The course provides a simulated experience of assessing a specific domain of public policy in Scotland, identifying its key features and current issues, and reporting to a minister.  Students are divided into case study groups, each working on a dedicated portfolio of materials: cases include Gender Equality; Alcohol & Drugs; Higher Education; Culture; Immigration; Prisons.

This is a newly-designed core course for Edinburgh’s Master of Public Policy (MPP).  It is essentially concerned with the capacity to govern, that is with the instruments and resources available to policy makers in pursuing their goals.  It sets a series of structured questions through which to explore and evaluate opportunities for intervention.  These cover: the relations between government and other organizations in a policy domain; government’s deployment of resources, principally money, people and information, to effect change; the use of different kinds of regulation to require different kinds of action.

Case study portfolios typically include: some introductory text for each section of the portfolio; White Papers and other significant national and local government documents; legislative and parliamentary papers; European initiatives; organizational statements and briefings; links to statistical and other data; research reports and related studies.  Portfolios are mounted on SharePoint, a file-sharing system widely used in the corporate and public sectors.  SharePoint is designed to both facilitate collaboration in groups and to connect with up-to-date policy discussion.

Each case study group is tasked to critically review the structure and development of policy in its respective domain.  Each student acts as lead author for one of the substantive sections of a group submission or report (typically ‘organization’, ‘resources’ or ‘regulation’), and will also write an independent executive summary of the whole.  Groups are encouraged to carry out limited, usually desk-based research of their own; they are supported by an academic facilitator, and will have opportunities to consult a designated key practitioner in their field.