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Politics of the Policy Process: Comparative Perspective


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Institutions of Governance and Development


Why do some problems get included in political agendas while others do not? How do politics and institutions shape public policy outcomes? What policy instruments does a government have in its toolkit, and how have these changed over time? How do negotiation and compromise shape policymaking processes? What is the role of politicians, bureaucrats and civil society actors in driving pro-development policy? And, how can knowledge, evidence and science contribute to pro-development policy in a highly politicized and polarized policymaking environment? This course addresses these questions by introducing students to the prominent theories, approaches, actors, instruments and methods of politics and public policy. The scope of the course is global and comparative. We will learn about how policymaking and policy outcomes differ across countries by drawing on contemporary cases studies and examples from countries around the world.

The course will introduce students to the highly contested topics that animate today’s public debates, such as gun ownership, immigration and citizenship, education, health care, and welfare policies. I designed this course to give students an introduction to the big ideas, debates and theories in public policy analysis, comparative politics, international relations, political economy, sociology, geography, and development economics. As such, I am not going to provide concrete policy answers in many cases to your questions, but instead will intellectually guide you to think through these big questions. My overarching goal in this course is to help you learn enough and think critically enough to know why anyone that claims to have a one size fits all policy solution for all countries is wrong. That means there's no generic solution. But there are some key principles to help us find the right policy in the right situation, and history to learn from. That’s what you’re signing up for in the politics of the policy process course.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course it is expected that the students will be able to:

  • Understand the role and influence of key actors, ideas and institutions in the policymaking process from a comparative perspective;

  • Critically analyse the strengths and weaknesses of various theories and approaches used to explain differences in policy outcomes;

  • Connect theory and practice through comparative policy analysis;

  • Work effectively in teams to present sophisticated arguments on selected topics;

  • Demonstrate top-notch writing and oral communication skills.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

There are two main teaching methods used in this course: lectures and tutorials.

Lectures: The instructor will deliver a lecture based on the required readings. Lectures will provide an overview of the dedicated topic for the week in question. Each class will begin with a brief question and answer period related to the readings or to previous lectures. This period will be followed by the lecture for the day. At the end of each lecture there will also be a brief period for questions from students. Come prepared to engage with the instructor, your fellow students, and the material to be discussed.

Tutorials: The instructor’s lectures, presentations, readings, and in-class debates will be complemented with tutorials. The goal of tutorials is to provide a forum for students to discuss their thoughts and ideas in a seminar style. Tutorials often closely follow the Socratic method, where the student presents his or her findings and the professor rigorously questions every assumption made by the student while also drawing the other students into the discussion. Two students will be in charge of leading each tutorial discussion, and every student will have the opportunity to be a discussion leader. During the tutorial session, the discussion leaders will guide the discussion and the presentation. The discussion leaders will also need to make sure the discussion stays on topic and that the group does not lose track of the task. In short, the discussion leaders should consider themselves as the lead presenters. The discussion leaders are positions that you can volunteer for on a weekly basis. This is a fun task, but if you find no other motivation please note that it counts positively and significantly towards your participation grade. In the rare event that there is no volunteer, the instructor can assign students to take on these roles.

Assessment Method

  • Class Participation (10%)

  • Tutorial Presentation (15%)

  • Public Policy Response Memos (15%)

  • Book Review (25%)

  • Policy Brief (35%)

Reading list

The list of readings will be made available upon commencement of the course.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Ayokunu Adedokun,