Comparative Public Policy

Course content

In a world characterised by increasing interconnection and interdependency but also by conflict and discord, we are compelled to inquire why national systems adopt similar or divergent approaches to solving public and social problems. The ‘policy sciences’ literature offer us a toolbox of theories and concepts with which to identify and explain the role of social, economic, political and ideational factors in the policymaking and reform process. Additionally, in the face of complex and persistent policy problems, from poverty to climate change, the skills associated with policy analysis allow us to evaluate the desirability, feasibility, and effectiveness of interventions and make concrete recommendations for improvement. Consequently, this course brings together policy theory, empirical policy research, and practical policy analysis skills help students systematically analyse and compare public and social policies across different national systems and over time, and trains them to communicate policy-relevant information in a range of useful ways.


In sum, the course aims:

  • To introduce students to the theories, concepts and methods with which to compare, critically understand and systematically analyse public and social policy from an international perspective;
  • To provide students with an understanding of the complexity of making and delivering policy in a multi-level context, ranging from the local to the supra-national, and of the role of political, economic and social factors in these processes;
  • To help students acquire the practical skills to research and analyse and evaluate policies, and generate well-founded and insightful explanations and generalisations of social and public policy developments across a range of different sectors and in different national and international contexts.


To reflect these aims, the course is divided into blocks. The first block is dedicated to the concepts, theories, and methods with which to understand and compare policy and policymaking. Session themes include:


  • Key theories of the policy process
  • Policy learning and evidence-based policymaking
  • Multi-Level Governance and the territorial bases of policy
  • International trends and processes in policy
  • Critical approaches to comparative public policy


The second block is dedicated to the empirical exploration of key policy fields including: welfare and social policy, healthcare, education, and the environment.


One session is also dedicated to peer review of assignment drafts.


Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

Bachelor and MSc in Sociology

Bachelor and MSc in Economy

MSc in Social Data Science


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad
  • Credit students from Danish Universities
  • Open University students
Learning outcome


On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify, summarise and differentiate between key theories and concepts used to describe and explain the policy process;
  • Describe and evaluate policy process research by reflecting on theoretical and methodological strengths and weaknesses;
  • Describe and evaluate the different roles of actors, institutions and ideas in shaping policy decisions;
  • Describe and evaluate different conceptions of decision-maker rationality.



On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify and compare theoretical arguments and different types of scientific evidence;
  • Identify and critically analyze concepts and arguments related to the policymaking process;
  • Plan, manage, and write a portfolio of comparative empirical research on a topic of interest;



On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Analyze and critically evaluate scientific arguments, evidence, empirical data, and methodological choices;
  • Assess real-world problems related to policymaking through different theoretical perspectives;
  • Conduct and communicate independent empirical analysis to an academic audience.
  • Conduct and communicate independent empirical analysis to a non-academic policy audience.

Classes will comprise mini-lectures, small group exercises, frequent class and group discussion.

The following are an indicative list of key readings associated with the course:


Dodds, Anneliese, (2018), Comparative Public Policy, 2nd ed. NY; Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Cairney, Paul, (2019), Understanding Public Policy: Theories and Issues, 2nd ed. NY; Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Weible, Chris M., and Paul A. Sabatier, (2018), Theories of the Policy Process, 4th ed. Boulder, CO.: Westview Press.


Guptak, K., (2012), “Comparing public policy: Using comparative method to advance our understanding of the policy process”, Policy Studies Journal, 40(s1): 11-26.


Blank, R., Burau, V., and Kuhlmann, E. (2017), Comparative Health Policy, 5th ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Radaelli, C.M. (2003) “The Europeanization of public policy”, in K. Featherstone and C.M. Radaelli (eds), The Politics of Europeanization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Stone, D., and S. Ladi, (2015), ‘Global Public Policy and Transnational Administration’, Public Administration, 93(4): 839-855.


Capano, G., and Lippi, A. (2017) “How policy instruments are chosen: Patterns of decision makers’ choices”, Policy Sciences, 50(2): 269-293.

Howlett, Michael, and Jale Tosun (eds.), (2019), Policy Styles and Policy-Making: Exploring the Linkages. Oxon; NY: Routledge.


Radaelli, Claudio M., (2018), ‘Chapter 3: EU policies and the Europeanization of domestic policymaking’, in Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch (eds.), Handbook of European Policies, pp. 55-71. Edward Elgar.


Evans, Mark, (2004), Policy Transfer in Global Perspective. London: Taylor & Francis.


Cairney, Paul, and Christopher M. Weible, (2017), ‘The new policy sciences: Combining the cognitive science of choice, multiple theories of context, and basic and applied analysis’, Policy Sciences, 50: 619-627.


Cairney, Paul, (2016), The Politics of Evidence-Based Policy Making. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Moyson, Stéphane, Peter Scholten, and Christopher M. Weible, (2017), ‘Policy learning and policy change: theorizing their relations from different perspectives’, Policy and Society, 36(2): 161-177.


Dunlop, Claire A., and Claudio M. Radaelli, (2018), ‘The lessons of policy learning: types, triggers, hindrances and pathologies’, Policy & Politics, 46(2): 255-272.


Weimer, David L. and Aidan R. Vining, (eds.), (2017), Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice. New York: Routledge.


Fischer, Frank, Gerald J. Miller, and Mara S. Sidney, (eds.), (2019), Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Politics and Methods. NY; Oxon: Routledge.


Wilder, Matt, (2017), ‘Comparative Public Policy: Origins, Themes, New Directions’, Policy Studies Journal, 45(S1): 47-66.


Gottfriend, Heidi and Laura Reese, (2008), ‘Gender, policy, politics, and work: Feminist comparative and transnational research’, Review of Policy Research, 20(1): 2-20.


Engeli, Isabelle, and Christine Rothmayr Allison, (2014). Conceptual and Methodological Challenges in Comparative Public Policy. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Students will receive individual written feedback on both of their portfolio assignments. They will also receive oral peer feedback on the drafts of their assignments when they participate in the scheduled peer review session.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
Portfolio exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester


Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Social Data Science
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Emily Flore St Denny   (2-73724e7774813c79833c7279)
Saved on the 13-05-2024

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