The dynamics of agenda-setting : the case of post-secondary education in Manitoba

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Saunders, Kelly
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The field of public policy analysis has long been a point of interest in the social sciences. Yet while we may know a fair bit about how policies are implemented or evaluated in terms of their impact on society, we know less about how they came to be issues on the government's agenda in the first place. While there may be any number of issues swirling around a government at any point in time, only some of these issues get acted upon in the form of a policy outcome. Moreover, on any given issue there may be a number of policy options from which to choose. Why do decision-makers decide to select one alternative over another? Together, these pre-decisional processes of agenda setting and alternative specification represent relatively unchartered territory within policy analysis. The focus of my research project is the formulation of post-secondary education policy in Manitoba from 1988 to 1996; the period extending from the election of the Progressive Conservative government of Gary Filmon to its decision to establish the Council on Post-Secondary Education. Utilizing the multiple streams model of agenda-setting developed by Kingdon (1995), I explore those factors that motivated the Filmon government to decide in the first place to take action on post-secondary education, and secondly, to do so in the manner of the creation of the Council on Post-Secondary Education. In particular, I analyze Kingdon's three process streams of politics, problems and policies, the actors that comprised the policy subsystem at the time, and the wider context within which these processes occurred. This qualitative study utilizes a case study approach, and is based on a triangulated research design that includes: .elite interviews with some of the key actors comprising the post-secondary education policy subsystem in Manitoba during the period from 1988 to 1996; . archival research of government documents, Hansard, briefs submitted to the University Education Review Commission, media reports, and other relevant primary sources; . an extensive literature review of the relevant scholarly research in the areas of post-secondary education; agenda setting and policy analysis; social constructivism; New Public Management; educational politics; policy borrowing; ideology; globalization; and multiple streams theory. It is anticipated that the research findings will help inform not only issues related to the wider processes of agenda-setting and alternative specification within governments, but the formulation of post-secondary education policy in particular.