nl en

Comparative Public Management


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Public Administration can take this course.

Description/Course objectives

IIn the opening chapter of the book prescribed for this course, Christopher Hood defines public management as “the study and practice of design and operation of arrangements for the provision of public services and executive government.” (p.8) This definition is taken as starting point for this course since (a) it is as good as any other and, more importantly, (b) it allows the discretion to go beyond the implementation/execution side of public management. In the Leiden master program students have been exposed to quite a range of comparative public management literature. The objective with this course is to bring that literature together in a broader framework that places the implementing/executing part of government activities (the operational level of analysis; intergovernmental management) in the larger context of the decision making arenas (the collective level of analysis; intergovernmental relations), and the underlying values upon which these decisions and actions are considered as legitimate and authoritative (the constitutional level of analysis; intergovernmental constitution). This larger environment includes the national, regional, and local levels, with specific attention for the political-administrative, social, and economic culture in which policy and management are embedded. It is very important that public management is not only understood and defined in terms of the toolkit from which the public manager (better is: civil servant) selects her/his instruments. As a study, public administration has really widened its scope since the 1970s well beyond the initial instrumental orientation. However, with the advent of (new) public management (and that in contrast with public administration) this instrumental or technocratic element has increased. To be sure, there is room for instrumental and technocratic aspects of management, but without that being embedded in relevant contexts, the study loses its legitimation.

This course is taught in an intensive formal of two-and-a-half weeks for a total of 16 hours. The following topics will be addressed by means of lecture and discussion. Both students and instructor are encouraged to raise topics for discussion in relation to the lecture.



Week 1: The Study of Comparative Public Management
Lecture 1: Development of and motives for comparative public administration/management (literature: Ferlie et al., section one)
Lecture 2: Methods and problems of comparative public management (no literature)

Week 2: National and Organizational Cultures
Lecture 3: Societal culture and values as context for public management (literature: Ferlie et al., section 3)
Lecture 4: Organizational cultures: Is public management the same for all public organizations? (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 27, 28, and 29)

Week 3: Theoretical and Disciplinary Perspectives upon Public Management
Lecture 5: Networks, accountability, postmodernism, and governance (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 8, 10, 11, and 12)
Lecture 6: The classic dilemma of government: law, ethics, and economy (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 6, 7, and 9)

Week 4: Themes in Comparative Public Management
Lecture 7: Human resource management (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 22 and 23)
Lecture 8: Financial management and evaluation (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 24, 25 and 26)

Mode of instruction

This course is taught in an intensive format. Each lecture will have a significant discussion component, where the subject of discussion can be prompted by students and/or instructor.

Assessment method

Given the format of this course, the student will have to write a reflection paper of about 1500-2000 words about the literature prescribed. Thus, in weeks 1, 2, and 3 the student will submit a reflection upon the prescribed literature for that week prior to the beginning of class. Do not briefly summarize each of the chapters, but reflect upon their content. What did you find compelling? What do you disagree with? The student can focus on a few specific issues. The instructor will return each of the first three papers the next week with comments. For the final week the student will have to write a paper of 1500-2000 words about the usefulness of knowledge of public management for career civil servants.

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 have a mark lower than 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’.

Reading list

Literature: Ewan Ferlie, Lawrence E. Lynn, Christopher Pollitt (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Public Management. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-922644-3 (pbk; available at Amazon)


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.

Contact information

Dhr Prof dr. J.C.N. Raadschelders