Assessing policy influence : trade unions, workplace learning, and the skills agenda

  • Laura Dougan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis evaluates the effectiveness of trade union influence in the policy process, with particular focus on policy debates on skills and learning. It a key objective of trade unions to influence government policy. Unions seek to exert influence in the industrial and political spheres, in order to effectively represent the interests of their members and those of wider society. As their power in the industrial sphere has declined in recent decades and their influence narrowed, unions have looked to broaden their activities, giving increasing attention to government and the public policy arena and the ways in which they can influence key decision-makers. Against this backdrop, this thesis seeks to assess trade union influence on the policy process and consider the extent to which unions’ engagement in workplace learning and skills initiatives has increased their influence on the State. This thesis draws on the tools for measuring policy influence found in the political science literature and the debates within the industrial relations literature that seek to examine trade unions’ relationship with the State. A model has been developed to assess the STUC’s influence on the policy process, and takes account of their policy priorities in learning and skills, the tactics they employ to exert influence, and which outcomes they have achieved. This research also considers whether influence on skills and learning has led to broader policy influence. Data is drawn primarily from a single case study and 27 in-depth interviews. The research highlights the complexities of assessing policy influence, and uncovers the more nuanced forms largely overlooked in the existing literature. These less visible manifestations of influence uncover new insights into the ways in which unions try to achieve their policy priorities and moves beyond outcomes as a proxy for influence.
Date of Award9 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorPatricia Findlay (Supervisor) & Kendra Briken (Supervisor)

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