What is policy?

Image of a toolbox (above all, policy is a good tool which makes administration easier)

At its most basic, policy is “a course or principle of action, adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual” (Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary).

The term is used in many different ways, varying from institution to institution, organisation to organisation and sometimes within institutions and organisations as well. It can be hard to pin down, but there are some central features common to all good policy:

  • it states matters of principle
  • it is focused on action, stating what is to be done and by whom
  • it is an authoritative statement, made by a person or body with power to do so.

Above all, good policy is a tool which makes administration easier, and allows people to get on with the organisation’s core business more efficiently and effectively.

The University’s policy framework, like the University itself, has grown over time and its approach to policy has changed. We are now moving to streamline and systematise it, so that we can maximise its usefulness.

To help us do this, the Senate has passed the Policies Development and Review Rule, which is formally titled the University of Sydney (Policies Development and Review) Rule 2011. This Rule came into effect on 1 February 2012. It provides a consistent hierarchy and terminology, and standard formats for policy and related documents. The associated Policies Development and Review Procedures came into effect on 15 February 2012. You can find out more about all of these things on this website, and you can find the new Rule and Procedures in the Policy Register.