nl en

Public Values & Ethics


Admission requirements

This course is open to Erasmus Exchange Students (Public Administration), Students of the Minor Bestuurskunde: Openbaar Bestuur, Beleid en Management, and Leiden University students (elective/keuzevak).


This course offers an in-depth discussion of important ethical approaches and moral issues in contemporary politics and public administration. As the title indicates, two notions are central to this course: public values and (public) ethics. The notion of public values, firstly, is particularly popular nowadays and is adopted here as a means to understand and articulate the special character of the public sector. It conceptualizes the difference between a public and a private sector in terms of values served in each. So, the character of the public sector is explained in terms of ‘public values’. Public values is a hot topic nowadays in the study of public administration and a helpful entrance to many fundamental and pressing issues. The notion of (public) ethics, secondly, particularly directs our attention to thinking about the proper fulfillment of public office. Holders of positions in the public sector are continuously facing moral questions and choices. Ethics intends to help them tackle those by offering arguments for particular answers and options over others. In this connection, issues of public wrongdoing (such as corruption and/or other integrity violations) and controversial public behavior (such as dirty hands) are also discussed in class.

Course objectives

Having followed and passed this course, students should be able:

  • To describe the meaning of the ethical concepts and approaches discussed in this course.

  • To explain how the public sector (and specific issues within it) can be understood from the viewpoints of public values and ethics.

  • To argue about the applicability of those concepts and approaches to the public sector (and specific issues within it).

  • To argue about the moral quality of particular public policies, forms of public management, and behavior in public office by making use of the concepts and approaches discussed in this course.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

This course is offered entirely online.

The online modes of instruction include:

  • 14 video lectures (two topics per week for seven weeks) on Brightspace

  • An online discussion forum on Brightspace

  • 4 online seminars via Kaltura Live (check final rosters online) in which material that students have engaged with online is discussed. Discussion is based on independent learning on the online platform and prior reading of the materials.

Students are expected to spend the regular amount of time on this course for 5 ECTS, i.e. 140 hours. Roughly, this is divided over the course as follows:

  • Self-study (reading, discussion forum participation): 127 hours

  • Seminars: 8 hours

  • Final exam: 5 hours

Assessment method

  • All students make one mid-term MC exam (25% of grade) and one end-term exam with open essay questions (75% of grade)

  • An insufficient grade for the MC test can be compensated with a sufficient exam grade, but not the other way around. This means that the course is passed when the final exam grade and the weighed final grade are both sufficient (i.e. higher than a 5.5). In the rare case that a student has an insufficient paper grade, a sufficient exam grade but an insufficient final grade, the MC quiz can/must be retaken.

  • Students will be able to find more information about assessments, assignments and the timetable for exams in the course hand-out

  • Please note that retakes are held in January!

From 2020-2021 onwards, partial grades will not remain valid after the exam and the resit of the course.

Reading list

For this course, students will read two handbooks:
1. Mizzoni, John (different editions can be used). Ethics: The Basics. Chicester, UK: Wiley Blackwell. Paperback.
2. Lawton, Alan, Rayner, Julie, & Karin Lasthuizen. Ethics and Management in the Public Sector. London/New York: Routledge. Paperback.
NB: both books apear to be freely available online
3. Students will have to read some additional articles (see course hand-out later)


The Faculty requests students to register for every course in uSis.
Register for every course and working group via uSis. There are special working groups organized for minor, exchange and elective students. Some courses and working groups 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, after registration for the entire minor.
Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. Important information about the course is posted here.
After enrolment for the course in uSis you are also enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Dr. A.D.N. Kerkhoff


In order to learn effectively in this course in particular, it is essential to understand that studying (mostly) online requires an active stance from students. The course is structured in such a way so as to enable you to learn a lot from it, but this can only work when you are actively present on the online platform, ask questions, read and re-read literature, and critically (but respectfully!) engage online and offline with other students in the course.