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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.

Learning 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.



Methods of instruction

This course consists of one kick-off lecture, workshop sessions and a presentation.

Study load

Total 140 hrs, of which:
28 contact hours, 50 self-study hours, 10 team work and joint presentation preparation hours, 12 assginment completion hours, 40 final exam paper writing hours

Method of assessment

Participation (10% of final grade); two group assignments (40% of final grade); and individual exam paper (50% of final grade). Resit: exam paper


Yes, available one week before start of course

Other course materials/literature

  • 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). Selected chapters from the books and articles (will be provided electronically)

  • 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.


Registration for every course and exam in USIS is mandatory. For courses, registration is possible from four weeks up to three days before the start of the course.
For exams, registration is possible from four weeks up to ten days before the date of the examination.


Prof. dr. Arco Timmermans, Schouwburgstraat 2, room B 104, email a.timmermans@cdh.leidenuniv.nl phone 070 527 3786