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Introduction to Public Affairs



Public Affairs is about the way in which all kinds of organizations engage in lobbying and in securing a good reputation. In the world of policymaking, organizations and groups with a specific interest try to influence decisions to their favor. They may try to get an issue on the agenda, or prevent it if this threatens their interest. How do they do this, what strategies they use, and with what effects? How can we understand the myriad of business corporations, professional associations, NGOs, citizen groups and increasingly also public organizations that gets involved in lobbying? How do policymakers respond to claims made by interest groups? What about the transparency of lobbying, and the implications for democratic representation?

This course introduces you to the world of public affairs, in which not only lobbying is relevant but also the reputation of organizations as they are more and more held publicly accountable for their behavior. How can you study the lobbying game, and how do organizations learn about strategy and reputation building? Do they work together, or do they act alone?

Public affairs happens not only at the national (or regional, or local) level but also and increasingly in international arenas. What is the playing field of this activity, what role do the media have in the portrayal of issues on which interest groups lobby and policymakers are expected to take them up? How do policymakers select issues from the enormous volume of problems and claims that are presented to them?

This course introduces you to both perspectives: the viewpoint from interest groups that want to influence public policy, and the perspective of policymakers who must deal with all kinds of organized interests and make choices about which of these interest to address and which to ignore.

Course objectives

At an introductory level, this course provides you a view on the diversity of organizations engaged in interest representation, their strategies and tactices, and the effects of their activities on policy decisions and their public reputation.

After successfully completing this course, you are able to:

  • Describe the playground of lobbying and the actors engaged in it.

  • Indicate how diverse types of interest orgnizations have different strategies and must compete in getting access to policymakers and building a positive image.

  • Explain that the supply side of interests (the groups) and the demand side (the policymakers) are mutually dependent, and show how their relationship works


On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

In this course you have interactive lectures and workgroup meetings.
Self study will consist in part of work in small teams on a running case (with two assignments) during the course, with presentations in the workgroup meetings.
Lectures and workgroup meetings are compulsory.

Course Load

The total work load is 140 hours, of which 14 are contact hours, 70 hours self study onderwijsmateriaal, 36 hours team work on assignments en 20 hours preparation of the course exam.

Assessment method

Assignments will be made and graded, which make up 40 percent of your final grade. The other 60 percent comes from your final exam.

Assignments with a grade lower than 5.5 must be redone and submitted before the end of the course and the exam session. There will be a re-exam scheduled.

You can find more information about assessments and the timetable exams on the website.
Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Blackboard.
On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website, uSis and Blackboard.

Students will be permitted to resit an examination if they have taken the first sit and earned a mark between 3 and 5.5 or with permission of the Board of Examiners.

Resit written exam
Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’.


Course information and a detailed course syllabus will be posted on blackboard in the week before the start of the course.

Reading list

The reading material for this course will be included in the course syllabus. The material consists of articles that are downloadable via the electronic catalogue of the university library.


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.
Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.


Prof. dr. Arco Timmermans, Schouwburgstraat 2, room B 104,
phone 070 527 3786