Public policy

In co-operation with Budapest Institute, Hungary


Course date

18 July - 22 July, 2016
Application for this course is closed.
This is a Sub-Course of: 
Course Director(s): 

Balázs Váradi

Budapest Institute for Policy Analysis, Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Anna Adamecz-Volgyi

Budapest Institute for Policy Analysis, Budapest, Hungary

Douglas Besharov

School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA

Gabor Kezdi

Department of Economics, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Agota Scharle

Budapest Institute for Policy Analysis, Budapest, Hungary
The course covers several facets and methods of public policy, with an introduction to quantitative evaluation of policy interventions. First, the interest of the students is meant to be raised with a few examples, then we place public policy in a wider web of endeavours and disciplines, and links to related fields (e.g. law, economics, sociology, political science) are shown. Then the four key elements of the policy context are discussed: institutions, actors, ideas and instruments of policy. Next, the concept of policy cycle along with limitations and alternatives is introduced. During the next lessons steps of the policy cycle process (agenda setting / policy formulation / decision / implementation / evaluation) are discussed in detail. Case studies and examples taken from the experience of different countries and addressing different public policy issues are presented to help participants relate to the approaches presented. Alternative models of policy formation are also discussed. The second half of the course is devoted to an introduction to quantitative evaluation methods. After the fundamentals and main principles of evaluations are demonstrated, the importance of random experiments is stressed. Evaluation methods using observational data (matching methods, difference-in-differences, instrumental variables, regression discontinuity) as well as the assessment of distributional and equilibrium effects of policy interventions are also demonstrated.


Beyond their background in teaching and research, the course director and the faculty also have extensive experience both as civil servants and as think tank professionals in both the design and evaluation of public policy. Several of them work for a think tank called the Budapest Institute (

Teaching methods

In addition to lectures, the course stresses independent work in break-out groups and relies heavily on case studies. We would approach participants with a short online questionnaire beforehand. Theoretical background is presented at lectures (including invited lectures by hands-on experts on their recent policy-related work) and discussed during seminars. Actual instances of policy-related work by the lecturers is also shown in class and discussed. Homework assignments include home reading and writing a policy brief on a topic chosen by the participant, which is presented at the end of the course.

Key readings include excerpts from these texts

  • Bardach: A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis. 4th ed. Sage 2012 
  • Howlett, Ramesh and Pearl: Studying Public Policy. 3rd ed. Oxford UP 2009
  • Moran et al: Oxford Handbook of Public Policy. Oxford UP 2006
  • Khandker, Koolwal, and Samad: Handbook on Impact Evaluation – Quantitative Methods and Practices. Washington, D.C.: World Bank 2010
  • Several short case studies on topics and areas fitting the interest and countries of origin of the participants.

Aims of the course: what will you have learnt? 

  • You should have an appreciation for the different tasks arising around the public policy process as well as the pitfalls occurring during it.
  • You should be able to communicate with colleagues and partners with different backgrounds, both domestic and international, about policy goals, alternatives and decisions,
  • You should acquire a certain understanding of several methods in the toolbox of a policy analyst.
  • You should, with guidance, be able to procure and judge the appropriateness of quantitative evaluation exercises on your own.