Values and Public Policy: Political Philosophy in Practice

Be a part of the University of Oxford’s mission to transform and improve global policymaking.

What is the purpose of government? This is the fundamental question you will examine when studying this ground-breaking short course. You will think critically, drawing out the key values that should be considered in this question.

We seek to arm you with the knowledge and skills to understand the key moral and ethical value concepts that should inform public policy. You will engage with new processes and learn to apply political philosophy to the practice of policymaking, studying alongside like-minded thinkers in this field of political social sciences.

Values and Public Policy is certified by CPD UK’s (Continuing Professional Development) Certification Service.

Find out how the skills developed on this course can be combined with others for maximum impact. Discover more about our government and public policy multi-course pathway, including our multi-course discounts.


8 weeks (3-5 hours of study per week recommended)


May, August, October 2024

Next start date:

3 August 2024 (deadline 1pm (GMT) on 2 August 2024)


£1740 (inclusive of VAT)*

*Discounts are available to alumni, those working in the public sector and certain geographical regions. Register your interest to learn more.




Certificate of completion

CPD logo that reads: CPD CERTIFIED - The CPD Certification Service


The online course is designed for you if you need to interact with, understand and interpret policy as part of your job.

You should consider this course if:

  • you are a mid-career professional working in an NGO, agency, public or private sector, are a journalist or a civil servant who wants to move into a specialised or management career and must learn to operate more effectively at a strategic level;
  • you are a concerned citizen looking to better understand the complex public policy-making process which directly affects you and your community;
  • you are an experienced professional in the Civil Service and are ready to move to a Senior Executive Officer (SEO) position or Higher Executive Officer role (HEO);
  • you are highly experienced in strategy and need a programme which will provide you with the tools to help you remain effective and current in your position;
  • you are highly experienced in strategy and need a programme that will provide the tools to help you remain effective and current in your position.
  • There are no entry requirements for this short course, though it is expected that you will have had some exposure to politics/political theory and philosophy before joining. It is also expected that you have career experience working with policy, in any industry.

In addition, please be aware that this is a master’s level course, so will take a certain level of commitment. Learners are expected to dedicate 3-5 hours a week to their studies, with all activities and tasks taking place online.

There are no specific entry requirements. However, please be aware this course will take a certain level of commitment. Learners are expected to dedicate 3–5 hours a week to their studies, with all activities and tasks taking place online.

About the course

Our Values and Public Policy: Political Philosophy in Practice course promotes careful and critical evaluation of the thinking that should underpin good policy decisions and reflection on the moral complexities that policy makers must engage with. It explores practical dilemmas when the idea of government’s purpose may conflict with fundamental values, virtue and morality.

There are five key themes explored in the course:

Purpose – being able to evaluate the purpose of public policy and government, and understand the role of the individual.

Decision-making – understanding the distinctions between what decisions to make and how to make them.

Values – being able to apply philosophical approaches to evaluate values in public policy.

Ethics – the application of ethics for moral leadership: weighing up different moral/ethical decisions.

Problem solving – dealing with wicked problems in a complex world and applying technical solutions.

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


Course outcomes

Throughout this online course, you will have the opportunity to explore some of today’s most pressing policy questions. These may include:

  • Who should pay for the damage caused by climate change and why?
  • How do we protect the rights of minorities within society?
  • Can we justify inequalities in society?
  • What is the role of public policy in addressing inequalities that are the result of historical injustices – for example, the gender pay gap, diversity in the workplace, and equal access to healthcare)?
  • Should we impose limits on freedom of speech?


Upon completion, you will receive a certificate to support your career progression. This programme is also certified by CPD UK. Learners will be able to request their CPD certificate after successfully finishing the course, using their certificate of completion as proof of eligibility. The course has an estimated 40 hours of learning, equating to 40 CPD points.

Note, the onus is on students to request these CPD certificates at the end of their studies. The University and its partners accept no responsibility, and cannot be held responsible, for the claiming or validation of hours or points.

Throughout this online course, you will:

  • identify where the moral and political meet, recognising when issues of public policy are not solely technical but involve fundamental values and conflicts between these values;
  • enhance your understanding of the key-value concepts that should inform public policy;
  • develop skills of reasoning about and resolving ethical dilemmas and be able to communicate their conclusions and the reasons for them;
  • critically scrutinise your own ethical and political assumptions, and reflect on the moral complexities of policymaking scenarios that you have or may find yourself in.


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.

Activities will include set readings, reflection exercises, multiple-choice questions and discussion forums. Your Facilitator will guide you through these activities and provide feedback at each stage. Not all tasks will be graded but you will need to participate in each to successfully complete the course and qualify for your certificate.

The final assessment, completed in module eight, will be your main summative assignment. It will be marked by your Facilitator and will be worth 50% of your final grade.

  • Fees and Funding

    The total cost of this short course is £1,740 (inclusive of VAT), with discounts available to Oxford University alumni, those working in a public sector role (evidence is required) and those who choose to study more than one of our online courses (our multi-course pathway).

    It is possible to pay your fees in two instalments, laying down a deposit (and reserving a space) before settling the final balance and securing your place on the course ahead of its start.

    For more information about our deposit scheme or discounts you may be entitled to, please feel free to email us.

    Considering asking your employer to fund your studies? Read our blog on the best way to approach them for sponsorship.

  • Learning experience

    In addition to learning from our world-leading academics, you will also benefit from a course Facilitator. Coming from a professional cyber security background, they will provide support throughout your learning journey, be present during weekly discussions and offer guidance and feedback on tasks and assessments.

    This online course will bring theory to life, using practical examples and activities that you can apply to your own role. These may include a combination of:

    • interactive simulations;
    • knowledge checks;
    • case studies;
    • discussion forums;
    • practical exercises.
  • Live sessions with course experts

    During this distance learning programme, you will have the opportunity to attend live sessions with your Facilitator and fellow students. All sessions are optional. If you cannot attend, you will have full access to recordings after each one.

    Week three: live Facilitator discussion session

    In this short activity, you will be asked to think about whether or not you agree with Nozick’s view that taxation is ‘on a par’ with forced labour.

    Week five: live case study session with Facilitator

    In this session, you will be presented with a case study on flag burning in Germany.

    You will be asked to read through the case study and take some time to focus on the study questions presented at the end.

    Week seven: live Q&A session with Facilitator

    At this stage of the course, you may find that you have some content-related questions that you would like to pursue at greater length or in further depth with the Facilitator.

    You have the opportunity in this session to discuss these questions and thoughts with them.


Frequently asked questions

What are the entry requirements for Oxford's Values and Public Policy course?

Enrol on the course today.

Request for information 

Complete the form and a member of our team will be in touch to tell you more about this course. We’ll also send you email updates and remind you of key dates.
(All fields marked with * are required) 

Calls may be recorded for quality and training purposes. By submitting your information, you agree that we may contact you via email, phone, SMS or WhatsApp.

Your details will be used to supply the information you requested and in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Further information can also be found in our Terms and Conditions.