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Public Values & Ethics


Admission requirements

This course is part of;

  • The Erasmus Exchange Programme (Public Administration)

  • The Minor Bestuurskunde: Openbaar Bestuur, Beleid en Management

  • The Minor Public Administration: Multi-Level Governance (Elective)


This course offers an introduction to and 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 adopted as a means to understand and articulate the special character of the public sector as it conceptualizes the difference between a public and a private sector in terms of the values (supposedly) served in each. The notion of (public) ethics, secondly, particularly directs our attention to the systematic reflection on everyday morality and thinking about the proper fulfillment of public office in particular. Holders of positions in the public sector are continuously facing moral questions and choices. Ethics intends to help them tackle those questions by offering arguments for particular answers and options over others. As such, we discuss a range of ethical theories, such as virtue ethics, social contract ethics, deontology, and utilitarianism. In addition, we apply these to public sector problems. In particular, we discuss specific issues of public wrongdoing (such as corruption and/or other integrity violations) and controversial public behavior (such as the problems of dirty and many hands or lacking integrity and corruption).

Course objectives

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

  • To describe and explain 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 Prospectus 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 weeks 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:

  • 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.

  • Lawton, Alan, Rayner, Julie, & Karin Lasthuizen (2012 or 2013). Ethics and Management in the Public Sector. London/New York: Routledge
    Additional articles (see course hand-out later).

All articles will be available for free with UBL access.


Register for the lectures and exams via MyStudymap or uSis. Registration is possible from Tuesday 11 July, 13.00 h.
Minor students will be enrolled in a workgroup by the programme.
Some courses and working groups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts).

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

After registration for an exam you still need to confirm your attendance via MyStudymap. If you do not confirm, you will ultimately be de-registered and you will not be allowed to take the exam.
More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis. Guest-/contract-/exchange students also do not have to confirm their participation for exams via MyStudymap.


M.C.G. Sievert


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 a way that enables 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.