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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 is part of the virtual exchange.


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 a so-called “flipped classroom” course. This means that it is offered roughly 70% online via Brightspace and roughly 30% through follow-up face-to-face seminars.

The online mode of instruction via Brightspace includes:

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

  • E-tivity: (non-graded) participation in forum discussions on specific questions with online moderation by the lecturer

The offline mode of instruction in the seminars includes:

  • 4 seminars (projected to be in week 1, 3, 5 and 7 but check final rosters online!) in which material that students have engaged with online is discussed offline. Discussion is based on independent learning on the online platform and prior reading of materials.

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

  • Self-study (reading, using discussion platform, preparing for final exam and paper): 128 hours

  • Seminars: 8 hours

  • Examination and viewing: 4 hours

Assessment method

  • One written exam (50%)

  • One essay (50%)

Each of the two parts has to individually be a pass (5.5 or higher) before a weighed final grade is given for the course as a whole. Both parts can be re-taken once in January if failed. For rules of compensation and retakes, please refer to the website of the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Public Administration.

Reading list

For this course, students will read the following:
1. Mizzoni, John (2010 or 2017 edition). Ethics: The Basics. Chicester, UK: Wiley Blackwell. Paperback. This book is readily available (for purchase) online. It is also placed in the permanent reading stand in the Library at the Wijnhaven for viewing and copying.
2. Lawton, Alan, Rayner, Julie & Lasthuizen (2012 or 2013). Ethics and Management in the Public Sector. London/New York: Routhledge (also available online!).
3. Additional articles (see course hand-out later). All articles will be available for free with UBL access.


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 15 July 13.00h., 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.