Evidence in Public Policy

Do you want to see a world better led, better served and better governed?

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that governments and public bodies worldwide use objective evidence to inform policy decisions. This course will teach you to put the science of evaluating policy into practice – ensuring that the policy you are involved in is built on solid foundations.

  • Type: Online short course
  • Length: 8 weeks
  • Intakes: February, May, July, October
  • Next start date: 3 February
  • Fees: £1740 (inclusive of VAT)*

*Discounts available to alumni and those working in the public sector. Evidence required.


Evidence in Public Policy

The course is designed for those who need to be able to evaluate the impact of policies. You should consider this master-level course if:

  • you are an early-to-mid-career civil servant who wants to know more about the benefits and application of statistics to provide evidence for the impact of policy in your community, region or country;
  • you are an experienced professional in an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) or international organisation who aspires to better decision-making in government and public policy, or a civil servant looking to specialise in evidence and statistics; or
  • you are running for office or are already in office anywhere in the world, this course could help the development of your public policy planning.


Evidence in Public Policy

You will study eight modules over the course of eight weeks. It is a collaborative learning process, week-by-week, so you will have ample opportunity to discuss key policy topics with your peers and a course Facilitator.

  • Module 0: Course welcome and narrative
  • Module 1: Introduction and key concepts
  • Module 2: Causality and randomised control trials
  • Module 3: Causality without randomised control trials
  • Module 4: Wrapping up the methods
  • Module 5: Aggregating and finding evidence
  • Module 6: External validity and applicability of evidence
  • Module 7: Practicalities: designing monitoring systems and impact evaluations
  • Module 8: Submission of assignment


Evidence in Public Policy

Your learning material is provided by our expert faculty. Learn more about Associate Professor Martin Williams and Associate Professor Julien Labonne.

Martin Williams


Faculty and Researchers

Read bio

Julien Labonne


Faculty and Researchers

Read bio

Learning support and outcomes

In addition to learning from our expert world-leading academics, you will also benefit from a course Facilitator who will provide academic guidance throughout your learning journey.

Upon completion of the course, you will receive a certificate that will support your career in real terms. You will undertake an independent project that you can take into your workplace, potentially creating an immediate impact on your organisation.

The Facilitator will:

  • comment on weekly discussions on specific topics;
  • provide feedback on all project tasks; and
  • give comments and feedback on all activities.

Your work on this course will bring theory to life through practical examples which you can apply to your own role:

  • weekly projects
  • case studies
  • discussion forums
  • practical exercises

Live sessions with course experts

During the programme, you will have the opportunity to attend live sessions with your course Facilitator. Each session lasts 60-minutes. All sessions are optional, and if you cannot attend, you will have full access to recordings after each session.

Live Facilitator discussion session in week one

This session is a chance to meet your Facilitator and introduce yourself to your peers. The course Facilitator will give you an overview to the course, with the chance for you to ask any questions and to have a open discussion with other learners.

Live Facilitator discussion session in week five

At this stage in the course, it is a good time to hear reflections and general feedback from your Facilitator on any common misunderstanding or themes identified in the discussions and assessments. You can ask your questions and engage in an open discussion with your peers. There is also the opportunity to look ahead to the final assessment.


About the course

Our Evidence in Public Policy online programme is an intensive eight-week course that gives you the unique opportunity to hone the critical skills needed to design and implement policies informed by facts rather than opinion or instinct. Upon successful completion of the course, you will be able to evaluate the impact and implementation of policies within the context of your own role, an ability which will have an immediate impact on your career.

The course is focused on the following areas:

  • how to use evidence to evaluate the impact(s) of policy;
  • how to apply evidence to policy decisions;
  • how policymakers gather and generate evidence in practice; and
  • understanding the demand for evidence-based policy evaluation to be a greater priority in public policy organisations, globally.

There are no specific entry requirements. However, be aware this is a master’s level course and will take a certain level of commitment.

Watch the one-minute video for an overview of the course

‘Policy that is not evidence based should not happen, especially when it comes to the long term international (and often high value) overseas projects my organisation implements on behalf of governments. We need to know what works and it needs to be context specific in a lot of cases.’

– 2020 Course Graduate


Introduce yourself to your fellow cohort and meet the Facilitator, who will be providing support to you throughout the duration of the course.

Learn more about what the course offers and how to navigate through it. Tell us more about yourself by answering the questions and posting to the Padlet discussion board.

Your first module will focus on the introduction of fundamental questions, such as:

  • What is evidence?
  • What is policy?
  • How is evidence used in public policy?
  • Why is evidence important for effective policy-making?

Take an Intuition Quiz and your first set of Knowledge Check questions, which you’ll perform weekly throughout the course to ensure you’re on track with your learning targets. Join discussions specific to your interests with peers and the Facilitator. Collaborate with your peers on a template exercise.

This module will focus on causality and counterfactuals. You will:

  • define counterfactuals;
  • discuss the fundamental problem of evaluation;
  • calculate a treatment effect in practice; and
  • establish countermeasures via group discussions.

Take your weekly Knowledge Check. You will also participate in two peer-to-peer discussions with Facilitator input.

During discussion sessions and peer activities, you will explore:

  • difference-in-differences (DiD): the basics;
  • difference-in-differences (DiD): checking the assumptions; and
  • regression discontinuity design (RDD): the basics.

Submit your Knowledge Check responses. Continue in-depth discussions with your peers and the Facilitator.

Through an example scenario, you will discuss:

  • average effects and subgroup analysis;
  • how to determine sample sizes; and
  • measurement.

Submit Knowledge Check responses. Respond to a relevant journal article, your response will be peer-reviewed.

Throughout this module, you will take part in group activities and exercises using an example scenario. You will discuss:

  • research credibility;
  • systematic reviews;
  • meta-analysis; and
  • finding evidence.

Submit your Knowledge Check responses. Use an online tool to conduct meta-analysis and find evidence online. The Facilitator will comment on your findings.

You will take part in discussion sessions and perform a template activity to learn:

  • external validity;
  • ways to deal with external validity: aggregation, sub-group analysis, and comparing contexts;
  • mechanism mapping; and
  • fidelity vs adaptation.

Submit your Knowledge Check responses. This week you will be part of a template activity, receiving feedback from your peers and the Facilitator.

In this module, you will have faculty sessions and in-depth discussions with your cohort regarding:

  • organising and running an impact evaluation;
  • ethics.

Continue in-depth discussions with your peers and the Facilitator.

This is your final session. Submission of your individual project is expected. Your project will be marked by peers and the Facilitator will agree on the rubric and timescales for assessment results.

You will submit your final project, collated from work you will submit between modules three and seven, to be reviewed by the Facilitator. In this last week, you will be part of a final peer and Facilitator discussion board. You will also be given the opportunity to share your thoughts on the course with faculty via a discussion board.


Martin Williams


Martin teaches and conducts research on the roles of evidence, context and external validity in policymaking. His research is on policy implementation, public service delivery and bureaucratic reform, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

Prior to joining Oxford University, Martin was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Economics, University College London, and completed his PhD in the Government Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Julien Labonne


Julien’s research focuses on issues of clientelism, electoral politics and social networks. He carries out field experiments, designs household surveys and uses large-scale datasets to test models of voter and politician behaviour in developing countries.

Prior to joining the Blavatnik School, Julien was an Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Economics) at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and completed his PhD in the Economics Department at the University of Oxford. Julien previously worked at the World Bank and has consulted for the Asia Foundation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the OECD.

‘The final project provided a great opportunity to apply the theory taught during the course. In particular, it allowed me to test my understanding of some of the methods and concepts that I was less familiar with in a context/policy setting I was not used to working within.’

– Course Graduate 2020

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