EDUC41500 Critical Policy Analysis

Academic Year 2022/2023

Dramatic and far-reaching changes in political and institutional arrangements globally have reshaped the structures and processes that make and frame public policy. Education policy & policy making is no exception. Now, more than ever, those with a critical interest in policy areas such as education and children & youth need a broad understanding of the policy making process and, more specifically, of the roles of a variety of policy actors and institutions from the local to the national and supranational levels in that process. It is only be understanding it that we can hope to influence it. This module seeks to provide the understanding and capabilities to engage in policy analysis, action and change.
The module will be relevant for those considering masters level research that has a policy element and equally to those with a more general interest in policy and policy action. The specific examples, models and cases considered are drawn mainly from within the field of education and children & youth studies - including close study of initiatives and controversies in Ireland and beyond. Where helpful and relevant , more general examples from other areas of public administration and public policy are also included for comparative purposes.
This module is taught at the masters level and is open to participants from across the College of Social Sciences & Law and the university more generally. PLEASE NOTE that for this academic year, the intentions and purposes of the module will be reset against the requirements of offering a meaningful and engaging online learning experience.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

The course will focus on cases and readings in key public policy issues in industrialized countries and on explanations of policy change and action. It will explore these for their importance to both the study and the practice of policy-making. The focus will be predominantly but not exclusively on policy and policy-work within education and children & youth studies.
Course learning activities will be directed at the following objectives in particular:
· To foster informed and critical policy analysis through the study of research and literature which locates policy-making within a robust theoretical, historical and comparative perspective.
· To develop individual capacity for constructive critical debate on theoretical, methodological and empirical issues in policy analysis.
· To seek convergences between the world of policy theory and policy practice through engagement with practitioners and policy issues of contemporary policy significance in the field of education and children & youth.
By the conclusion of the module, students will be expected to be able to:
· offer informed, critical analysis of policy action and processes;
· comprehend the role of policy agents and policy actors in complex policy action;
· recognise and critique a range of public policy models relevant to their field of practice; and
· design a meaningful and insightful policy-aspect for use in masters' level research.

Indicative Module Content:

Critical Policy Analysis: An Introduction
• The nature of Public Policy
• Understanding Policy Making
• Criticality & Analysis: getting value from this module

The Contexts of Policy work

Theorising & Studying the policy process; modern models & frameworks (1)

Theorising & Studying the policy process; modern models & frameworks (2)

Policy, Politics and Power

Agentive and institutional aspects of policy making

Reading and Understanding Policy Briefs

Technical Assistance as a policy modality; case study 1.

Digital Competence as a policy arena; case study 2.

Policy as Assemblage
• Actors, agents, and brokers
• Institutional framings & policy governance
• Module assignment briefing

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is designed to be interactive and to require purposive participation in learning activities that open-up the nature and detail of policy making, policy action and policy analysis. Both group and individual activities are facilitated throughout.
It is inquiry based and draws heavily on facilitated in-class workshop type activities. Learning materials based on 'real-world' examples of policy and policy action form the basis for most of what this module covers -- these are provided in class. These range across recent and ongoing policy work by supra-nation organisations to local examples sourced by the students themselves. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Portfolio: A portfolio containing a responses to Weekly Challenge Questions on aspects of critical policy analysis, including a treatment of a key policy area identified by the student.
(Approx. 3500 words)
Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
In-Module Resit Prior to relevant Programme Exam Board
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Written and / or oral feedback provided in order that learning from this module can be transferred into other areas of the students' programmes of study.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Tues 17:00 - 18:50