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The Policy Think Tank - SPY00040I

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. John Hudson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Policy Think Tank is a York Interdisciplinary Module that brings together students from across the University to work with Social and Public Policy students in devising systematic, evidence-based responses to real-world problems.

The module has multiple sub-titled routes that detail the real-world problems being explored in any given year, allowing you to choose which problem you will focus on when selecting the module as an option. Problems will vary from year-to-year, reflecting both the latest policy debates and new research agendas. Example topics include: homelessness; precarious work/the gig economy; illicit drug use; poverty in the UK; AI and society.

The module comprises several interconnected elements.

Block A, comprising 4 weeks of teaching, provides an accelerated introduction to theory and practice of policy analysis, providing a systematic, but flexible, analytic framework that can be used to evaluate real world policy ideas. The model draws on elements from established academic models (e.g. Bardach’s eightfold path for analysis) with real-world models (e.g. the Treasury’s Green Book). All students registered for Policy Think Tank projects work together during this block.

In Block B, comprising 6 weeks of teaching, students work in separate think tank teams, comprising groups of around 7 students. Using the structured policy analysis model introduced in Block A, your group will devise and evaluate policy responses to the real-world problem you have chosen to focus on. Each week you will follow a different step in the analytic model, ensuring your group will have agreed evidence based responses by Week 10.

Block C, the final week of teaching, comprises a policy conference where all think tank groups will present their policy recommendations to an expert panel.

This Module aims to:

Develop a detailed practical understanding of applied policy analysis tools that can be used in a systematic and evidence based way to develop and evaluate public policy responses to real-world policy problems while working in an interdisciplinary fashion by drawing on theories, concepts and evidence from multiple academic disciplines. To use real-world policy problems to develop understanding of how to apply analytic tools such framing, stakeholder analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis in practice. To demonstrate the value of addressing policy problems from a cross-disciplinary perspective, both in terms of the different academic disciplines that contribute knowledge and evidence to our understanding of problems and in terms of the different professions that the government draws on in real world policy making.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate awareness and understanding of an applied policy analysis framework that can be used to systematically evaluate public policy responses to real-world policy problems.

  • Critically and systematically evaluate competing policy responses to a specific policy problem, utilising scientific evidence in so doing.

  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the specific policy problem their think tank group focuses on and of the evidence-base relating to that problem

  • Recognise the importance of an evidence-based approach to policy making and understand the different ways in which evidence might be used to inform policy making.

  • Understand the value of working in diverse teams in order to address complex policy challenges where multiple valid understandings of the policy problem exist

  • Demonstrate awareness and understanding of the practical and ethical challenges faced in balancing the need to communicate policy recommendations in clear and accessible fashion with the typically more complex messaging required to remain scientifically responsible


Task Length % of module mark
Critical analysis 3000 words
N/A 60
Group presentation (10 minutes) and 10 minute Q&A
N/A 40

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Applied policy analysis task 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

Bardach, E and Patashnik, E (2020) A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: the Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving. London: Sage.

Meltzer, R and Schwartz, A (2018) Policy Analysis as Problem Solving: a Flexible and Evidence-Based Framework. London: Routledge.

Weible, C and Cairney, P (2021) Practical Lessons from Policy Theories. Bristol: The Policy Press.

HM Treasury (2022) The Green Book: Central Government Guidance on Appraisal and Evaluation. London: HM Treasury

HM Government (2022) Policy Profession Standards. London: HM Government.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.