A unique approach to public policy

A unique approach to public policy

Colin Hay, Professor of Political Science at Sciences Po
  • Colin Hay, Professor of Political Science at Sciences PoColin Hay, Professor of Political Science at Sciences Po

Colin Hay, Professor of Political Science at Sciences Po and Affiliate Professor of Political Analysis at the University of Sheffield and joint editor-in-chief of the journal Comparative European Politics, leads the course on Public Policy within the School of Public Affairs.

Please share with us why you decided to take part in the School of Public Affairs’ pedagogical project.

I was, as I remain, genuinely excited at the prospect of engaging such a bright, dynamic, dedicated and international group of students.  I am animated by the hope that at least some of what I encourage them to reflect upon will help them to deal with and better negotiate the challenges which characterize the world in which many of them will be making public policy on behalf of us all. 

What is your definition of public affairs?

Quite simply I see public affairs and public policy as the provision of public goods – those things the market cannot provide, will not provide or will tend to undersupply (such as the appropriate regulation of the market itself).  Such goods are perhaps more difficult to provide than they have ever been and the task of public policy makers is, in this sense at least, a more arduous and challenging one than ever before.  But such goods are essential to the very sustainability of the civilized societies in which we would like to think we live.  The stakes could not be greater.

What is the most important element to retain from your course on Public Policy?

My approach to public policy is, at least in one respect, distinctive – unusual, even.  For I seek to give at least as much emphasis in my teaching, as in my writing, to the context in which public policy is made as to what policy-makers do within in.  Indeed, I go a little further and argue that the context in which public policy is made has changed dramatically in recent years and continues to change rapidly.  These changes need to be reflected in how we teach public policy, especially to the next generation of public policy makers.  Four aspects of this new environment, I suggest, are particularly important – and herein lies the distinctiveness of the course I teach.  For it emphasizes the importance of globalization and interdependence, growing societal distrust in political elites and public policy-makers, the turn to austerity since the crisis and the context of radical risk and uncertainty in which we find ourselves.  Each poses massive challenges to the new generation of policy-makers and these challenges form the core focus of my course.  

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