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Public Values & Ethics



While attention for values and ethics is as old as public administration itself, recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in these topics from researchers, politicians and civil servants alike. This has had an effect both in public management and public policy. There is also increased awareness of the normative nature of concepts and terms which we use to describe and assess public administration. The course Public Values and Ethics focuses on the normative foundations of and ethical judgment in public administration. It offers a broad as well as deeper introduction into core questions concerning our thinking on government and public administration and helps us assess which values are key in the public sector and how public officials can deal with normative questions and ethical dilemmas. We pay attention to recent developments and debates from across the globe.

Learning objectives

Having followed the course, student should be able to:
• Provide an overview of classic and contemporary research on (public) values and ethics in PA theory;
• Recognize and discuss the value-laden character of and normative dilemmas in public administration and its study;
• Recognize, discuss and critically assess the nature and particularly the diversity and/or unity of (public) values and ethical thought;
• Provide advanced-level theory-based analysis of normative issues relating to the public sector;
• Respond to value-related claims in students’ own area of specialization or interest;
• Reflect critically and write academically on normative questions in PA theory & practice.



Methods of instruction

This course consists of lectures and self study. This course is compulsory.

Study load

This course consists of 140 hours of study, of which 26 are contact hours and 114 are self-study hours

Method of assessment

This course has one written exam. The retake has the same format.



Other course materials/literature

  • De Vries, M.S. & Kim, P.S., Value and Virtue in Public Administration: A Comparative Perspective (November 2013, new paperback-edition). Palgrave. ISBN: 978-1137387981
    • Extra articles (via BlackBoard)


Registration for every course and exam in USIS is mandatory. For courses, registration is possible from four weeks up to three days before the start of the course.
For exams, registration is possible from four weeks up to ten days before the date of the examination.


Dr. A.D.N. (Toon) Kerkhoff
Schouwburgstraat 2, The Hague, room B1.05
Tel: +31(0)71 5273707
office hours: after appointment