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Policy Evaluation in National and International Contexts



Whereas the course ‘Politics of Policy-Making: National and International Challenges’ addresses the processes of agenda-setting, decision-making and implementation, this course focuses entirely on the final step in the policy process: evaluation. Evaluation is an increasingly important topic for both national governments and international organizations like the EU and the OECD. By systematically assessing the merits of policies, evaluations have the potential to help governments to improve their day-to-day activities. Evaluations can also enhance the accountability of governments to parliaments and citizens, can cause long-term learning and can be used for a variety of strategic reasons.

This course starts by introducing students to the practice of evaluation in the EU and the Netherlands. It then discusses various methodological traditions of evaluation: the classical experiment, responsive evaluation, performance management and realist evaluation. The second part of the course discusses the quality and usefulness of policy evaluations and various political and practical factors that may affect these characteristics.

Course Objectives

Upon the successful completion of the course, the students should be able to:
1) Understand the main goals and actors involved in policy evaluation in the European Union and the Netherlands.
2) Be able to make an informed decision between different methodological traditions of policy evaluation.
3) Be able to judge the quality and usefulness of a policy evaluation.
4) Understand the influence of political and practical factors on the quality and usefulness of policy evaluations.

Methods of instruction and communication

The course consists of seminars, in which students' active participation is required. Students are expected to read the assigned literature before the seminars and to prepare assignments about this literature when requested.

Assessment method

The examination consists of a written exam (50%) and two short papers (25% each). More details about the examination will be provided during the course.


The students are required to come prepared to the seminars and read the literature listed under each of the meetings in the syllabus. The course will mainly make use of scholarly articles, which are available through the university library (e-journals). Some articles are open-access, in which case you will find a link next to the assigned article.

Furthermore, a small number of sections from the two books listed below are used during the course. These two books are also used for the course ‘Politics of Policy-Making: National and International Challenges’:

  1. Versluis E., van Keulen M. and Stephenson P. (2011) (Eds) Analyzing the European Union Policy Process, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  2. Birkland, T. (2016) An Introduction to the Policy Process. Theories, Concepts, and Models of Public Policy Making, London: Routledge. *Fourth Edition