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Public Values


Admission requirements

Only students of the Master Public Administration can participate in this course.


What is ‘public’ about the public sector? Is ‘efficiency’ a core value if you work for government? Does ‘the public interest’ exist? Can ‘public administration’ be described in a value free manner? Is ‘integrity’ a special value for the public sector? Or ‘client-orientedness’? These questions concern the very nature of public life and they all relate to normative ideas. On the one hand, attention for values in our discipline is as old as the field itself. On the other hand, attention seems to be booming if we take into consideration the growing interest, among politicians, civil servants, and academics, in issues of ethics and public values (in both policy-making and in management), and the increased awareness that the very concept we use to describe and discuss matters of government and administration are value-laden.
This course will focus on the normative foundations in a broad perspective: what values are central to the public sector, its administration, and its study? The subject is a broad, in-depth introduction to the core issues regarding the (public) values used in thought on government and administration, with a focus on the most recent developments and debates.

Course objectives

We aim to meet the following two ‘final goals’ of the MSc-program:
a. Orientation on the content and foundations of various areas of public administration
b. Academic skills
Specifically, this course aims to provide students with:
1. Knowledge of the value-laden character of public administration and its study.
2. An overview of classic and contemporary research on (public) values in PA theory.
3. Insight in the nature and particularly the diversity and/or unity of (public) values.
4. An advanced-level theory-based analysis of normative issues relating to the public sector.
5. Ability to respond to value-related claims in students’ own area of specialization or interest.
6. Skills to reflect critically and write academically on PV questions in PA theory & practice.


The (provisional) timetable can be found on the schedule page

Mode of instruction

Lectures and/or seminar sessions

Assessment method

Written assignment



Reading list

  • De Vries, M.S. & Kim, P.S., Value and Virtue in Public Administration: A Comparative Perspective (november 2013, nieuwe paperback-uitgave). Palgrave. ISBN: 978-1137387981

  • Additional articles. More information on the articles can be found in the course guide on Blackboard.


Via uSis

Contact information

Dr. P. Overeem

Consultation hour(s)

Term 1: none (no class)
Term 2: monday 11th November 9-11 h.
Term 3: friday 13th December 9-11 h.
Term 4: friday 11th April 13-15 h.


Please read the texts assigned for the first meeting (announced on BlackBoard).