Policy Analysis in Public and Technological Domains


Even though the course discusses large theoretical questions, such as the meaning of power and reason, we will show how these issues have very practical consequences. For example, cost/benefit analysis is not just a neutral tool of the trade, but a tool that belongs to a specific school of thought: rationalist policy analysis. This school makes assumptions about how people make decisions, about what role the policy adviser should play, or about the role of a democratic government. By providing you with this wider context, we not only hope that you will improve your understanding of the bigger issues at stake in public policy, but also to increase your sensitivity to a wider range of approaches in policy analyses. Examples and discussions will focus on the multi-level nature of governance with respect to Dutch, European, and health care technology policy issues.

  1. You get an overview, a mental map, of approaches and theories in policy studies related to Dutch and European policy-making with examples from technological domains including health care technology policy.
  2. You get acquainted with the main arguments of key approaches in policy studies and their concrete consequences for Dutch, European, and technology-related policy-making.
  3. You understand the assumptions at the basis of common tools in public policy analysis.
  4. You understand the debates between different schools of thought and can weigh their arguments in light of Dutch, European, and technology-related policy debates.
  5. You are able to position yourself in these debates and develop a reasoned preference for certain styles or approaches.

These goals are informed by the position of this course in the very beginning of the master’s programmes where it is to function as a shared building block for all students. The course should provide you with an overview of approaches, feeding directly into a personal positioning with an eye on the development of a theoretical basis for the thesis.


The course will present you with a structured overview of policy studies: a schematised representation of major approaches in the field. During the course, this representation will be used to explain differences between approaches, strengths and weaknesses, as well as debates between schools of thought. Towards the end of the course, students will also come to problematise the schematic representation of the field, as its basic premises are being questioned.

The schematic representation of the field used in the course is based on two categorisations. The first opposes approaches that see government as the principle actor in policy, against approaches that stress the distributed nature of policy-making and the limitations of the capacities of governments. The second categorisation opposes approaches to policy making that present it as a rational, goal-oriented process, versus approaches that stress non-rational accounts and power operating in policy making. Towards the end of the course we will question these very distinctions, for example the sharp opposition of power and reason.

Contact: Dr. Peter Stegmaier, Prof.dr. Rob Hoppe