Postgraduate Module Descriptor

POLM880DA: Interdisciplinarity in the Public Sphere

This module descriptor refers to the 2021/2 academic year.


NQF Level7
Credits30 ECTS Value15
Term(s) and duration

This module will run during term 2 (12 weeks)

Academic staff

Professor Duncan Russel (Convenor)

Dr Nick Kirsop-Taylor (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


Modern public service is increasingly complex. In trying to solve wicked problems public workers and leaders are having to move beyond their departmental and intellectual silos. This means working in multiple new and unfamiliar ways – replete with their own languages, logics, assumptions and methods. Addressing complex and wicked problems increasingly means having to build and leverage interdisciplinary teams and perspectives; a skill set that is not naturally taught or prioritised in public service and the public sector, and challenges many of the conventional wisdoms and developmental paths within the public service. Meeting these challenges entail new ways of conceptualising problems and solutions, new ways of communicating and working with others, and new ways of transforming and presenting complexity to decision makers and leaders. This first introductory module contextualises and situates the apprentice in ‘the modern’ – characterised by intense complexities (rather than simple ‘complications’), risks and uncertainties. This module presents to apprentices the value of systems thinking and methods in addressing these challenges; and the especially soft-system school of thought and practice. This module introduces the soft-system method before offering understandings about interdisciplinary communication, organisation, problem solving and impact generation.


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