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Politics of the Policy Process: Comparative Perspective


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

The students have taken the course Institutions of Governance and Development or have obtained permission from the convener/instructor.


Analysis and understanding of the political context in which policies are envisioned and/or made are crucial to understanding the chances of success or failure of policy reform initiatives.

This course is designed to give students an introduction to the theories and debates in policy studies, public policy analysis, comparative politics, international relations, political economy, sociology, and development economics. As such, the course does not aim to provide concrete policy answers in many cases to longstanding policy debates and questions, but instead will intellectually guide students to think through these big questions. The overarching goal in this course is to help students learn enough and think critically enough to know why there is no “one size fits all” policy solutions. 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 students will be signing up for in this course.

The class consists of three modules. Module one focuses on the fundamentals of the politics of the policy process. Here, we will explore the intersection between politics and public policy, the usefulness and criticisms of the policy cycle, the role of official and unofficial actors in the policy-making process, as well as the major theories of the policy process. Module two will review major factors and causes that account for variation in policy outcomes across countries. Importantly, we will discuss and analyse the factors that explain variation in public policies across countries and the domestic context of policymaking in both developed and developing countries. Lastly, in module three, we will conclude the course by empirically reviewing the highly contested topics that animate today’s public debates, such as immigration and citizenship, education, health care, and welfare policies.

Course Objectives

  • Understand the policy-making process;

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

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

  • Apply major policy process theories to real world issues through comparative case studies;

  • Improve written and verbal analytical discussion skills.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught through a mix of mini-lectures by the instructor, student presentations, group discussion, and class discussion facilitated by students.

Assessment Method

  • 10% participation assessed continually through participation in seminars and in-class activities.

  • 15% Seminar facilitation and presentations

  • 20% Peer feedback on reaction paper related to one seminar reading

  • 15% Simulation Exercise of the political decision-making process of policy choices

  • 40% Final take-home reflection essay

Reading list

Course readings will be available at a Brightspace site for this course or the Leiden University library.


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 course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Davina Osei,