School of Population Health

Policy Studies (PHCM9381)

image - Policy Studies


This course is concerned with the policy process, and how it can be used in the advancement of public health. It focuses on how issues become matters of policy concern, how participants (and which ones) engage in policy activity, and on the organizational locations and relationships through which policy is developed and has its impact. Particular attention is given to the relationship between research, other forms of evidence, and policy and practice. Participants will be invited to describe and examine their own experience of policy and policy-making, and through assignment work on a particular policy question, will develop skills in policy analysis and understandings which will help them to navigate the policy environments in which they operate. The course is suitable for both Australian and international students.

Credit points

This course is an elective course of the Master of Public Health, Master of Health Leadership and Management and Master of Global Health Programs, comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

This course aims to develop your understanding of policy as a concept and as part of public health practice, and to enhance your skills in being able to critically analyse, evaluate and formulate health-related policy.

Course Outcomes

More specifically on completion of this course you should be able to:

  • critically examine the concept of policy and how it is used in both analysis and practice in health-related fields;
  • identify the significant participants and locations – professional, governmental and international – in policy development and the structures and practices through which it is generated;
  • describe and analyse the way that different types of knowledge are mobilised in the development of policy;
  • analyse the development and implementation of policy within a particular field of practice, paying attention to the strategic context, debates about the specific policy issue, and a critical understanding of the place of policy in the structuring of practice.
Learning and teaching rationale

Class participants come from diverse backgrounds, with varied forms of professional training and experience.  Participants come from Australia and a number of other countries, with some students internal and others external.  The design of the course aims to ensure that every student can see its relevance and get considerable benefit from it.  In particular, it aims to give external students the same challenges and opportunities that the internal students have in the classroom, including group discussion, and responses from course facilitators.

Our approach to learning and teaching is based on adult learning principles.  When you are introduced to new material it is expected that as postgraduate students you will be able to integrate prior knowledge, draw on your own experience and formulate new understandings at a theoretical and practical level.  It is expected that you will engage actively with the course material, draw on presentations from our visiting speakers, and your own experiences in health to contribute to discussions and scholarly debate.  You are encouraged to develop and demonstrate your critical analytical skills to reflect on what you are reading and discussing across the breadth of topics.

You are likely to find that you learn as much from discussions with your fellow students, and from interrogation of your own experience, as you do from formal exposition by teaching staff.  The course is structured to help you appreciate and facilitate this.


Assessment Task 1 - Policy problem
Weighting: 30%
Length: 1200 words

Assessment Task 2 - Analysis of policy
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2500 words

Assessment Task 3 - Tutorials
Weighting: 20%
Length: N/A

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  1. Course notes for each of the Modules.
  2. Recorded presentations.
  3. Course text: Buse K, Mays N and Walt G. Making Health Policy. Second edition. Maidenhead, Open University Press 2012.This text is available at UNSW Bookshop or electronically through UNSW library.
  4. Additional resources available via Moodle & further reading.