Department of Political Science


Data Analysis for Public Policy

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr Mike Seiferling (Department of Political Science)


Essay 2500 words (40%), Presentation Notes with memo / executive summary - 1,500 words and 8-12 slides (30%), 2 x take home assignments (no word count) (30%)

Credit Value


About this course

The past twenty years have seen an exponential growth in the use of quantitative methods in all areas of social and natural sciences. Within the scope of public policy and public finance, this has dramatically changed the way policy decisions are made and public policy analysis is conducted in the 21st century. A key ingredient to forming optimal policy, and understanding risk, is the data itself which often takes a secondary role to the sophistication of statistical methodology and can lead to misinformative policy advice.

This course will be divided into two sections; the first will examine the data we currently use to evaluate public sector performance, including ways in which it can be manipulated to improve the image of government and the comparability of public sector data across countries. The second part of this course will focus on the art of analysing and interpreting data for public policy purposes - with the increase availability of information, policymaking continually demands compact and informative analysis that weeds out any irrelevant information and sells a key message.

The objective of this course is to provide students with the ability to critically assess both the methodology and quality/ comprehensiveness of the data used to reach public policy decisions and interpret it in a meaningful way.

While some lectures in the second half of the course will comprise computer labs using statistical software, students are not expected to have any background in statistics. The purpose of these lectures is to provide a basic tool set for practical analytical work on real world policy issues.

Aims and objectives of this course

By the end of this course, students should:

  • Be able to critically evaluate the quality and appropriateness of data used in public policy analysis.
  • Be familiar with public sector financial statements and balance sheets.
  • Be able to efficiently analyze and interpret public policy data in an appealing, meaningful and compact way.

*This module is only available to MPA students.