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Foundations of Public Administration



Ever since early modern beginnings people have questioned the content, use and status of public administration as a field of inquiry. Until the present-day, opinions differ widely about what the study is or should include and which conceptual, methodological and theoretical lenses one should use when studying government and administration. Fundamental debates revolve around the question whether it is actually a science or rather a purely practical endeavor and what – if anything – actually separates public administration from other related and often incorporated disciplines such as economics, politics or law. As a result, the study of public administration is diverse in its scope and topics. In this course students get a close look at historical origins and developments of the discipline by looking at key debates between founding scholars. Students will also read original classic texts on key topics in the field, such as bureaucracy, ethics, organization theory or policy. As such, students will retrace and investigate where the study of public administration comes from and how and why it has developed over time and has come to be what it is today. This allows them to define, demarcate and properly understand their chosen field of academic inquiry as well as the specific topics they will investigate and/or work with during their studies and later careers. The course aims to make students better aware of the essence of their discipline and the possibilities it has to offer.

Course objectives

  • Students will acquire knowledge of the historical origins and development of the study of public administration and gain a critical view of the way in which public administration scholars in past and present view public administration and government;

  • Students will acquire a familiarity with classic literature in public administration and have a broad understanding of key concepts and topics relevant to the study of public administration;

  • Students will acquire skills of critical analysis and writing to link their knowledge and insight gained in this course to current cases and problems of governance.



Mode of instruction

  • The course consists of a total of seven lectures and five work group meetings;

  • The seven lectures will offer a main overview and discussion of origins and development of the field and its major themes and topics;

  • Workgroup meetings are for non-Erasmus students only. They will consist of discussions on core approaches to and themes in the study of Public Administration;

  • Attendance in work groups is mandatory for all non-Erasmus program students.

Course Load

For non-Erasmus program students the total amount of hours to spend on this class is 140 of which 14 hours are lectures, 10 hours are work group meetings and 116 hours are self-study and/or examination hours.

For Erasmus program students the total amount of hours to spend on this class is 140 of which 14 hours are lectures and 126 hours are self-study and/or examination hours.

Assessment method

One final written exam (65%) and one final paper (35%)

You can find more information about assessments and the timetable exams on the website.
Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Blackboard.
On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website, uSis and Blackboard.

Students will be permitted to resit an examination if they have taken the first sit and earned a mark between 3 and 5.5 or with permission of the Board of Examiners.

Resit written exam
Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’.


Blackboard will be used in this course. The course will be available (at the latest) two weeks before the first lecture.

Reading list

For this course, students will read separate articles. A full reading list with hyperlinks will be provided on Blackboard before the start of the course.


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.
Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.


Patrick Overeem


This course provides an opportunity for students to participate in a discussion of ideas. It is important that students independently seek a grasp on these ideas and, therefore, must take the time to read and think about the readings assigned. Ideally, each reading should therefore be read at least twice for students to get as much out of the course as possible. Students are encouraged to ask questions, to be involved and to remain critical!