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Public Values & Ethics


Admission requirements

This course is open to Erasmus Exchange Students (Public Administration), Students of the Minor Bestuurskunde: Openbaar Bestuur, Beleid en Management, and Leiden University students (elective/keuzevak).


This course offers an in-depth 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 particularly popular nowadays and is adopted here as a means to understand and articulate the special character of the public sector. It conceptualizes the difference between a public and a private sector in terms of values served in each. So, the character of the public sector is explained in terms of ‘public values’. Public values is a hot topic nowadays in the study of public administration and a helpful entrance to many fundamental and pressing issues. The notion of (public) ethics, secondly, particularly directs our attention to thinking about the proper fulfillment of public office. Holders of positions in the public sector are continuously facing moral questions and choices. Ethics intends to help them tackle those by offering arguments for particular answers and options over others. In this connection, issues of public wrongdoing (such as corruption and/or other integrity violations) and controversial public behavior (such as dirty hands) are also discussed in class.

Course objectives

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

  • To describe 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 E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

This course is a so-called “flipped classroom”. This means that it is offered online (70%) via an online learning platform (called NEO) as well as in face-to-face seminars (30%).

The online modes of instruction include:

  • 14 video lectures (two topics per week for seven weeks)

  • MC quizzes. Students are expected to participate in online quizzes after each module to train and test knowledge and insight. A quiz consists of 5 multiple choice questions. The correct answers are given immediately after the quiz is finished, with explanation concerning the right answer. Quizzes are not graded.

  • E-tivity: a forum discussion with online moderation by the lecturers

  • Peer assessment and discussion of each other’s paper outline. This is a mandatory part of the course. Not handing in the peer review means exclusion from further participation in the course.

The offline modes of instruction include:

  • 4 seminars (on the Thursday 15.15 – 17.00 of week 44, 46, 48, 50, see roster 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 the materials.

  • Attendance to all four seminars is mandatory to pass this course. Attendance will be registered. Only in case of serious personal circumstances are students allowed to miss max. one seminar. Deviation from this rule can only be considered when students have (a) notified the lecturer immediately and prior to the seminar and (b) have notified the study advisor immediately and prior to the seminar of the reasons for missing a class. Whoever is absent in more than one seminar, no matter the circumstances, will be excluded from further participation in the course.

NB After registration for this course in USIS, students will receive a notification on how to register for the online platform (called NEO) that will be used for this course (similar to Blackboard). The platform contains the video lectures as well as weekly quizzes and discussion forums and all relevant information on the course. The platform will also be used for all communication throughout the course.

Course Load

Students are expected to spend the regular amount of time on this course for 5 ECTS, i.e. 140 hours. Roughly this is divided over the course as follows:

  • Self-study (reading, making MC quizzes, using discussion platform): 93 hours

  • Seminars: 8 hours

  • Final paper (including peer review assignment): 40 hours

  • Final exam: 3 hours

Assessment method

  • All students make one final written exam (50%)

  • All students write one final 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 if failed. For rules of compensation and retakes, please refer to the website of the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Public Administration.

  • There is an outline and peer review assignment in preparation for the final essay. All students have to hand in an outline of their paper and all students review someone else’s outline. Both activities are mandatory to receive a grade and therefore to pass the course but they will not be graded.

You will be able to find more information about assessments, assignments and the timetable for exams in the course hand-out.

Please note that retakes are held in January!


Blackboard will be not be used in this course. Instead we will use a different platform for this online course, called NEO. After registration for this course in USIS, students will receive a notification on how to register for the online platform (similar to Blackboard). The platform contains the video lectures as well as weekly quizzes and discussion forums and all relevant information on the course. The platform will also be used for all communication throughout the course.

Reading list

For this course, students will read two handbooks:
1. Mizzoni, John (2010 or 2017 edition). Ethics: The Basics. Chicester, UK: Wiley Blackwell. Paperback.
2. Lawton, Alan, Rayner, Julie, & Karin Lasthuizen (2012 of 2013). Ethics and Management in the Public Sector. London/New York: Routledge. Paperback.
3. Students will have to read some additional articles (see course hand-out later)
Both books are readily available for purchase online. One of each is also placed in the permanent reading stand in the Library at the Wijnhaven building. Students can copy etc. but not take these copies home. Buying the book is, however, highly advisable. Please be careful when copying to preserve the book for others.


The Faculty requests students to register for every course in uSis and Blackboard. Register for every course and working group via uSis. There are special working groups organized for minor, exchange and elective students. Some courses and working groups 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.


Dr. A.D.N. Kerkhoff


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 such a way so as to enable 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.