Department of Public Policy

Public policy is inherently a multidisciplinary subject. It addresses the just, legitimate and efficient delivery of public goods, by public, private or civil society organizations, at the local, national, regional or international level. The central questions concern what kind of political and social arrangements make for a just and well-functioning society. These questions have roots in the classical world and the enlightenment, and they have come to be addressed in modern universities across a range of disciplines. The study of public policy involves bringing together (again) analytical tools from several disciplines—including political science, international relations, law, economics and history—to address the new and changing versions of these ancient questions. 

The study of public policy at CEU is both multi- and interdisciplinary. It is multidisciplinary in the sense that the department brings together faulty with degrees in public policy, comparative politics, economics, law and international relations, from a range of European and US universities. Several faculty members hold degrees in more than one discipline. Many courses are cross-listed with the departments of International Relations and European Studies, Economics, Political Science, and Legal Studies; and several faculty hold joint appointments. It is interdisciplinary in the sense that many faculty carry out research and teaching that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Most research projects include faculty from different disciplines. What follows, therefore, emphasizes developments in the field of public policy as a whole—not each of the disciplines that make up or contribute to public policy. Because of CEU’s mission and profile, there is a particular emphasis on the EU and Central Europe.

The most interesting developments of the last 20 years in public policy

The 1990s and 2000s saw three broad developments in the field of public policy that are particularly pertinent to the study of public policy at CEU.

First, the study of public policy has taken an “empirical turn” over the last two decades. After strong institutionalist and behavioralist influences in the 1950s and 1960s, and the increasing role played by public choice and economics on one hand, and organizational theory and sociology on the other in the 1970s and 1980s, public policy since 1990 has taken an empirical turn in the sense that much research has been problem-driven as much as theory-driven. A number of research projects on public policy have drawn on multiple theoretical bases, oriented toward examining practical problems as much as developing and testing theory. This is not to say that theoretical aspects of public policy have not flourished or been developed further, but rather that the last two decades have been characterized by heterogeneity in terms of the theoretical approaches to the study of public policy. Important theoretical developments include efforts to move beyond the rational choice assumptions (such as egoism, fully informed cost-benefit analysis, “the logic of consequences”) of New Public Management models and to model a wider set of motivations, behavior and institutional constraints in public policy. Broadly conceived, the field draws on comparative politics, public choice, public administration, public law, economics and political economy, and increasingly, also on theories from international relations and international political economy.

Second, although national cases and area studies remain important in public policy, the use of systematic comparative analysis has developed significantly since 1990. Whereas the field of public policy in the 1960s and 1970s was more dominated by country-specific studies (and particularly studies of the USA and the big West European states), the 1980s saw an increasing focus on small states and explicitly comparative analysis. For example, the role of New Zealand’s reforms and the persistence of high-tax, high-growth Nordic welfare regimes prompted more focus on a wider range of public policy regimes. With the collapse of communism, the end of the Cold War, and the deep effect of globalization on national public policy regimes, public policy in countries and cases across the world is increasingly studied in comparison with other cases, and not as a sui generis phenomenon.

Third, the study of public policy in the European Union has developed along the two trajectories described in the preceding paragraphs. The EU is often described as a regulatory state (because its resources are rules rather than direct subsidies), a plural political system (it contains a heterogeneous set of states), and a public policy regime that is subject to continuous change (deeper integration, more member states). Indeed, the “regulatory state” label increasingly fits European states and regions as well as the EU as a whole. Public policy has come to take up an increasing part of EU studies, and at the same time, taken the kind of empirical turn described above. Whereas the study of EU politics expanded from an international relations focus to a comparative politics focus in the 1980s, the study of the EU as a public policy regime and a context for national public policy developed significantly in the 1990s and 2000s.


The most important contributions to the field by the department or by department members

The CEU Department of Public Policy (DPP), and its individual members, have contributed to all of the three broad developments set out above that have characterized the field of public policy over the last two decades. In the 2000s, the development of public policy as a field at CEU was very much in line with the increasing importance of public policy as an academic subject. Its roots lie in the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), which has been closely involved with and has supported the department since its inception. In 2004, CEU responded to the increasing demand for astute analysts at all levels of policy-making, whether global, national or local, with the launch of a Master of Arts in Public Policy degree program. The DPP was created in 2006, with the aim of developing postgraduate programs at all levels and with an international dimension, including cooperation with other leading universities in the field. In 2008, the DPP and CPS were mandated to elaborate plans for a CEU School of Public Policy and International Affairs, in close cooperation with the departments of International Relations and European Studies, Political Science and Economics.

Faculty at the DPP have contributed to all the three developments in public policy set out above. First, both DPP and CPS (now also in cooperation with the Center for Media and Communication Studies and the Center for European Union Research) have contributed to the development of the multidisciplinary, problem-driven, empirical research agenda in public policy. In the five-year period to 2010, counting only literature in English, French and German, the present nine full-time DPP faculty published a total of 20 books (15 books and 5 special issues of journals), 46 journal articles (of which 39 were in top-level international journals), 46 books chapters, 22 policy briefs and numerous working papers. A long list of publications in other languages, and publications by the part-time DPP faculty, can be added. Second, the faculty have contributed particularly to the study of post-communist countries in comparative perspectives. Key policy areas include public utilities, public finance, media policy, higher education policy, rural development, energy policy, social policy, trade, migration and implementation of EU public policy programs. Third, DPP faculty have very much been part of the institutionalist research agenda in EU public policy: a number of the books, articles and special journal issues listed above deal specifically with EU public policy, and the DPP has won several research and teaching grants from the European Commission.

Faculty in the DPP are particularly research active in eight broad areas (including an example of a recent book on each topic):

  1. European Union politics and policy, regional integration—Agnes Batory, Marie-Pierre Granger, Martin Kahanec, Youngmi Kim, Uwe Puetter, Nick Sitter

Batory A., The Politics of EU Accession (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008)

2. Global governance—Andreas Goldthau, David Held, Diane Stone

Stone D. and Wright C., The World Bank and Governance: A Decade of Reform and Reaction (New York: Routledge, 2006)

3. The regulatory state and executive governance—Agnes Batory, Andreas Goldthau, Mari-Pierre Granger, Kristina Irion, Karoly Jokai, Nick Sitter

Goldthau A. and Witte J.M. (eds), Global Energy Governance: The New Rules of the Game (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2010)

4. Public management and public administration—Karoly Jokai, Mari-Pierre Granger, Youngmi Kim, Nick Sitter, Diane Stone

Sitter N. and Eliassen K.A., Understanding Public Management: Liberalising and Modernising Public Services (London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008)

5. Core public services and the welfare state—Karoly Jokai, Liviu Matei, Evenyne Hübscher, Martin Kahanec, Achim Kemmerling, Diane Stone

 Kemmerling A., Taxing the Working Poor: The Political Origins and Economic Consequences of Taxing   Low  Wages (Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2009)

6. Political economy, international political economy—Thilo Bodenstein, Evenyne Hübscher, Martin Kahanec, Achim Kemmerling

Bodenstein T. and Bolle M. (eds), After Eastward Enlargement: Political Economy Perspectives on a New Europe (Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts Verlag, 2006)

7.  Economic and fiscal policy—Thilo Bodenstein, Lajos Bokross, Karoly Jokai, Martin Kahanec, Achim Kemmerling, Uwe Puetter

Puetter U., The Eurogroup (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006)

8. Political parties and public policy—Agnes Batory, Evenyne Hübscher, Youngmi Kim, Nick Sitter

Kim, Y., The Politics of Coalition in Korea (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2011)

In addition, research at the department covers a series of sectors and issues, including, for example, trade and development (Thilo Bodenstein, Achim Kemmerling); higher education (Liviu Matei, Sophia Howlett, Marvin Lazerson, Diane Stone); media and communications (Kristina Irion); energy (Andreas Goldthau, Nick Sitter); corruption control (Agnes Batory); competition policy and law (Marie-Pierre Granger, Nick Sitter); migration and labor markets (Evenyne Hübscher, Martin Kahanec); EU foreign policy (Uwe Puetter); terrorism and civil war (Nick Sitter); and cultural policy (Dragan Klaic).


The most interesting emerging/new developments in your discipline

At CEU the most interesting new development in public policy is the forthcoming launch of the School of Public Policy and International Affairs (SPPIA) in 2011. Its research and teaching profile fit the recent developments and CEU strengths in public policy discussed above. The School’s profile and agenda reflect three of the most interesting current developments in the discipline and broader public policy challenges:

First, governance is being radically transformed by globalization. Public policy is developed and implemented across multiple and interdependent levels—from the local and national to the regional, international and global. The study of public policy at CEU is multi-level and comparative.

Second, the study of pubic policy increasingly addresses the interaction of a range of actors beyond the agents of the state and international organizations, from the public, private and voluntary sector to national and global civil society. CEU’s relationship with the OSI and the broader world of NGOs strengthens the SPPIA’s focus on civil society.

Third, there are new policy challenges linked to increasingly urgent worldwide concerns, such as the global financial crisis and climate change. With extensive experience in analyzing EU and Central European politics and policy, the SPPIA is in a unique position to draw on expertise in transitions from authoritarianism to liberal democracy, from plan to market, and from a bipolar to multipolar world to study new and pressing policy challenges related to globalization.