POL40160 Comparative Public Policy

Academic Year 2023/2024

This seminar explores a range of concepts, theories and findings in public policy research with a view to understanding similarities and differences in policies across advanced industrial societies. In doing so, it deals with issues of definition, classification and measurement. What is policy? What is the difference between policy outputs and policy outcomes? How can they be measured? How can we distinguish types of policy and is it useful to do so? We also examine existing research that seeks to explain policy outputs and policy outcomes. Why do some countries respond differently to similar problems? What does the policy making process look like? Which factors influence policy making? Do policy actors like parties and interest groups matter? Do interests or ideas matter? Do policy makers undergo a learning process? Do they learn from one another's experiences? We will use discussion of these fundamental questions as a platform to explore substantive policy areas. The course is centred on weekly reading and participation in class. It places a strong emphasis on recent research literature that uses a wide range of methods. This course is a useful complement to EU-centred policy studies.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the term, students should:
1. understand the main analytical concepts underlying comparative policy analysis
2. be able to assess competing explanations for variation in policy outputs and outcomes
3. have a good understanding of policy-making in substantive policy areas in cross-national comparative perspective
4. be able to identify current research puzzles and unresolved problems in the literature

Indicative Module Content:

Course content includes:
analytical strategies for accounting for variation in policy content and policy outcomes;
consideration of cross-national variation in a variety of policy areas such as economic policy, welfare state, environmental policy, health policy.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Teaching and learning approaches include the following:
- Some key points are available on slides prior to the class.
- Students read set core chapter(s) and paper(s) before the class, with a view to coming to class prepared to discuss one or more of the set papers, and to share thoughts and reflections on core issues cutting across the readings.
- Extra readings are included in the course outline, to engage with according to the student's interests.
- Classes are primarily discussion-based and involve a combination of small-group exchanges and large-group interaction. 
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 In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Response papers on set readings, details in the course outline Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: Book review Unspecified n/a Graded No


Essay: Topic and guidelines in course outline. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



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, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

An outline or draft should be submitted prior to the first summative assignment, and formative (and ungraded) feedback is provided via Brightspace. This is not required prior to the second summative assignment, although students may do this if they wish. Individualized feedback as well as a grade is provided via Brightspace as soon as possible after each major assignment. All students may request individual meetings to discuss the comments on their written work, their progress, and any other concerns.

Name Role
Professor Niamh Hardiman Lecturer / Co-Lecturer