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Comparative Public Management

Course 2018-2019

Admission requirements

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


Do public managers in the Netherlands and Germany behave differently than their counterparts in Singapore, India, or China? And if so, why is that the case? And what do they do exactly to solve problems, and perform effectively? In this course, we will contrast and compare managerial practices in various jurisdictions, and examine how cultural, institutional, organizational, and legal contexts constrain as well as enable public managers to organize, reform, perform and innovate.

Indeed, although global challenges and trends (digitization, individualization, ageing, climate change, economic interdependence) may be fairly universal, public managers and the agencies they lead find different solutions depending on the context of their operating environment. For instance, if public managers succeed in leveraging the strengths, expertise, and added (financial) value offered by stakeholders and technological tools, while overcoming various collaborative challenges, they are able to produce more ‘public value’ at less cost. However, in more pluralist, democratic societies, collaborating with stakeholders and citizens may be supported and even expected, whereas in more authoritarian countries it may be frowned upon, or at least take place in a different way.

This forward-looking course examines and compares strategies and action perspectives used by public managers to turn 21st century challenges into opportunities. It does so from the perspective that technological, demographic, and societal trends offer many challenges but at the same time unlimited opportunities for innovative, effective, and citizen-centric service delivery.

Case studies and class discussions ensure continuous linkage between recent research evidence and the tough everyday life of managers aspiring to create public value. Most importantly, your own experiences and examples will ensure general examples and evidence will feed back into your own professional world, and vice versa.

Course objectives

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

• Understand how and why important core concepts and tools of public management are more or less effective in different contexts;
• Analyze and understand real-life public management challenges and practices in different regions and countries;
• Make effective and realistic recommendations on how to improve public management challenges for their own context, and in cross-national settings;
• Showcase improved writing, collaborating, presenting, and argumentation skills.


On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

This main structure of this course consists of 7 classroom sessions of 2 hours each.

The pedagogy for this course includes short lectures, class discussions, small group breakout sessions, and case-based problem-solving activities. Usually, our session will start with an interactive lecture, followed by a case discussion and/or a problem-solving assignment. The order may also be reversed.

Through individual assignments, you will practice analytical and writing skills, including how to write clear and concise memos and reflection pieces. You will also learn how to express yourself effectively in group discussions and plenary Q&A sessions in class.

Needless to say, you will be challenged to think about public management challenges from different, sometimes rivalry, perspectives. You will be asked on the spot for your views and arguments. Thus, by the end of the course you will have further developed the skills to critically think, make logical arguments, and provide solutions to problems. The course does not aim to provide off-the-shelf solutions to problems; it aims to produce public managers that make good decisions on their own.

Student participation is a crucial part of the course. You are expected to learn from and build constructively on peer comments and provide helpful feedback. This will form a considerable portion of the final grade.

Course Load

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

• Attending lectures (together 14 hours)
• Self-study (e.g., studying readings and cases, completing assignments) (126 hours)

Assessment method

The grading of this course is based on 3 assignments:

• Six individual 1-page statements submitted each week as preparation for class discussions; making up 30% of the final grade;
• Active participation in class discussions and break-out group case discussions; making up 25% of the grade
• An individual essay of 2,000 words (including notes, references, figures, and tables) on one of the 7 challenges identified in the book The 21st Century Public Manager, and how public managers in your country context can address that challenge most effectively; making up 45% of the grade.

To complete the final grade, please take note of the following:

  1. Both the group assignment (final grade based on report and presentation) and the individual literature review should be passed (grade of 5.5 or higher) in order to pass the course.
  2. For the individual literature review a retake is possible. For the group assignment, only a retake is possible for the written report (not for the oral presentation). For the statements, no retake is possible.
  3. You can only pass an assignment if you complete and submit the assignment on time. Deadlines for the assignments (including deadlines for retakes) will be published on Blackboard.


Blackboard will be available at the end of August. A specified course description (including information about the assignments, deadlines, and course readings) will be published at Blackboard.

Reading list

Main teaching tekst:

Van der Wal, Z. (2017). The 21st Century Public Manager. London: Macmillan Education.
Additional readings and cases will be made available through Blackboard prior to the start of the course.


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.

Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups 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 four weeks before the start of the course.

Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.

Contact information

Prof. dr. Zeger van der Wal
Office hours by appointment.