Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Theories and Traditions in Public Policy

Public Policy has undergone rapid transformations as a field of study over the past two decades. Once seen as the preserve of national and local governments, nowadays we also talk of policy made by networks of ‘governance’ that transcend national borders, government departments and traditional hierarchies, let alone the larger scale forces that constrain and drive policy. This module introduces you to the interdisciplinary field of policy studies, which is fundamentally oriented towards practical application and policy analysis.

Programme content

The main objective of this module is to develop an advanced understanding of approaches to the study of public policy. The concern is to identify and analyse:

  • the scholarly currents and traditions of policy studies
  • core concepts in policy analysis
  • the main theories of policy change and innovation

The module will be structured over two terms. You’ll be introduced to the arena of public policy, examining its origins as both a field of scholarly endeavour and as a profession. You’ll also consider some of the key concepts and challenges encountered in the study of public policy, such as the ideas of 'wickedness' and 'complexity' in policymaking. Finally, you’ll address the main theories and explanations of policy and policy change and policy sub-systems prevalent in the literature. Starting with the construct of 'comprehensive rationality', we go on to consider those who have challenged the idea of 'rational policymaking' (from public choice theorists to interpretivists).