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Politics of the Policy Process


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. This course gives 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. The course does not 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

  • How political and economic power interact in policy reform processes

  • The policy-making process and the roles of politicians, bureaucracies and interest groups in shaping outcomes relevant to global challenges

  • Domestic and international political economy dynamics that structure the conditions for policy reform

To hone skills in:

  • public presentation

  • critical analysis and reflexivity

  • policy application of theoretical constructs


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

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour (online or face-to-face) seminars. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for its quality.

Assessment Method

Class Participation (10%)
Presentation (10%)
Policy briefs/memos (2 x 20%)
Paper (40%)

Reading list

Roughly 25 academic papers (approx 550-600 pages).


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. Maryse Helbert (email TBC)