Public policy analysis

Course description

The course will present students 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 the irrationality and power operating in policy making.


  1. Students get an overview, a mental map, of approaches and theories in policy studies
  2. Students get acquainted with the main arguments and approaches of key approaches in policy studies
  3. Students understand the debates between different schools of thought
  4. Students are able to position themselves in these debates and developed 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 programme, where it is to function as a shared building block for all students. The course should provide an overview of approaches, feeding directly into a personal positioning in this overview with an eye on the development of a theoretical basis for the thesis.

Contact: dr. P. Stegmaier