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Core Courses

Core courses adopt a heterodox approach to examine the essential values upon which the Indian Constitution was designed and our Republic founded, how resources are redistributed by the government, how political authority has been wielded by the Indian state, and the fundamentals of Public Policy as a domain and subject in India. All 12 core courses are worth 3 credits each, comprising 36 credits of the total of 72 credits.

Short Description of Core Courses.

First semester courses overview the four pillars – the Constitution, State Authority, the Economy, and Public Policy – which provide the foundation for Governance functioning and Public Policy practices.

The first course explores the fundamental principles and norms that make up the Constitutional Foundations of State Institutions in India and how they in turn guide and constrain the Indian State in its everyday functions. What is the basis behind institutional and constitutional design – i.e. dividing up the power and authority of the Indian state horizontally (between the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary) and vertically (between the Centre and the States) and how does this in turn limit and enable collective action?

Having gained a critical understanding of the foundational values that guide the Indian Republic, what naturally follows is to examine what has been India’s record of how it has wielded its authority? The State and Governance in India course provides an analytical and historical overview of the functioning of the Indian state as seen through its basic functions and certain critical roles. However, it is not always necessary that what the state proposes, society disposes or vice versa. The course will also examine the limits and pressures upon state authority across its various functions.

Of primary concern within governance is how the state goes about allocating resources especially in a developing country such as ours. The State, Market and Economy course will address the fundamental economic problem of allocation of scarce material resources through market institutions as well as state and non-state institutions and how they map on to concerns over equity and efficiency. Starting with classic ideas of market failure and the multiple logics of state intervention in the economy, the course explores public policy through the lens of expenditure, taxation, production, and regulation.

Many questions and concerns mentioned above are eventually hammered out as Public Policy in India. This course will introduce the subject and its relevance in contemporary India, explain what makes for Public Policy and its administration, what are the basic frameworks that inform the policy process and also what are some basic premises that explain how policies change to achieve transformation.

The final course in the first semester compliments our critical exposure to the primary domains by helping students to independently ascertain public policy and governance problems. The Data, Research Design and Descriptive Methods course introduces students to qualitative and quantitative methods that can help to identify and frame public policy and governance puzzles. Methods of data generation and management, elements of research design, and methods of qualitative and quantitative data description and an introduction to the analysis software ‘R’ are taught as part of the course.

The second semester courses provide a granular understanding of contexts outlined in the first semester. For example, moving beyond the constitution, what values enshrine our institutions and associated decision making? The course titled Values and Ethics in Public Affairs is designed around the following two questions: When one designs institutions and makes public policy decisions, is the right prior to the good? Further, how does one develop a politically acceptable approach to governance and public policy issues in the light of widespread disagreement on the design of institutions and the modes of decision making? This course will introduce students to philosophical foundations of public policy to help the better understand and resolve public policy debates.

Having studied the rationale behind the authority and design of our public institutions, the focus then shifts to understanding the processes that follow from such an architecture. The Processes of State Action course examines the primary modes through which the State acts: legislation, executive action and adjudication. These modes are seen through primary implementation functions such as regulation, procurement and welfare provision. Further, students will develop an analytical approach to understanding decision making and begin to appreciate the conditions under which everyday decision making occurs.

A parallel theme to understanding state action is to understand how it is experienced everyday by its citizens. The Everyday State in India course is an inquiry into the quotidian practices of state institutions and of governance, by extending the focus from a molar, unified state to the the idea of the state in India as disaggregated and locally grounded. A deeper understanding of the nature of modern state within the Indian society enables students to appreciate complex social conditions of workings of public policies on the ground, and challenges faced by practices of governance.

A common institutional practice is the operationalization of public purposes as programmes. The Programme Evaluation course will study outputs and outcomes of policy based programmes, and evaluation is critical for designing and operating effective programmes. This course will help students understand the concepts and methods of evaluation and equip them with skills used as evaluation tools and results to improve programme and policy performance.

Complimenting programme evaluation, the Causal and Inferential Methods course emphasizes the statistical techniques typically employed to understand and evaluate the effects of interventions on policy and governance outcomes. Familiarity with statistical modes of reasoning and the ability to employ appropriate quantitative techniques to data is essential for students to critically evaluate extant research, generate empirically testable policy and governance questions, evaluate empirical evidence systematically, and arrive at valid inferences about public affairs.

Having grasped the foundational elements of Public Policy and Governance in the first year of the programme, the second year core courses round off the core elements of the programme.

The Policy Analysis course analyses different ways of diagnosing policy problems and developing preferred options. It will study policy making and resource allocation given various options. This consists primarily of techniques for forecasting and comparing policy options as well as assessment of institutional alternatives for delivery.

The State Transformation and Governance will examine the theories of governance that have emerged in the wake of the changing role of the state. As the idea of the centralized state began to change in the past few decades under the pressure of globalization, liberalization and civil society movements, the concept of governance has acquired new interpretations. This course will acquaint students with debates, events and conflicts which have shaped the fundamental frameworks for understanding state transformation.

And finally, the Research and Policy Communication course will enable students to critically evaluate policy and governance studies and develop multiple communication skills in policy and advocacy. Students will be able to critically evaluate the design, outcomes, and implications of extant policy and governance studies. Students will learn the practical aspects of policy communication such as writing policy briefs and position papers as well as the tools and strategies of policy advocacy.

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