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Tackling Wicked Policy Problems (PPMN10001)

Undergraduate level 1Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 1
Subject codePPMN10001
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

How can we solve the wicked policy problems facing Australia and our region? ‘Wicked problems’ are complex, have interacting causes and often seem intractable. This subject takes four wicked problems – climate change and environmental destruction; statelessness and the mass movement of people; terrorism and conflict; and inequality – and explores various approaches to tackling them. It considers past, present and future perspectives on these problems and, crucially, asks who is responsible for solving them. Governments play a role in solving wicked problems, and citizens expect them to do so. But by their very nature, wicked problems extend across borders, raising ‘collective action’ challenges. Individuals are increasingly looking for alternative ways to address transnational issues where they feel their governments have failed.

In this subject we ask: What role do governments have in addressing wicked problems in our region? What are the roles for other actors, such as international organisations; civil society organisations; transnational corporations; and individuals participating in social movements? Can these diverse actors design innovative approaches, harnessing new technology and media, to solving wicked problems? We draw on a range of fields such as public policy, international law, environmental science and international security, and hear from guest speakers from the university, government and not-for-profit sectors.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Identify and critically analyse a range of wicked problems, their causes and the roles and interests of relevant stakeholders
  • Analyse and critique the various complex dimensions of the relevant public policy challenges, and the relevant opportunities and constraints facing public actors
  • Recognise and critically analyse alternative approaches to solving wicked problems, including those which challenge traditional public policy perspectives
  • Understand the ways in which public participation can contribute to the formation of responses to wicked problems, including public policy and other types of responses
  • Engage in and contribute to debates about innovative approaches to solving wicked problems

Generic skills

  • The ability to derive, interpret and analyse information from a range of sources
  • The capacity to critically analyse and evaluate competing perspectives
  • The ability to write an essay which relies on sound research and logical argumentation
  • The effective use of written and verbal communication

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in tutorials is required.

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • A blog post or op-ed piece describing a wicked problem (750 words) (25%) (due week 3)
  • A blog post or op-ed on attempts to solve the wicked problem (750 words) (25%) (due week 7)
  • An essay on solutions to the wicked problem (2,500 words) (50%) (due during examination period)

All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Hurdle requirement - Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject.

Dates & times

  • Semester 1
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours3 hours per week (2 x 1-hour lectures and 1 x 1-hour tutorial)
    Total time commitment170 hours
    Teaching period 4 March 2019 to 2 June 2019
    Last self-enrol date15 March 2019
    Census date31 March 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail10 May 2019
    Assessment period ends28 June 2019

    Semester 1 contact information

    Jayani Nadarajalingam (Coordinator)


Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    Readings will be provided online through the subject's LMS site prior to the commencement of the subject.

  • Breadth options
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 20 September 2019