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Unit of study_

GOVT6316: The Politics of Policy Making

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit focuses on the nature of public policy and the processes by which it is produced. Relevant issues are common to all nation states, although they take specific forms in each individual country. First, the unit takes an overview of public policy - dealing with basic themes such as 'What is policy?' through to different approaches to understanding the policy process. These include policy cycles, rationality, interest groups, institutions, and socio-economic interests. Second, it maps out and examines the main components of public policy making: actors, institutions and policy instruments. Third, it focuses on aspects of policy-making processes which often attract a high level of attention from analysts. These include problem definition, agenda setting, decision-taking, policy implementation, policy evaluation and crisis policy-making. Fourth, it examines wider issues in terms of the state and who ultimately holds power over the making and shaping of public policy. Finally, it examines the 'bigger pictures' of long term policy trends, and the extent to which national policy making capacities and processes have been affected by globalisation. Assessments offer a large element of flexibility, allowing students to concentrate on areas of particular interest.

Unit details and rules

Unit code GOVT6316
Academic unit Government and International Relations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Christopher Pepin-Neff,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Participation hurdle task Online participation
Participation in-class and on online discussion boards on canvas.
5% Ongoing 500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4
Assignment hurdle task Policy Brief
This policy brief outlines an issue and provides recommendations.
30% Week 05
Due date: 23 Mar 2022 at 23:59
1750 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment hurdle task Analysis
This looks at the same issue and focuses on the problem definition.
30% Week 09
Due date: 27 Apr 2022 at 23:59
1750 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Assignment hurdle task Essay
This final essay looks at the same issue with a focus on policy solutions.
35% Week 13
Due date: 25 May 2022 at 23:59
2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
hurdle task = hurdle task ?

Assessment summary

  • Policy Brief: in order to apply the concepts developed in this course, you will develop a 1,750 word Policy Brief that addresses a local policy issue.
  • Analysis: you will undertake a 1,750 word analysis of a public policy problem. The policy issue will be the same or related to the policy brief. 
  • Essay: you will write a 2,500 word essay on the same topic as the Policy Brief and the Analysis. In this case, you will be addressing the policy solution through a policy analysis.
  • Online participation: students are encouraged to attend class each week and to participate actively in discussion, demonstrating their deep engagement with the essential readings listed in the unit outline. The participation mark will be determined based upon responses to weekly Discussion Questions on Canvas.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.


For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction to Australian Public Policy Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Agenda Setting and Identities Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Drafting a policy brief and Reach methods Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Problem definition & agenda formation Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 Policy tools and instruments Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 06 Problem Definition and Policy Alternatives Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 Policy entrepreneurship in the policy process Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 08 Lobbying and the Policy process Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 Private Governance and Policymaking Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 10 Policy Implementation Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 Policy Evaluation Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 12 Behavioral Public Policy Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 13 Policy futures Seminar (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.

  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.

  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.
  • Recommended textbook: Cairney, P. (2020), Understanding Public Policy: Theories and Issues, 2nd Edition, Palgrave International/Red Globe Press.

There is no Reader for this unit.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate independent thinking and individual responsibility for learning
  • LO2. understand processes of public policy making and implementation, focusing on a variety of advanced democracies, including relevant policy analysis concepts and theories as well as practical examples drawn from Australia and elsewhere
  • LO3. understand policy process to serve as a foundation for further study in the MPP program and other GIR units/ courses, by offering a clear focus on public policies as a vital component of the wider discipline of government and international relations
  • LO4. demonstrate critical and vocationally relevant analytic and communication skills.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered


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