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Welcome to this module on public policy and strategy. Strategy is a term that has become very common in both business and government, and it is likely that you have your own understanding of what it may mean. This module sets out to explore the meaning of strategy generally, and more specifically as a feature of the work of governments and public authorities.

It is written for people who are engaged in the processes of strategy development, policy-making, implementation and evaluation, whether as professionals, politicians, advisors or citizens.

Learning outcomes

When you have completed your study of this module, you will be able to:

  • define the meaning of strategy, and what makes an issue strategic, in a public policy context, including how this differs from private sector strategy
  • identify the ways in which key contextual factors shape and constrain how public sector strategy is made, including the physical and socio-economic environment, and political and administrative systems
  • explain how strategic issues come onto the political agenda of governments, how they are understood, and the roles of different types of stakeholder
  • describe how to begin the process of strategic planning, taking into account the complexity of public policy and the business of government
  • assess the potential use of different types of policy instrument and how strategy helps in making choices over which actions to adopt
  • explain how to move from strategic planning as a conceptual exercise to the practical issues involved in putting your plan into effect and mobilising the system for its delivery
  • define the differences between performance management, monitoring and evaluation, and explain the importance of the principal-agent problem, and different ways of evaluating the results of strategic plans
  • describe what is meant by the Strategic State, and its relationship to the ‘science of delivery’, and explain how policy ideas and innovations travel from one place to another.

Study materials

Study guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight units. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Virtual Learning Environment.

  • Michael Barber (2015) How to Run A Government: So that Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers Don't Go Crazy. Penguin Books.
  • John M Bryson (2018) Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations. 5th Edition. John Wiley & Son.
  • Paul Joyce (2015) Strategic Management in the Public Sector. Routledge.

In addition to the textbooks, each unit also includes specific readings relevant to the unit topics. These are gathered together for you in the Module Reader, and include articles from academic journals; chapters from books of different kinds; and a variety of public policy documents, reports and papers related to strategic issues. One particular feature is a linked set of material from the Australian State of Tasmania, tracing the development and implementation of its strategy for population growth from 2016 onwards.

Virtual learning environment

You will have access to the VLE, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the module using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the module Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.


Module introduction

Alberto Asquer, Academic Director of Public Policy and Management, chairs a twenty minute discussion between the co-authors of the course – Norman Flynn and John Bell.

Download audio

Stakeholder analysis

In this interview, John Bryson discusses two case studies that highlight the importance of stakeholder analysis in changing public policy and strategy.

Download audio

Module overview

Unit 1 Strategy and the Policy Process
  • 1.1 The Meaning of Strategy
  • 1.2 Public Policy and Strategy
  • 1.3 Public/Private Differences
  • 1.4 Strategic Issues
  • 1.5 Conclusions
Unit 2 The Contexts for Strategy
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Political and Institutional Context
  • 2.3 Economic and Market Context
  • 2.4 Geographical and Environmental Context
  • 2.5 Technological Context
  • 2.6 Social and Demographic Context
  • 2.7 Conclusions
Unit 3 Strategic Issues, Stakeholders and Evidence
  • 3.1 Strategic Policy Making
  • 3.2 The Emergence of Strategic Issues
  • 3.3 Stakeholders
  • 3.4 Issue Definition and the Use of Evidence
  • 3.5 Tasmania’s Population Issue: Stakeholders and Data
  • 3.6 Conclusions
Unit 4 Complexity, and How to Produce a Strategic Plan
  • 4.1 Complexity
  • 4.2 The Formation of Strategy
  • 4.3 Case Study: Tasmania’s Population Growth Strategy
  • 4.4 Conclusions
Unit 5 Strategy into Practice: Approaches and Instruments
  • 5.1 What Are We Going to Do?
  • 5.2 Choosing Instruments
  • 5.3 Strategic Approaches to Choice of Action
  • 5.4 Case Study: China's Policies for Elderly Care
  • 5.5 Conclusions
Unit 6 Implementation
  • 6.1 Engaging the System
  • 6.2 Institutions for Implementation
  • 6.3 Case Study 1: Network Implementation
  • 6.4 Case Study 2: Population Policy in Ghana
  • 6.5 Conclusions
Unit 7 Reviewing Strategy: Performance Management, Monitoring and Evaluation
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 The Context for Monitoring, Evaluation and Performance Management
  • 7.3 Reviewing Strategy
  • 7.4 Performance Management and The Principal–Agent Problem
  • 7.5 Monitoring Strategy
  • 7.6 Aspects of Evaluation
  • 7.7 Strategy and Policy Evaluation
Unit 8 Strategic Futures, and the Future of Strategy
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Getting Started on Strategic Planning
  • 8.3 The Strategic State and Science of Delivery
  • 8.4 Policy Networks and Policy Transfer
  • 8.5 Shared Imagining

Tuition and assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in September/October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in April each year.

Module sample

Click on the link below to download the module sample document in PDF.