University of Technology Sydney

15628 Making Public Policy

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).

As a core subject for the postgraduate study of applied policy, this subject explores the themes of defining policy problems, assembling evidence, implementing policy, evaluating outcomes and learning lessons from them. It enables participants to build an analytical capacity to identify the theoretical, institutional and domestic factors that confront policymakers in their use of evidence and decision-making activity on a day-to-day basis at the national and sectoral level.

This subject introduces students to the role of evidence and different types of knowledge in policy making. It considers how these issues shape the definition of policy problems by examining differential impacts derived from practical examples in the field. It considers debate surrounding the issue of transparency in public policy and examines how policymakers have met demands for increased access and participation in an increasingly complex world. It considers the interface between science and policymaking, and the extent to which policymakers allow scientific method and use of evidence bases to broker knowledge and inform policy development and analysis. It examines how, and the extent to which, the lessons of policy evaluation, formulation and development are transferable across national and sector boundaries. The subject also describes the role and importance of professionals and street-level bureaucrats in shaping policy goals and reform initiatives, offering a range of teaching and learning strategies including debates, group discussions, case studies, presentations and guest speakers. By the end of the subject, students have a deeper understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects relating to evidence and its use in policy and decision making.

After undertaking this subject, participants are able to:

  • describe the interface between science and policy making, the extent to which policymakers allow scientific method and use of evidence bases to broker knowledge and inform policy development and analysis
  • 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. Describe the goals of scientists and policy makers, their attitudes toward information, languages, perception of time, and career paths. Account for how these fundamentally different vocations work together, and what individuals from both spheres need to understand about each other.
2. Understand issues of policy learning, diffusion, transfer and convergence, how they speak to the ways in which various political systems use and generate information about the impact, function, formulation and rationale of policies and policy mechanisms across jurisdictions.
3. Conceptualise the roles that participants in the policy process play and should play in the context of how information is exchanged, how interaction occurs and agreements are reached.

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Students successfully completing this subject have a greater understanding of the issues involved in the use of evidence in policy formulation, analysis and implementation that professional policymakers must confront in their day-to-day working, which will enable them to:

  1. Describe the phases of how the use of evidence affects the ways in which policy issues are defined and decision making structures surrounding available options and preferred are constructed.

  2. Outline the role of scientific evidence and method in contemporary policy making and how these might conflict and synergise with others, more traditional forms of knowledge, based on experience and cultural values.

  3. Describe and distinguish between the cultures and values of professionals and bureaucrats, and how these influence their modes of working and preferences regarding the use of evidence and choice of methods of analysis.

  4. Selects and constructive apply strategies for balancing and synergising popular and organisational cultures of generating knowledge and interpreting evidence within the professional valuesand contemporary demands for evidence based policy and the involvement of scientific methods.

  5. Describe, develop and appraise means and processes through which contemporary policymakers might confront and respond to the day-to-day challenges and pressures of evaluating policy and gathering learning experiences across various policy sectors.

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject is run as an extended period of self-directed learning and two blocks of 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 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 decision making and the use of evidence in policy making.

Module 1: Defining Problems and Designing Policy

Issues of public policy usually arise in relation to the perception of problems. In many ways, policy-makers are problem solvers who design policy solutions. “A problem well defined”, wrote the American Philosopher John Dewey, “is a problem half-solved.” Defining the
problem is central to the business of making policy decisions. This Module introduces students to the difficulties and challenges associated with recognising and defining policy problems and designing solutions.

Module 2: Science and Policy/Cross National Policy Learning & Transfer

Policy making and science are distinct cultures. But there is increasing recognition of the need for more interaction at the interface between policymaking and science. However, any interactions are necessarily subject to influences by context, culture and history and also by the ongoing relationship between science and wider society. But the nature of these relationships is changing. Today, science is becoming increasingly involved in wider society rather than standing separate and apart. This module considers the interface between science and policymaking, examining the extent to which policymakers allow scientific method and use of evidence bases to broker knowledge and inform policy development and analysis.

Policy, in the broadest sense of the word, is a program of actions adopted by a person, group of government, in response to a specific issue, and the set of principles on which their response is based. Policy learning denotes a ‘conscious change in thinking’ about a specific policy issue. It is about the ways in which policy structures generate and use knowledge regarding the design, workings, impacts and the purposes and rationales of policies and policy systems. This might comprise a fundamental rethink of an issue, but it may also consist of a mild alteration within an existing response frame. Policy systems, and the multifaceted activities of agents operating within them, often prohibit straightforward ‘reading across’ of lessons. Cross national policy learning is about undertaking this rethink based upon knowledge of how other countries manage related issues and selecting a "best" practice response. This Unit considers whether, how and the extent to which the lessons of public policy evaluation, formulation and development are transferrable across national boundaries.

Module 3: Transparency

Policymakers and public officials are considered to have a duty to act visibly, predictably and understandably to promote participation and accountability. As a consequence, the issue of transparency is central to the role of policymakers. Today, the practice of policy making involves the proposition that decision makers should invest policies and policy processes with transparency in order to reduce risks, improve public services and service the idea of democratic accountability. However, instruments and provisions for enhancing transparency are not considered as part of policy and indeed the policy process. This Module considers good governance debate surrounding the issue of transparency in public policy and examines how policymakers have met demands for increased transparency in an increasingly complex world.

Module 4: Professionals and Bureaucrats

Delivering policy outputs, policymakers may need to build relationships and work with both professionals and bureaucrats. However, these two groups are characterised by different values, modes of working and organisation. The challenge for policymakers is to negotiate conflict between each group and harness their potential of each contribute to the implementation of a coherent policy output. This Module considers the role and importance of professionals and street level bureaucrats in delivering policy goals and reform initiatives, focussing on measure for grappling with the implementation and the ‘implementation gap’.


Assessment task 1: Essay


Drawing on the literature, this task requires students to submit a written assignment related to policy issues raised in one of the modules and seminar questions.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

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 3 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 2 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 2 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 2 I.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Policy Assessment Report


The Policy Assessment Report demonstrates a student's competence in structuring the use of evidence and effective decision making in practical policymaking.


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.2 and R.4

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 60%

3,000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
The Analytical 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 2 P.1
With a focus on contemporary challenges and issues in using evidence and making policy decisions, 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 3 R.2
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 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 evidential challenges based on an assessment of the 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 15628 Making Public Policy 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:

Bardach, E. A practical guide for policy analysis: The eightfold path to more effective problem solving, CQ press, pp. 1-11 (‘Step One’).

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

Collingridge, D and Reeve, C (1986) Science Speaks to Power: The Role of Experts in Policy (London: Frances Pinter) Chapter 1

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.

Considine, M and Lewis, KM (1999) ‘Governance at ground-level: The frontline bureaucrat in the age of markets and networks’ Public Administration Review 59(6): 467-80.

DeLeon, P and deLeon, L (2002) ‘What Ever Happened to Policy Implementation? An Alternative Approach’ Journal of Public Administration Theory and Research 12(4): 467-492.

Dolowitz, D and D Marsh (1996). Who learns what from whom: A review of the policy transfer literature. Political Studies, 44(2), 343–57.

Dolowitz, D and D Marsh (2000). “Learning from abroad: The role of policy transfer in contemporary policy-making.” Governance: An International Journal of Policy Administration and Institutions, 13(1), 5–24.

Elmore, Richard (1979). “Backward Mapping: Implementation Research and Policy Decision,” Political Science Quarterly, Winter, 601-616

Freidson, E (2001) Professionalism: the third logic, University of Chicago Press.

Gofen, A (2014) ‘Mind the Gap’ Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 24(2): 473-93.

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.

Grimmelikhuijsen, S et al (2013) ‘The Effect of Transparency on Trust in Government’ Public Administration Review, 73(4): 575-86.

Haas, PM (2004) When does power listen to truth? A constructivist approach to the policy process Journal of European Public Policy 11(4): 569–592

Hoppe, R (2005) Rethinking the science-policy nexus: from knowledge utilization and science technology studies to types of boundary arrangements Poiesis & Praxis: International Journal of Technology Assessment and Ethics of Science 3(3): 199–215.

Hupe, P and Buffat, A (2014) ‘A Public Service Gap’ Public Management Review, 16(4): 548-69.

James, O and Lodge, M (2003) "The Limitations of ‘Policy Transfer’ and ‘Lesson Drawing’ for Public Policy Research" Political Studies Review 1(2): 179–193

Jenkins, Hank C. and Paul A. Sabatier (1993) ‘The Dynamics of Policy-Oriented Learning’, in Paul A. Sabatier, and Hank C. Jenkins-Smith (eds.) Policy Change and Learning. An Advocacy Coalition Approach, Westview Press, 41-56.

Kingdon, J.W. and Thurber, J.A., 2003. Agendas, alternatives, and public policies, Longman New York. Chapter 4 and 9.

Knill, C. and Tosun, J.2012. Public Policy: A New Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Chapter 5 (‘Problem Definition and Agenda-Setting).

Larsen, Christian Albrekt (2002) Policy paradigms and cross-national policy (mis)learning from the Danish employment miracle, Journal of European Public Policy, 9:5, 715-735,

Scott, C. and Baehler, K. 2010. Adding Value to Policy Analysis and Advice, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, Chapter 3.