Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL3228: From the Shadows into the Light: Political Advisers and Policy Making

This module descriptor refers to the 2019/0 academic year.


NQF Level 6
Credits 30 ECTS Value 15
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks) and term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Mr Athanassios Gouglas (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


This module will introduce you to the study of political advisers, also known as special advisers (SpAds), and their role in policy making. After university you may work as adviser in the core executive and legislative branch, as a civil servant, or an external consultant cooperating with government SpAds and MP assistants. The module offers you the opportunity to learn about the work of political advisers in an internationally comparative perspective, using evidence from frontier research, as well as live accounts from practitioners, both advisers and civil servants. Knowledge of the different political and administrative traditions is useful, but not required.    

In the first part of the module, you will be introduced to the concept and history of advisers, as well as to the different institutional habitats in which these agents work. You will learn about different administrative traditions and the concept of politicization, as well as investigate the background of this political elite at the lower echelon of power. Who are the advisers, what is their background and why are they employed? In the second part you will look into the political and policy roles of political advisers by learning to critically apply typologies and classification schemes developed by scholars. In the third part you will examine the relationship of advisers with civil servants, as well as with their ministers. How do political advisers affect the political-administrative interface and what are the consequences of the use of advisers to civil service neutrality? Moreover, how do advisers interact with politicians and how much influence do they have? In this part you will use traditional theories of politics and administration relations, as well as public service bargains (PSBs) and political adviser bargains (PABs) to make sense of the triangular relationship among advisers, administrators and political executives. In the fourth part of the module you will be introduced to issues of accountability. Are political advisers accountable and to whom? In this last part of the module you will address issues of accountability by comparatively exploring advisers’ codes of conduct.

Module created


Last revised