University of Technology Sydney

15626 Policy in Practice

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Institute for Public Policy and Governance
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject is one of four core subjects in the Graduate Certificate in Applied Policy (C11263), the Graduate Diploma in Applied Policy (C06121) and the Master of Applied Policy (C04323).

This subject explores the themes of agenda setting, decision making, corruption, transparency and reform across a variety of policy portfolios, enabling participants to build an analytical capacity to identify the theoretical, institutional and domestic factors that confront policymakers on a day-to-day basis at the national and sectoral level.

This subject provides students with a foundation in the values, knowledge and skills needed for policy formulation, strategy, implementation and review. It introduces public policy both as an academic discipline and as a field of practice via opportunities for engagement with representatives from industry, government and the third sector. Based on examples involving practical case studies, students are introduced to demand frameworks and contexts, and invited to explore practical dilemmas that arise when policymakers grapple with these factors across multiple fronts. The subject also involves an explicit focus on concepts and means by which policymakers and academics have attempted to bring order to the policy-making process in what otherwise may seem a chaotic world. Topics include policy cycles, policy processes, and agenda setting. The subject also considers key influences on policy making, such as corruption and the need for both public participation and expert advice.

After undertaking this subject, participants are able to:

  • conceptualise the practical business of making policy within a framework that enables them to track the various influences and demands to which policymakers are subject, and provides a rational process through which they can consider their response
  • understand the major contemporary demands that confront policymakers in the task of responding to social problems and developing policy responses
  • conceptualise the limitations of the policy process and how these might be mitigated, and the process reformed, in the interests of delivering social and political change that satisfies the wider public.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. Deliver an account of major social, political and organisational demands that act upon policymakers in their efforts to confront policy problems.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the process related pressures that policy makers must negotiate and also the essential prerequisites that must satisfy in delivering policy outputs.
3. Identify, examine and elaborate upon the major issues facing actors within the policymaking process and how these might differ across different policy sectors.

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Students successfully completing this subject have a greater understanding of the major contemporary demands and prerequisites that policymakers must confront in their day-to-day working which will enable them to:

  1. Describe the phases of the policy process and the conceptual dynamics through which various phases interact.

  2. Define and describe key themes that contemporary policymakers are required to reflect in the business of building policy outputs

  3. Outline the day-to-day challenges and limitations that policymakers must work within and strive to overcome in formulating policy outputs.

  4. Select, contrast and constructively apply diverse conceptions of institutional, organisational and public needs and priorities within a policy making environment that cannot respond to multiplicity of problems that these entities identify and flag for redress

  5. Describe, develop and appraise processes

The term CAPRI is used for the five Design, Architecture and Building faculty graduate attribute categories where:
C = communication and groupwork

A = attitudes and values

P = practical and professional

R = research and critique

I = innovation and creativity
Course intened learning outcomes (CILOs) are linked to these categories using codes (eg. C-1, A-3, P-4, etc).

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject is run as an extended period of self-directed learning and two blocks intensive seminars, workshops and facilitated symposiums run on campus. There is a strong emphasis on students engaging in independent reading and reflection on the material through self-directed study. Face-to-face classes incorporate a range of teaching and learning strategies, including presentations, student group work, presentation and deliberation of concepts and theory-practice integration via the medium of case studies, and review and discussion of independent student reading. The subject utilises five main modes of teaching/learning, all underpinned by the principles of adult education:

Self-directed learning - Strongly based on a flipped learning approach, students engage in reading prior to attending on-campus delivery blocks, supported by a comprehensive Guide to Readings and through accessing core and additional readings through the Canvas online system and library. Students extend, test and reflect on their self-study in workshop sessions in which the material is organised into modules of teaching/learning (see ‘Content’ below) that strongly direct participants’ attention to the value and utility of integrating theory with practice.

Structured presentation of trends, issues and background research - Presented by UTS academic staff and expert presenters, the modules are based on policymaking practice, research and political, economic and social theory.

Active learning - An interactive and professional development approach enables participants to discuss course content and reflect on issues and practices within their own national contexts, while comparing these with the experiences of their peers and other national contexts. It includes structured reflection on national and regional experiences, work-based case studies, workshop tasks and analysis, and the structuring and conduct of the assessments and the feedback provided to students on the basis of those assessments (see ‘Assessment’ below).

Applying theory to practice - Participants apply supra and subnational challenges, ideals and issue to issues of policy making practice across diverse policy portfolios to their own work situations and demonstrate this learning through the writing of a Policy Practice Report.

Collaborative learning - Participants who have completed this foundational subject in applied policy regularly provide feedback within group learning situations ensuring that their individual learning and development derives from peer-to-peer contact, sharing and reflecting on diverse experiences through workshops, small group discussion, facilitated symposium and problem-solving activities, facilitated whole-of-class scholarly debates, and other methods included in the overall teaching/learning approach in order to promote peer learning.

Content (topics)

During the course of the structured teaching/learning experiences, students address the following themes and issues that aggregate around the practice policy making.

Module 1: Policy Agendas, Cycles and Processes

Agenda setting is the practice by which policy problems and their potential solutions gather, fail to gather or lose public and political traction. In the contemporary world, setting the policy agenda involves fierce competition. The notion of the policy cycle is a guide, or heuristic, for policy development designed to bring order to a process that might otherwise seem disordered and chaotic. The idea of a policy cycle, or sequenced policy process, was originally offered in the important work of Lasswell (1951), and then embraced by others (Brewer, 1974; Jenkins, 1978; Brewer and deLeon, 1983; and deLeon, 1999). This Module considers the utility and validity of different models of the policy cycle and process, from the stages heuristic to the advocacy coalition framework and the policy entrepreneurship model. It also considers theories and ideas regarding policy issues and how they become part of, and how they are removed from, the policy agenda.

Module 2: Policy Advice

In making and evaluating policy, public officials are often required to make decisions on highly complex policy issues and their solutions that involve considerable risk to stakeholders and the wider public. As a consequence, the role of expert policy advisors has become much more important to government. Today, officials are reliant upon policy advisors and institutional experts from various sectors of industry, and from academic fields like engineering, science, economics and the law. This Module considers the increasing role of expert policy advice in the policy process and the challenges it presents to decision-makers in terms of balancing expert and non-expert claims over policy solutions.

Module 3: Decision making and Policy

Policy change is about decision making. And decision-making is a responsibility of all individuals at all levels and all types of organisations. Essentially, decision making is about making a choice made between two or more competing options. By extension, the decision-making process is about the steps that individual under takes when selecting between these two or more options. Although decision-making is usually represented as a matter of choosing between alternatives, decisions are always made within an organisational context. And the values and norms, which inform the assembly of competing options, and also the culture of choice making that differentiates between them, is particular to the kinds of organisation in which decision makers are located. This Module considers accounts of decision making, policy change and why changes occur and indeed fail to occur.

Module 4: Corruption

Corruption can arise from a number of sources: a desire for self-aggrandizement; low pay and remuneration by which public officials cannot live within their legitimate means; and also of a generally closed political system that excludes popular and collective citizen interests. The module considers the impact corruption not only holds to distorts priorities for public policy, but also its potential to deliver revenue losses, wastage of human capital and talent, and to divert limited resources from serving the public interest. The module considers the nature of corruption, the ways in which it influences public policy and the means by which its influence might be mitigated.

Module 5: Participation in Policy

The issue of participation involves questions about why people participate in the policy process, why they choose not to participate, or how and why they find themselves structurally excluded from participating. These questions involve critical differences of gender, generation, ideology, race and class. As such the issue of participation in policy requires deep reflection on the normative principles of democracy, voice and equality before government. This Module explores the nature of participatory and deliberative democracy, discussing the potential gains of engaging people directly in policy-making at the local level to the effectiveness and efficiency of policy, and also to the wider strengthening of democracy.


Assessment task 1: Essay


Drawing on the literature, students complete a written submission describing one of demands and pressures acting upon the policymaking process focusing on issues related to policy processes and practice.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2 and 3

This task also addresses the following course intended learning outcomes that are linked with a code to indicate one of the five CAPRI graduate attribute categories (e.g. C.1, A.3, P.4, etc.):

A.2, I.1, P.1 and R.1

Type: Essay
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 40%

2,000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Skill in identifying and analysing reference material from a wide range of sources, as demonstrated through using and acknowledging that literature via consistent and accurate in-text referencing and the compilation of an accurate reference list. 20 3 R.1
Skill in structuring complex information, arguments and ideas in written form, as demonstrated through the structure of the text and its readability 20 2 R.1
The studentís exploration of the topic expresses a foundation understanding of the challenges of contemporary policymaking, including historical debates on the changing role of national policy makers under conditions of globalisation. The writing provides evidence of the student showing a professional interest in, and laying strong foundations for, their deeper exploration of challenges in policymaking practice. 20 3 P.1
The student shows evidence of considering the normative and ethical implications of the principles or conceptual frameworks relevant to the selected module and its application to policy making and government practice. There is a clear focus in the writing on suggesting how a considered and systematic application of principles and conceptual frameworks to policy making practice can be of benefit to national governments. 20 1 A.2
The student questions, challenges and develops new perspectives on current policy making practice by applying principles and conceptual frameworks from the literature that could enhance not only the understanding of policy making, but also its improved functioning within national government contexts. 20 1 I.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Policy Output Report


This assignment enables students to demonstrate competence in explicitly integrating the demands of practical policy making, as discussed in this subject, to their own professional practice.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2 and 3

This task also addresses the following course intended learning outcomes that are linked with a code to indicate one of the five CAPRI graduate attribute categories (e.g. C.1, A.3, P.4, etc.):

A.3, I.1, P.1, R.1 and R.4

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 60%

3,000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
The Professional Report provides evidence that student has focused on the self as a policymaking practicitioner when considering implications of the learning from the subject for her/his own work. In the Report, the student has provided an engaging description of the challenges and opportunities associated with their chosen topic in relation to their work unit, and how it affects their professional practice. 20 1 A.3
The studentís exploration of the topic is based on a sound understanding of challenges involved in the policymaking process, including historical debates on the changing nature of these issues and challenges The Report makes clear links between the ways principles are expressed in the literature, and how they manifest in the studentís own policy sector and home country. 20 3 P.1
With a focus on contemporary challenges and issues in policymaking practice, the student provides evidenced conclusions using information about their home country including knowledge of government work plans, decisions, policies and activities. Discussion of concepts outlined in the modules is underpinned by reference to the identified readings. 20 1 R.1
Drawing on research evidence and debates in the literature and from the issues raised in the facilitated discussion with peers, the student applies relevant conceptual frameworks relating to the challenges and issues discussed in the Report based on the issues as they are presented in each of the study modules 20 2 R.4
The student puts forward innovative, practical and workable ways in which they would achieve their aims and mitigate policy challenges based on a assessment of the national context in which they intended to implement their policy. In doing so, the student demonstrates the ability to question, challenge and develop new perspectives on current policymaking practice in their home country. 20 3 I.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Students must meet attendance requirements and overall must obtain at least 50% of the total marks.

Required texts

As it is a foundation subject for the studies in Applied Policy at the University of Technology Sydney, it is essential that all students undertaking 15626 Policy in Practice grapple with the academic literature. All readings are discussed in a comprehensive ‘Subject Description and Guide to Readings’, which, as the key guide for self-directed study, is provided to students well in advance of the first scheduled face-to-face session. Readings for the modules of the subject are distinguished according to whether they are ‘core readings’ or ‘additional readings and references’. The core readings (around 36 texts) are made available to students online via Canvas. Students are expected to access the additional readings by making using of the UTS library facilities (especially online access for journal articles) themselves. Core readings include:

Allison, CR and Saint-Martin, D (2011) "Half a century of 'muddling'. Are we there yet?

Barber, Michael (2015) How to run a government, London, Penguin, especially chapter 2 (‘Organization’), pp. 26-59.

Bardach, E. A practical guide for policy analysis: The eightfold path to more effective problem solving, CQ press, Introduction and Appendix A.

Bardach, E (1998) Getting Agencies to Work Together (Washington, DC, Brookings Institution Press), especially chapter 2: 19-51.

Baumgartner, FR and Jones, BD (2002) Policy Dynamics, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), chapters 1 & 2.

Bradya, HE, Verba, S and Schlozman KL (1995) Beyond SES: A Resource Model of Political Participation American Political Science Review 89(2): 271-294.

Brodkin Evelyn (2012) ‘Reflections on street-level bureaucracy’ Public Administration Review, 72(6): 940-9.

Bellamy, R. and S. Kroger (2014) Domesticating the Democratic Deficit? The Role of National Parliaments and Parties in the EU's System of Governance. Parliamentary Affairs 67, no. 2, pp. 437–57.

Bender, J, Moe, T and Shotts, KW (2001) ‘Recycling the Garbage Can: An Assessment of the Research Programme’ American Political Science Review 95(1): 169-90

Bovens, M (2010) 'Two concepts of accountability" West European Politics 33(5): 946-67.

Bruno S. F., and A. Stutzer (2006) Strengthening the citizens' role in international organizations. The Review of International Organizations 1 (1) pp. 27-43

Cohen, M, March, J and Olsen, JP (1972) ‘A Garbage Can Model of Organisational Choice’ Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(1): 1-25. (only need to read pages 1-3 before they confusingly try to apply this all through a computer simulation)

Considine, M (2002) ‘The End of the line? Accountable governance in the age of networks, partnerships and joined-up services’ Governance, 15(1): 21-40.

Daley, D (2009) ‘Interdisciplinary Problems and Agency Boundaries’ Journal of Public Administration Theory and Research, 19(3): 477-93Cohen, MD, March, JG and Olsen, JH (1972) ‘A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice’ Administrative Science Quarterly, 17: 1-25

Daley, D (2009) ‘Interdisciplinary Problems and Agency Boundaries’ Journal of Public Administration Theory and Research, 19(3): 477-93

DeLeon, P (1999) ‘The Stages Approach to the Policy Process: What Has it Done? Where is it Going?’ In PA Sabatier (ed.) Theories of the Policy Process (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press)

Donchev, D and Ujhelyi, G (2014) "What Do Corruption Indices Measure?" Economics & Politics 26(2) 309-331.

Etzioni, A (1967) "Mixed-Scanning: A 'Third' Approach to Decision-Making Public Administration Review 27(5): 385-392

Fisman, R and Miguel, E (2006) ‘Cultures of Corruption: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets’ BREAD Working Paper 122,

Goudie, AW and Stasavage, D (1998) ‘A framework for the analysis of corruption’ Crime, Law and Social Change 29(2-3): 113-159

Greer, S "John W. Kingdon, 'Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies'" in Balla, Lodge and Page (eds) Oxford Handbook on the Classics of Public Policy (Oxford 2015)

Gregory, R (2002) ‘Governmental Corruption in New Zealand: A View through Nelson’s Telescope?’ Asian Journal of Political Science, 10(1): 17-38

Gregory, R (2003) ‘Accountability in Modern Government’ in GB Peters and J Pierre (eds) Handbook of Public Administration, London, Sage.

Gregory, R (1998) ‘A New Zealand Tragedy: Problems of Political Responsibility’ Governance 11(2): 231-40.

Hood Christopher, Henry Rothstein and Robert Baldwin (2000) ‘Assessing the Dangerous Dogs Act’ Public Law, summer, 282-305.

Hupe Peter and Michael Hill (2014) ‘Delivery Capacity’, in M. Lodge and K. Wegrich (eds) Problem-Solving Capacity of the Modern State, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 25-40

Irvin, RA and Stansbury, J (2004) "Citizen Participation in Decision Making: Is It Worth the Effort?" Public Administration Review 64(1): 55–65, February 2004

Jann, W. and Wegrich, K. 2006. ‘Theories of the Policy Cycle’, Handbook of public policy analysis, Chapter 4, pp. 43-62.

Jenkins-Smith, Hank C. and Paul A. Sabatier (1994). Evaluating the Advocacy Coalition Framework. Journal of Public Policy, 14, pp 175-203

Jones, BD and Baumgartner, FR. (2005) The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), chapter 1

Michels, A (2011) Innovations in democratic governance: how does citizen participation contribute to a better democracy? International Review of Administrative Sciences 77: 275-293.

Mintrom, Michael and Sandra Vergari (1996) “Advocacy Coalitions, Policy Entrepreneurs, and Policy Change”, Policy Studies Journal 24: 3 pp. 420-434

Scott, C. and Baehler, K. 2010. Adding Value to Policy Analysis and Advice, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, Chapter 1.

Stone, D.A., 1989. Causal stories and the formation of policy agendas. Political science quarterly, 104(2), pp.281-300).

Walgrave, S, Soroka, S and Nuytemans, M (2008) ‘The Mass Medias Political Agenda setting power’ Comparative Political Studies, 41(6): 814-36