The Center for Policy Studies was established in 2000 to advance teaching of public policy in the CEE and CIS region and to promote greater use of social science research in policy making. Since the 1990s, the formulation of public policy has increasingly been open to new kinds of actors and influence. The transformation of the state and the market created new private and civic sectors with varying interests and effects on public policy. In addition, external agencies, whether international development bodies, consultants or the European Union, emerged as significant influences over public policy.
Despite this, relatively few institutions offered students the chance to learn policy analysis and to study in depth how policy is formulated and implemented. Whilst there are many think tanks competing for attention, only a handful of universities provided an inter-disciplinary approach to the subject of public policy. To help develop policy studies at the CEU, the CPS launched a Master’s of Public Policy in 2004, offering courses investigating techniques and impacts of public policy making with a range of material from political science, law, economics, and sociology. The course concentrated on topics that were of especial importance to former socialist countries. Following a successful two academic years, a new Department of Public Policy was created with its own full-time faculty and administration. The CPS and the DPP continue to collaborate through shared appointments, elective courses, student supervision and joint research projects.
Continuing state and market transformation creates the ongoing need and opportunity for policy research based on social science. CPS research is comparative, rigorous and policy oriented and provides critical perspectives on the formulation, production and implementation of policy. Methodologies such as critical frame analysis can shed light on how underlying assumptions influence policy outcomes. Focusing on the methods and institutions involved in policy monitoring highlights the changing power dynamics between actors and institutions. A third theme is the importance of promoting critical reflection and analysis on just how policy impacts are measured and understood. CPS research is especially focused on cross cutting areas such as anti-corruption, social cohesion, anti-poverty, rural policy and European integration. Here, it is possible to see how the integration of differing institutions and concepts and as well as the intersection of different actors and influences can create new policy fields.
Since its establishment, CPS has become one of the largest research centers within the university. It has junior and senior full time researchers, part-time researchers, visiting fellows, provision for internships and regular opportunities for CEU MA and PhD students to take part in research projects. Many of CPS’s research projects feed directly into MA teaching at CEU, the summer schools, executive courses and the PhD programs.
Besides its research work, CPS has been involved in mentoring, training and capacity building, such as delivering gender mainstreaming training in Hungary, policy training for Roma civil society women’s groups in Central and Eastern Europe, and regularly organizing roundtables and workshops. In its ongoing commitment to supporting public policy teaching, CPS manages the largest on-line database of public policy research from CEE and CIS countries, and regularly takes part in initiatives to develop new courses and programs for graduate students and faculty members in public policy. Finally, through building joint research projects and policy programs, CPS is in regular collaboration with partners in the Open Society Institute.