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The Politics of Public Policy


Admission requirements

The course is open to Research Master students only.


Policy making is the process through which social problems appear on the public agenda and collective decisions are being made and implemented to address these problems. The contest for political power determines the most important decision-making actors, but there is more to policy making than the competition between political parties. In addition to the impact of political preferences, policy making is driven and constrained by public opinion, by the activities of interest groups, and by the diffusion of policy innovations. The purpose of this course is to introduce the main theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of policy making. The course will provide students with a theoretically-informed understanding of the policy process and will acquaint them with the empirical generalizations about the impact of various factors on policy change provided by existing political science and public administration literatures. As a result, the course will enhance the students’ skills in translating theoretically-relevant questions into empirical research designs.

Course objectives

The objective of the course are as follows: (1) to aquaint the students with the state of the art of the academic literature on public policy and the policy process as embedded in the broader political context; (2) to provide the students with the theretical concepts and analytical tools to analyse the processes of agenda-setting, policy making and implementation and policy change; (3) to prepare the students to conduct theoretically-informed empirical research in the field of public policy.

Mode of instruction

A combination of lectures and seminars (class discussions of the assigned literature).

Course Load

The total study load for this course is 140 hours. 14 hours are for attending the lectures, 60 hours for studying the assigned literature and 64 hours for researching and writing the final paper, and 2 hours for preparing a short presentation of the design and preliminary findings of the study.

Assessment method

The students will be evaluated on the basis of a 12-15 pages empirical research paper. The research paper should apply one of the approaches discussed during the course to a real-world case (or a set of cases) of policy making. The choice of topic would need to be discussed with the instructor and finalized by Week 4, and the research design of the paper and preliminary findings will be presented in the final sessions of the course.
The research paper will account for 100% of the final grade. The assignment can be retaken .


Blackboard will be used for this course.

Reading list

The literature for this course comprises of scientific articles to be accessed through the Leiden University library system. The list of readings will be made available on the Blackboard site of the course.


See Preliminary Info




Dr. Dimiter Toshkov
tel. 071 5276771
Office hourss by appointment
Office 4.019, Wijnhaven, The Hague