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Comparative Public Management


Admission requirements



How do public managers in the Netherland, Spain, and Japan behave differently? Why do public managers in some countries tend to be engaged in corrupt behaviour while those in other countries do not. Why are some public managers more innovative than others? More broadly, what explains variations in public managers’ attitudes and behaviours across countries? The main purpose of this course is to understand how characteristics of public administration differ across countries (or across municipalities or ministries) and how they influence public managers’ attitudes and behaviour, management practices, organisational performance, and broader outcomes. Rather than internal management of public organisations, this course focuses on the impacts of environmental and institutional factors on public managers’ attitudes, behaviour, and policy and socioeconomic outcomes.

In recent years, scholars in the fields of public administration and political science have “rediscovered” the importance of public bureaucracies for understanding different levels of government performance (Olsen 2006). Recent studies show that meritocratically recruited, autonomous, and impartial public administration—so called “Weberian bureaucracy”—is associated with long-term economic development, improved health outcomes, reduced corruption, greater innovation, and higher government effectiveness. Furthermore, recent studies also show that demographic representation in public organisations affects organisational performance and policy preferences. However, the field of public management has been accused of neglecting the big questions (Roberts 2017, 9) and assumed that “all states are alike—that Mexico is just like the United States, for example” (Milward 2016, 312). This course aims to bridge this gap.

In this course, students are expected to not only study the related academic works, but also critically and constructively evaluate the previous studies. Students can use this opportunity to begin or to further develop their master’s thesis or independent research. This course does not focus on a specific geographic area. Instead, we will examine various countries in the world from a comparative perspective.

The class will address, for example, questions such as:

  • What explains cross-national and sub-national governments’ variations in levels of corruption, government effectiveness, and innovativeness?

  • Why are public managers in some countries more likely to engage in corruption than those in other countries?

  • Why are public managers in some national governments (or local governments) more innovative than others?

  • How does gender representation in the public sector affect organisational performance and policy preferences?

  • How do capacities and the experience of public sector leaders affect performance?

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Explain varieties in administrative characteristics and management practices around the world;

  • Understand to what extent different institutional features and management practices influence governance outcomes and public manager’s attitudes and practices;

  • Critically and constructively assess the existing studies;

  • Practice research design skills and use the insights from the course to start or advance his or her own independent research or master's thesis.


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

Mode of instruction

This course takes participatory approaches of teaching rather than the classic lecture style approaches. Students are expected to actively engage in individual and group activity as well as class discussion. This course will be taught through a mix of lectures by the instructor, student presentations, group discussion, class activity, and class discussion facilitated by students.

The total course load for this course is 140 hours (5 EC x 28 hours). These hours are (approximately) spent on:

  • Attending lectures (a total of 21 hours)

  • Self-study (e.g., studying readings and cases, completing assignments) (119 hours)

Assessment method

  • Active class participation and in-class activities: 20%

  • Presentation and discussion leader: 15%

  • Short assignment: 20%

  • Final assignment: 45%

All components need to be passed with a grade of 5.5 or higher in order to successfully complete this course. Redoing an assignment in case of a grade lower than 5.5 must be done before the course end and final paper deadline. Redoing the final paper is only possible if the paper had a score lower than 5.5.

Partial grades are only valid in the current academic year; partial grades will not remain valid after the exam and the resit of the course.

Reading list

The course does not follow a single text across all sessions. Instead, each class session will consist of 2-5 mandatory readings, which should be available via Leiden University Library.


Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course. Due to the closure of the university on the 4th of October registration for the MPA electives of block 2 will open on the 5th of October on 13 hours.

From the academic year 2020-2021 Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in uSis you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Dr. Kohei Suzuki