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Executive Accountability in a Multi-level Governance Context


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Public Administration can take this course.


Accountability, a word that a few decades ago was used rarely and in a relatively restricted meaning, now pops up everywhere and has become common in the discourse of government and public administration. Academic understanding of accountability relationships has grown impressively in recent years. This course will examine how shifts from government to governance in the context of local, national and international executives have changed the notion of accountability. The changing institutional context raises fundamental questions about the nature of accountability, who owes accountability to whom and how accountability requirements are best met.
In the seminar sessions, we deal with the accountability of executives in complex systems of multilevel governance; we will unpack the concept of accountability; discuss the evolution of its meaning; address the accountability problem through different disciplinary lenses; and compare the different approaches taken to executive accountability. Typical for modern executives is that they operate in institutional settings that combine patterns of intergovernmental (and often also public-private) co-operation and different democratic arrangements. Such a compound polity is not only characterised by a multitude of accountability mechanisms, but also by multitude of actors. We will explore the way in which the key players in the process of public policy-making and policy-implementation can be held to account by political bodies, the media, NGO’s, by audit commissions and other public watchdogs. We will deal with accountability requirements of different stakeholders and types of accountability; we delve into the changing requirements that accompany globalization and the “hollowing out” of the state. Finally, we explore the implications of multi-level governance networks, governing by targets and performance management systems and increased transparency standards for accountability.

Course objectives

The specific aims and objectives of this course are to provide students with a thorough knowledge and understanding of accountability on both a theoretical and practical level; and to relate accountability studies to the broader discipline of political and administrative studies in a multi-level and comparative and international context.


The (provisional) timetable is on the first page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method




Reading list




Contact information

Mevr. Dr. A. Wille