nl en

Public Policy


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Public Administration can participate in this course.


Problems and solutions for these problems appear and disappear. Decisions are made, or clear decisions are avoided by policy makers. Policies may be successful, but often something goes wrong with expectations about outcomes. Estimations of the possible solutions to a problem may appear too optimistic, political intentions may clash, or sudden events may make other problems more urgent. In order to understand these processes we need a systematic approach to provide us with a sharper view at the world of policy making. This course presents such an approach by focusing on two central elements in the policy process: the attention to issues and the portrayal of problems as they emerge and travel through different societal and political venues. A better understanding of the origins and creation of policy from its emergence on the agenda is fundamental to any kind of professional work related to policy making, analysis, and evaluation that you may aspire after concluding your Master program.

Course objectives

This course aims to enlarge your conceptual, integrative and reflective skills when analysing public policy. After successfully completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. understand and explain the conditions under which attention to problems rises and falls, and major policy changes occur or are prevented,
  2. analyse public policies and their social construction via identifying how problems are portrayed, goals selected and solutions designed and presented, and
  3. apply key theoretical concepts to real life scenarios of public policy.


The (provisional) timetable is on the first page of the e-Prospectus.

Session 1: Introductory Lecture
Session 2: Seminar discussions
Session 3: Presentations of work group assignments
Deadline Assignment 1: TBA
Session 4: Seminar discussions
Session 5: Seminar discussions and presentations of work group assignments
Session 6: Presentations of work group assignments
Deadline Assignment 2: TBA
Session 7: Concluding seminar discussion
Exam: TBA

Mode of instruction

One introductory lecture and six seminar sessions

This course begins with a plenary lecture presenting the main elements used for analyzing public policy, and outlining the successive week themes.

From the second course week on, all students are divided in smaller seminar groups (the total number depends on the enrolled students), within which teams (of appr. 4 participants) are formed. Each team will choose an empirical topic to which the conceptual (‘theoretical’) equipment provided by the literature will be applied. Each team will then have to write two assignments and present part of them in the seminar group. This entails a major part of the course work for all students.

Assessment method

Participation (10% of final grade); two group assignments (40% of final grade); and written exam (50% of final grade)

Note that participation in the exam is only possible when both assignments have been written and the average grade obtained is at least 5.5.



Reading list

  • Stone, Deborah. 2011. Policy Paradox. The Art of Political Decision Making. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 3rd edition (2nd edition cannot be used because there are substantial differences).
    The book by Deborah Stone is the core literature for this course and we expect you to have it.

  • The other reading material will be provided in electronic format.

  • Selected chapters from the books and articles

  • Downs, Anthony. 1972. Up and Down with Ecology – The “Issue-Attention Cycle”. Public Interest 28: 38-50.

  • Kingdon, John. 1995. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers. 2nd edition. Chapters 5 & 6.

  • Jones, Bryan D. and Frank R. Baumgartner. 2005. The Politics of Attention. How Government Prioritizes Problems. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Chapters 2 and 4.

  • Jann, Werner and Kai Wegrich. 2007. Chapter 4: Theories of the Policy Cycle. In Frank Fischer, Gerald J. Miller and Mara S. Sidney. (ed). Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Politics, and Methods. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis Group, pp.43-62.

  • Weingart, Peter. 1999. Scientific Expertise and Political Accountability: Paradoxes of Science in Politics. Science and Public Policy 26 (3): 151-161.

  • Timmermans, Arco and Peter Scholten. 2006. The Political Flow of Wisdom: Science Institutions as Policy Venues in The Netherlands. Journal of European Public Policy 13(7): 1104-1118.

  • A few additional chapters/article will be selected. Information will be available later on blackboard.



Contact information