UCL Public Policy


UCL’s Policy Summer School programme: Policy Boot Camp 2020

This UCL Public Policy initiative, run in partnership with the University of Manchester, delivered an intensive, six-week public policy summer school to around 300 students, including 125 UCL students

Students tackled the academic theory behind public policy, learnt about careers in the sector, and heard from 50 policymakers and practitioners, from MPs and local authority leaders to civil servants, think tanks, and charities. Seven high profile organisations, including the CBI, the Social Market Foundation, and BEIS, led sandpits in which students tackled real policy problems these organisations are working on, and presented policy products to senior policy officials. Students worked in a busy, fast-paced online environment to draw together evidence bases, research briefs, and policy recommendations for multiple challenges, developing skills and gaining experience, and all the while learning about different methodologies used across the policy sector.

UCL brought in national policy leaders to deliver sandpits on industrial strategy, ethnicity pay gap reporting and COP26 climate negotiations. UCL’s national policy hub also brought in practitioners from the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, the Government Office for Science, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and other organisations at the forefront of national policy, to give talks on specific areas.

The Policy Boot Camp followed on from the 2019 Power to the Planet Policy Summer School, delivered as part of UCL’s Global Citizenship Programme, in which over 100 students took part. It is part of UCL’s wider Policy Summer School programme


  • Around 300 students participated the Policy Boot Camp across UCL and the University of Manchester
  • 45 Policy organisations, national government, advocacy groups, and everything in between, were involved in designing the curriculum and delivering sessions
  • 94% of students reported an increased understanding of the policy-making process, and 93% they would be more confident in applying for roles in public policy now.
  • Students now have the opportunity to apply for policy internships at a number of national policy organisations.

Student comments:

I enjoyed the opportunity for progression - going from learning about the fundamentals of making policy decisions and then having to put these into practice in actual circumstances. The massively diverse range of speakers was super important for me.

After completing the Boot Camp I definitely feel more confident in terms of communicating ideas to people I have never met before. The Boot Camp helped with this because they created a real open and comfortable space for discussion, it was a real learning environment, everyone I encountered wanted to learn more about policy and be involved in discussions.

The sandpit I did on pensions was really different to what I thought I'd be interested in but it was really exciting and rewarding to explore completely new areas. It really broadened my horizons and made me explore areas I wouldn't normally.


Course outline

  • The course began with an induction to online teamworking, to the online delivery platforms, and exercises on understanding unconscious bias.
  • Students then completed self-guided ‘introduction to policy-making’ modules based on material from Prof Westwood’s MA Policymaking in the 21st Century course with accompanying group seminars.
  • 17 policy actors from a large range of organisations spoke at ‘pathways into policy’ panel sessions chaired by senior academics or policy figures discussing their careers, experiences and motivations.
  • Students took part in 13 methodology workshops with policy practitioners outlining how to use relevant methodologies and leading practical exercises giving students experience in using them.
  • The final three weeks of the course were filled with 7 multi-day ‘sandpits’ in which students worked on a current policy challenges the UK is facing, set by senior policy practitioners including on ethnicity pay-gap reporting, national industrial strategy, and hosting COP26.