explain different policy options that can address a given policy problem.
  • Critically assess different policy options in light of evaluative criteria.
  • Argue for the adoption of a particular policy (or set of policies) on the basis of analytical evaluation of different policy options.
  • Critically evaluate theories and tools of policy analysis as basis for policy advice.

Academic and graduate skills: 

  • Communication skills – Present clear and concise policy advice to a professional audience (policy-makers) in writing (in policy memos) and orally (in policy presentations).
  • Inter-personal skills - Work effectively in group projects to produce policy analysis and advice.
  • Research skills - Independently find and use relevant empirical data and literature for particular policy cases.

Preliminary Reading

Bardach, E. and Patashnik, E. M. (2015). A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Scott, C. and Baehler, K. (2012). Adding Value to Policy Analysis and Advice. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.

Stone, D. (2012). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision-Making. New York : W.W. Norton & Co.

Weimer, D. L. and Vining, A. R. (2010). Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice. Boston: Longman.


One essay of 4000 words (100% of total mark).

Whitehall in the heart of London, the road is lined with government departments and ministries..