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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 discussing the various methodological traditions of evaluation: the classical experiment, responsive evaluation, performance management and realist evaluation. Students are then introduced to the historical practice of policy evaluation in the EU and the Netherlands, and to the concept of evaluation systems. The final part of the course discusses the methodological quality and practical usefulness of policy evaluations and the various political and practical factors that affect these characteristics.

Course Objectives

Upon the successful completion of the course, the students should be able to:
1) Explain the importance of policy evaluation using academic concepts.
2) Identify different types of existing evaluations and select appropriate evaluation methodologies for other policies and programs.
3) Understand the main goals and actors involved in policy evaluation, based on examples from the European Union and the Netherlands.
4) Assess the quality of policy evaluations, both in terms of their methodological robustness and their practical usefulness.
5) Grasp the potential influence of political and practical factors on evaluation quality.

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

Grading for the course is based on two written assignments (each worth 40% of the final grade), as well as a series of case-study presentations and participation during in-class discussions and exercises (20% in total). More information about the grading, as well as detailed assignment prompts, 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.


Students that have started their MSc in September 2019, enroll for group #01
Students that start their MSc in February 2020, enroll for group #02