module specification

SH7061 - Understanding the Policy Process (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Understanding the Policy Process
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 200
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
164 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 30%   Written Repose to a live policy consultation (1,500)
Other 0%   Policy report plan and evidence repertoire
Coursework 70%   Policy Report 3,000 words
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Tuesday Evening

Module summary

 This module aims to provide a critical understanding of the policy process and of challenges confronting countries in policy development, analysis, implementation and evaluation. The module uses a range of theoretical and practice-based perspectives from social science disciplines to examine the varying contexts in which health policy is developed and implemented and which shape health policy.

To introduce students to a range of theoretical perspectives related to policy process.
To develop an awareness of the varying social, political, economic and institutional contexts that influence the development of policies in different countries.
To foster students’ engagement with major contemporary issues and debates in the policy process through group participation in them.


 The syllabus includes an overview of theoretical perspectives used to understand the policy process, as well as a deep consideration of key issues, actors, dynamics and actors that shape public policy at each stage of the process:  agenda setting, formulation, implementation and evaluation. Each of these stages are examined in detail drawing on a number of case studies from within the UK policy context and beyond.
Syllabus structure:
• Introduction to the policy process LO4
• Theoretical Approaches LO4
• Health and Social Care Policy in the UK LO1, LO2, LO3
• Agenda Setting: Power and Influence LO1, LO2, LO3
• Policy Formulation: Actors and Evidence LO1, LO2, LO3
• Policy Implementation: Customisation and Challenges in implementation LO1
• Policy Evaluation and Auditing LO1, LO2, LO3

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

The learning and teaching will consist of a structured programme of formal lectures, interactive workshops student-led discussions, independent directed research and group work. The module will include a variety of ways for students to explore the policy process through diverse theoretical perspectives, applying different models of analysis and investigating issues arising at each stage of policy making. Students will be able to engage in a Westminster Select Committee Style Policy Inquiry (Evidence gathering session in week 7), thus bringing together the theoretical and practical strands of this module.

Web Learn
The module will be using WebLearn extensively - guidance will be given during the module about how to best use this. Blended learning is designed to support student learning and provide diverse ways of engaging with the subject matter explore in this module.

Learning outcomes

 At the end of this module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate systematic understanding of how health policy is developed and implemented in practice [LO1]
2. Critically analyse different policy documents in relation to its particular context [LO2]
3. Critically evaluate factors that influence the policy process in different countries [LO3]
4. Apply competing theoretical and political perspectives that relate to policy development and implementation demonstrating systematic understanding of different local, national and international contexts [LO4]

Assessment strategy

 The assesment will include both formative and summative methods.

The first summative assessment consist in a 1,500 words Written Consultation Response, oulining, the stakeholder position in relation to an ongoing public consulation. The response needs to contextualise the issue addressed in the policy consultation and how it affects the stakeholder presently.

Working towards the second summative assessment student will first have to submit a formative assessment consisting in an evidence repertoir mapped across a policy report plan.

The second summative assessment is The Policy Report (3,000 words) will require students to discuss a policy, choosing to focus on one of the following:
a) Policy objectives, how the issue got on the agenda, evidence base, policy fomulation process and theories underpinning the development of the policy.
b) Policy objectives, instruments, implementation and evaluation, supported by a theoretical discussion.

*Students in Health and Social Care Management and Policy Programme will need to focus on a health and social policy


Birkland, T. (2016) An introduction to the policy process : theories, concepts, and models of public policy making /   320.6 BIR Ebook
Cairney, P. (2012). Understanding public policy : theories and issues. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. CLASS NO     320.6 CAI.
Cairney, P. (2016). The politics of evidence-based policy making. New York : Palgrave Macmillan. ADD.CLASS    320.6.
Hill, M. and F. Varone (2017)  The public policy process    320.HIL.6 E-book
Knoepfel, P.  et al (2011). Public policy analysis. Bristol : Policy Press, 2011. CLASS NO     361.61 PUB.

Additional Reading:
Bagott, R. (2015) Understanding Health Policy . Palgrave Macmillan 362.10941 BAG
Blank, R. Burau, V. (2010) – Comparative  Health Policy. Palgrave Macmillan
Buse, K  Mays, N Walt, G (2012 ) Making health policy Maidenhead: Open University Press
Crinson, I. (2009)  Health Policy: A critical perspective. SAGE Publications Ltd
Davey, B. Gray, A. and Seale, C. (eds) (2001) Health and Disease: A Reader. Buckingham: OUP. (Third Edition) 
Dunn, W. N., (2014). Public policy analysis. Harlow : Pearson, 2014. ADD.CLASS    361.61.
Dye, T. R. (2008). Understanding public policy. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson / Prentice Hall. CLASS NO  320.60973 DYE.
Exworthy, M. [et al.] (2012). Shaping health policy : case study methods and analysis. Bristol : Policy Press. CLASS NO     362.10941 SHA.
Garrett W. Brown, et al (2014) The handbook of global health policy. Chichester : John Wiley & Sons Inc.,. CLASS NO     362.1 HAN.
Heller, T. Muston, R. Sidell, M. and Lloyd, C. (eds) (2001) Working for Health. London: OUP in association with Sage.
Howlett, M. (2009). Studying public policy : policy cycles and policy subsystems. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CLASS NO     320.6 HOW.
Lee, K. B. & Fustukian S. (2002) Health policy in a globalising world.  Cambridge University Press (e book)
Lister, J.  (2013). Health policy reform : global health versus private profit. Faringdon : Libri. CLASS NO  362.1 LIS.
Marinetto, M. (1999)  Studies of the policy process : a case analysis. London : Prentice Hall Europe, 1999. CLASS NO     320.6 MAR.
Moran, et al (2006). The Oxford handbook of public policy. Oxford : Oxford University Press. CLASS NO  320.6 OXF.
Walshe, K.  and Smith, J. (2011) Healthcare management. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England : Open University Press. ADD.CLASS    362.1068.

Useful Journals
Social Science and Medicine (SSM) (W)
Sociology of Health and Illness (SFH)
International Journal of Health Services (IJHS). (W)
Health Policy and Planning
Health Policy
Journal of Public Health Policy
Journal Of Health Service Research and Policy
Health Matters
European Journal of Public Health
Public policy Research.
Central European journal of public policy.
Rutgers journal of law & public policy.
International journal of health policy and management.
The journal of mental health policy and economics.

Useful Websites: