This introductory level course considers theories of the public policy process with a thematic focus on the emergence and development of social policies and current reform challenges in the welfare state. Selected themes of policy analysis will be introduced in the first three sessions, addressing general aspects such as the ‘policy cycle’, policy problem definition and agenda setting, the role of actors and institutions, as well as illustrations and examples from social policy. The second part covers the history and foundation of the welfare state, as well as challenges and socio-economic pressures which have influenced the development of social policy over time and across countries. The third part introduces different types or ‘models’ of welfare states in general, and social policy programmes in particular, which have a crucial influence on domestic processes of social stratification and opportunity structures. The overall ambition of the course is to understand the interplay between socio-economic context, actors and institutions in the formation of social policies and to analyse this interplay systematically. Sessions will typically combine short introductions or lectures followed by active student discussions of core issues based on prior mandatory readings of one or two key texts. In the third part of the course student groups will make short presentations to the rest of the class and lead thematic class discussions. Students will be asked to write short memos and, in the third part, take part in a group presentation on selected ‘models of welfare’ and country cases. Finally, students are expected to produce a policy paper.