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Comparative Public Policy & Management

Key information

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Module description

What is the module about?

This module explores public policy and public management and places these into their historical, political and institutional contexts.

The module develops an international comparative approach focusing on public management reform trajectories across High-, Middle- and Low-Income settings and a selection of policy sectors. Indicative examples of High-Income Countries would be the UK and the US. Middle-Income Countries would include Brazil and India. Low-Income Countries would include Malawi and Yemen.

The module explores the nature and role of evidence and expertise across different settings and sectors through engagement with ‘wicked’ policy problems. The idea of wicked policy problems comes from classic public policy analysis pioneered by Rittel & Webber (1973). Examples of wicked policy problems might include obesity, poverty and climate change.


The module will:

  1. Introduce a range of comparative public policy and management analytical frames, and explore their advantages and disadvantages
  1. Identify the development of different knowledge requirements and evidence architectures across public policy and public management paradigms
  1. Offer opportunities to apply these analytical approaches to ‘wicked’ policy problems in high-, middle-, and low-income settings


The module has the following learning outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of of key issues in relation to public policy making, public management and evidence use
  1. Accurately deploy established techniques of international and cross-sectoral comparative policy and management analysis and devise and sustain arguments and/or solve problems linked to complex ‘wicked’ public policy and management problems
  1. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of existing research into public policy making, public management and evidence use
  1. Demonstrate the capacity to work effectively as part of a group over a defined timeframe to produce a professional and succinct recorded output to an educated but non-specialist audience
  1. Demonstrate the capacity to work independently in an effective manner to produce written work that conveys complex information in an accessible way to a more specialized audience.


Who should do this module?

This module will be of interest to all students who wish to better understand the political and policy dimensions of key contemporary public management and ‘wicked’ issues related to health, social care and aging populations; global warming and international development; and education, employment and training. It will also be of interest to students interested in international comparative analysis and those who wish to explore the different challenges faced by high-, middle- and low-income countries. The module builds on some of the ideas introduced in the second year ‘Government and Business’ module so would be of interest to students who took that module – but this is not a pre-requisite. The module would be of interest to students considering a career in, or related to, public policy and management (for instance consultancy careers).


Assessment details

Coursework 70%

Group presentation 30% (groups allocated by module leader)

Teaching pattern

1 hour weekly lecture

1 hour weekly tutorial

Suggested reading list

Key text or background reading

The module draws closely on these three books in particular:

  • Pollitt, C., & Bouckaert, G. (2017). Public management reform: A comparative analysis-into the age of austerity. Oxford University Press.
  • Miller, K, and Massey, A. (eds.) (2015) International Handbook of Public Administration and Governance. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.
  • Boaz, A., Davies, H., Fraser, A., & Nutley., S. (eds) (2019) What works now? Evidence informed policy & practice. Policy Press, Bristol

Subject areas