Dr Felicity Matthews
Department of Politics and International Relations
Senior Lecturer in Politics
+44 114 222 1651
Full contact details
Department of Politics and International Relations
Dr Felicity Matthews joined the Department of Politics in 2012. She has previously held a lectureship in the Department of Politics at the University of York; a Leverhulme Fellowship in the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield; and an ESRC-funded Post Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Exeter. She was awarded her PhD from the University of Sheffield in 2008; and her doctoral thesis was awarded the UK Political Studies Association’s ‘Sir Walter Bagehot Prize for Best Thesis in Government and Public Administration’.
Felicity’s research focuses on exercise of power in the policy process, and the relationships that exist between government, parliament and citizens. She is particularly interested in the effects of constitutional rules and institutional norms, and the everyday practice of policymaking on the formal ‘frontstage’ and informal ‘backstage’.
Felicity’s research expertise has been advanced under several major research projects, including her current ESRC-funded Parliamentary Academic Fellowship. Working under the auspices of the House of Commons Petitions Committee, this project examines how Members of Parliament have engaged with the parliamentary e-petitions system that was established in 2015, and explores their views regarding the added value of such innovations in terms of democratic engagement, public trust and policy impact.
Felicity is the editor of Policy & Politics, a leading international journal in the fields of public administration and political science. She has consulted for a range of government, parliamentary and non-government organisations including the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, the Centre for Social Justice and the Institute for Government. She is an experienced political communicator, and is a regular contributor to national and local television and radio.
- Research interests
I research the exercise of power in the policy process, and the relationships that exist between government, parliament and citizens. I am particularly interested in the effects of constitutional rules and institutional norms, and the everyday practice of policymaking on the formal ‘frontstage’ and informal ‘backstage’. Through this, I have developed a broad research profile that encompasses a number of inter-related areas including: executive politics; public administration; parliamentary studies; and, constitutional politics.
A number of specific contributions can be identified. Firstly, my research has challenged prevailing arguments regarding the erosion of state capacity by demonstrating that national governments possess a number of unique resources which ensure their centrality in the policy process. Secondly, and in turn, my research has highlighted the strategies that governments pursue to strengthen control over policymaking. In particular, my research on politicised appointments provides an important counterpoint to arguments that patronage is little more than a form of corruption by demonstrating its value as a vital governing resource.
Thirdly, my research has examined the extent to which parliaments are equipped to act as a bulwark against executive dominance, analysing the effects of parliamentary reforms, and associated innovations such as parliamentary e-petitions, on their formal and informal powers of executive oversight. Fourthly, bringing these strands together, my research on constitutional politics demonstrates the enduring legacy of institutional cultures and constitutional norms in terms of structuring the behaviour and beliefs of political elites.
My research expertise has been advanced under several major research projects, including my current ESRC-funded Parliamentary Academic Fellowship. Working under the auspices of the House of Commons Petitions Committee, this project examines how Members of Parliament have engaged with the parliamentary e-petitions system that was established in 2015, and explores their views regarding the added value of such innovations in terms of democratic engagement, public trust and policy impact.
My work has had a wide-ranging impact on various audiences. It has been cited by scholars in both the social and natural sciences; quoted in a range of Westminster parliamentary reports; and utilised by practitioners throughout the world, including the Republic of Ireland’s National Economic and Social Council and Thailand’s Office of the Prime Minister.
- Parliamentary scrutiny of executive patronage – the relationship between institutional norms, reputation and accountability. Public Administration. View this article in WRRO
- Formal rules, informal norms and the everyday practice of coalition governance. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. View this article in WRRO
- Fully symmetric federalism—a bold idea, but one that's not demanded: a response to Bruce Ackerman. The Political Quarterly, 89(4), 595-599. View this article in WRRO
- Majoritarianism Reinterpreted: Effective Representation and the Quality of Westminster Democracy. Parliamentary Affairs, 71(1), 50-72. View this article in WRRO
- Does decentralisation make a difference? Comparing the democratic performance of central and regional governing systems in the United Kingdom. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. View this article in WRRO
- Whose Mandate is it Anyway? Brexit, the Constitution and the Contestation of Authority. The Political Quarterly, 88(4), 603-611. View this article in WRRO
- Research group
I am keen to supervise research students in the following areas: parliamentary studies; government and governance; policy design and implementation; citizen engagement; political leadership; and British politics.
In particular, I would be delighted to receive applications from students who are interested issues including (but not restricted to):
- The politics of the British constitution
- Devolution and inter-administration relationships within the UK
- Delegation, quangos and the politics of Whitehall
- Legislative scrutiny and the capacity of select committees
- Brexit and the repatriation of parliamentary sovereignty
- The effect of Westminster’s institutional norms and culture on the process of policymaking
- Changing patterns of political participation
- Referendums and representative democracy
I have examined a number of PhD theses and have supervised research students who work in diverse fields including European energy policy; Korean public management reform; Taiwanese environmental governance; participatory governance in India; the utilisation of evidence-based research in the context of post-conflict state building; and the regulation and scrutiny of ministerial appointments.
Key projects and grants
- Awarding Body: ESRC
- People Involved: Felicity Matthews
- Title of Research: Understanding how individual MPs engage with e-Petitions’
- Years funded: 2018-19
- Total award: £22,997
- Awarding Body: The British Academy
- People Involved: Felicity Matthews
- Title of Research: ‘Constitutional Crossroads and Coalition Politics’
- Years funded: 2014-15
- Total award: £7,999
- Teaching activities
As a lecturer and active researcher, I relish the opportunity to teach students and to share my passion for the discipline. My teaching is closely aligned to my research interests and courses that I have taught have focused on the role and operation of government; British politics; and policy-making and implementation. I seek to enthuse students and use a range of devised a range of innovative teaching techniques, including research-based seminar tasks, real-time case studies, mock scenarios, videos and music.
I am the module leader for ‘Policymaking in the Real World’, an exciting optional module on the MA Politics, Governance and Public Policy. On this module, we explore the processes of policymaking in all their complex, messy and ‘wicked’ glory. Given the multiple risks and crises they must deal with, how can policymakers come up with effective policy, learn from mistakes and deal with unexpected events? What tools can they employ to do so and how can we evaluate their success or failure? I work with students to develop theoretically informed but practice-focused responses to critical questions.
I also enjoy working with students of all ages who may have studied politics before, in order to expose them to our exciting and vital discipline. I recently ran a week-long project with students from across the University of Sheffield called ‘Understanding Sheffield’s Brexit “Shock”’. This was an incredibly exciting project. Over the course of one week, students conducted face-to-face survey interviews with over 400 residents across the city regarding their political attitudes and voting behaviour in the EU referendum.
Finally, I am responsible for supervising undergraduate projects and dissertations, MA dissertations and for supervising PhD students working on a varied range of projects.
- Professional activities
- Editor of Policy & Politics, a leading international journal in the fields of public administration and political science.
- Editor of New Perspectives in Policy and Politics book series.
- Reviewer for a number of academic publishers including Oxford University Press, Polity, Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan.
- Referee for several leading peer-reviewed journals including Governance, Public Administration and Political Studies.
- Academic Advisory Member of Realising Opportunities
- Key leadership roles include Director of Recruitment (2012-present) and Faculty Deputy Director for Learning and Teaching (2014-2018).
I am experienced political communicator and have made over 75 appearances on national and local television and radio to discuss issues ranging from the death of Margaret Thatcher through to young people’s participation in politics. And, of course, Brexit! Outlets have included BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Wales, Hallam FM, BBC1, BBC 2, BBC Look North, and ITV. I have also contributed to newspapers including The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Washington Post.
In addition to expert commentary, I have provided in-depth analysis for a number of special programmes such as the BBC’s live post-election coverage of the 2017 general election. This included BBC 1’s ‘Election 2017 - English Regions, Yorkshire Results’, plus additional live broadcasts on BBC Yorkshire’s ‘Look North’ news updates and BBC Radio Sheffield’s Drive programme.
I have also co-designed and co-presented a number of media outputs. In the run-up to the 2017 general election, for example, I was the resident political expert on #asklooknorth, a six-part Facebook Live series by BBC Yorkshire, designed to foster public engagement with politics, especially amongst younger people.