• Offered by Crawford School of Public Policy
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Policy and Governance
  • Areas of interest Policy Studies

Can governments address ‘wicked’ or complex challenges such as climate change or control healthcare costs? Can governments in developing countries price and distribute clean drinking water? Can governments enforce contracts? These questions canvass a key issue in contemporary public policy and administration: the capacity of governments to carry out routine policy tasks. This course provides students with a rigorous understanding of theoretical and policy debates around different dimensions of capacity.

The course is structured along three questions. First, what are the different components of policy capacity? Second, what types of capacities or capabilities are needed to address contemporary policy tasks such as contracting, commissioning, regulating insurance markets, etc? Third, can any deficits in capacity or capabilities to achieve these tasks be identified before a policy or program is rolled out? How can these deficits be remedied? Students are introduced to frameworks to respond to, and interrogate these questions, using real-world policy examples.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. understand key theoretical concepts in policy capacity literature
  2. understand different dimensions of capacity, and how they manifest in governments
  3. connect policy capacity of governments with specific policy goals and tasks
  4. apply frameworks to measure capacity to specific programs or policies
  5. identify deficits in capacities and how they can be addressed.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Policy Capacity Artefact (30) [LO 1,2]
  2. Capacity Mapping Exercise (30) [LO 3,4]
  3. Policy Capacity Essay (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


3-day intensive format + all three assessment tasks for students enrolled in the MPA program or seeking 3-unit credit

18 contact hours plus 40-50 hours of class preparation and assessment.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

Wu, X., Ramesh, M., & Howlett, M. (2015). Policy capacity: A conceptual framework for understanding policy competences and capabilities. Policy and Society34(3-4), 165-171.


Painter, M., & Pierre, J. (2005). Unpacking policy capacity: Issues and themes. In Challenges to state policy capacity (pp. 1-18). Palgrave Macmillan, London.


Parsons, W. (2004). Not just steering but weaving: Relevant knowledge and the craft of building policy capacity and coherence. Australian journal of public administration63(1), 43-57.


Peters, B. G. (2005). Policy instruments and policy capacity. In Challenges to state policy capacity (pp. 73-91). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Howlett, M., & Ramesh, M. (2016). A chilles' heels of governance: critical capacity deficits and their role in governance failures. Regulation & Governance10(4), 301-313.


Rayner, J., McNutt, K., & Wellstead, A. (2013). Dispersed Capacity and Weak Coordination: The Challenge of Climate Change Adaptation in C anada's Forest Policy Sector. Review of Policy Research30(1), 66-90.


Bali, A. S., & Ramesh, M. (2019). Assessing health reform: studying tool appropriateness & critical capacities. Policy and Society38(1), 148-166.



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
3 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

3.00 0.06250
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $2100
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $3000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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Spring Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
On Campus
6546 09 Oct 2023 09 Oct 2023 20 Oct 2023 10 Nov 2023 In Person View
6547 09 Oct 2023 09 Oct 2023 20 Oct 2023 10 Nov 2023 Online View

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