Fall 2022 - POL 854 G100

Conflict and Controversy in Public Policy (5)

Class Number: 5900

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 1:00 PM – 4:50 PM
    HCC 1525, Vancouver



This course provides students an opportunity to examine the complex role of ideas/ideals in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of public policy. Too often, fundamental contention that characterizes many policy processes goes unexamined. The substance of this contention is usually normative, having to do with political, social, economic, and environmental values. How are these conflicts and controversies articulated? How are they resolved? How are they best understood? How are they best analyzed? The overarching objectives of this course include enabling students to understand the disciplinary issues, and address the practical concerns, that are associated with research in and analysis of public policy characterized by conflict and controversy.


Selected Topics - Conflict and Controversy in Public Policy: Policy Design

This course discusses how government policies are formulated (designed) and implemented (put into practice). Students will apply theoretical perspectives to understand how policy problems are articulated, how solutions to them are developed and assessed and how they are delivered on the ground. The course looks in detail at the range of instruments available to governments in implementing their programmes, the strengths and weaknesses of different tools, and issues related to how tools are combined in policy portfolios or mixes. Classes will also cover the nature of the actors involved in formulation and design activities, how they are organized, the knowledge they utilize and the techniques they employ in providing advice to decision-makers. Lessons from various jurisdictions and policy sectors about best practices and principles of design are examined with a specific focus on lessons derived from cases and experiences.


  • Presentations on class readings 20%
  • Participation in seminar discussions 20%
  • Research paper outline 5%
  • Research paper class presentation 15%
  • Final Research paper 40%



Howlett, Michael. Designing Public Policies: Principles and Instruments. New York: Routledge, Second Edition 2019

Howlett, Michael, and Ishani Mukherjee. Routledge Handbook of Policy Design. New York: Routledge 2018.


Howlett, Michael, and Ishani Mukherjee. Handbook of Policy Formulation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2017.

Howlett, Michael, Adam Wellstead, and Jonathan Craft, eds. Policy Work in Canada: Professional Practices and Analytical Capacities. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017.

Wu, Xun, M. Ramesh, Michael Howlett, and Scott Fritzen. The Public Policy Primer: Managing Public Policy. London: Routledge, Second Edition 2017.

Howlett, Michael ed Routledge Handbook of Policy Tools. New York: Routledge, 2022

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html