[skip to content]

Centre for Financial and Management Studies (CeFiMS)

Public Policy and Management: Perspectives & Issues

Course Code:
Unit value:


We live in an era of frequent and sometimes radical change in what governments do and how they are organised to do it. Sometimes the changes are generated within countries as responses to social, political and economic developments and sometimes they originate outside the country. The purpose of this course is to provide an analytical framework for understanding public policy and management in a variety of historical and comparative contexts. It will give you the means to make your own judgements about appropriate ways to make public policy and organise and deliver public services.


Study Guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight ‘course units’. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Online Study Centre.


Because no single textbook could be found that covered all the issues raised in this course, students will be provided with three volumes of readings. These draw upon selected articles and extracts from books developing and exploring the nature of the state and governance, state-society relations, what states should (and should not) do, why, and how. There are case studies of policy making, evaluation, governance changes and structural and management reforms in a variety of contexts.

Online Study Centre

You will have access to the OSC, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the OSC, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the course using discussion forums. The OSC also provides access to the course Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • define for yourself what are the main differences between managing in the public and the private sectors
  • identify the origins in the social political and economic context of the ideal types of public management that have been and are being promoted
  • classify states and regime types and understand the impact of different types of state on management and policy processes
  • analyse the policy making process in order to be able to participate in it
  • design an outline policy evaluation
  • evaluate alternative governance mechanisms for public services and make a choice of appropriate organisational forms
  • understand how policy transfer happens
  • handle and apply with confidence the vocabulary of public policy and management today.

Scope and syllabus

Course Content
Unit 1: The State, Public Policy and Management
  • What is public management?
  • What is the public sector?
  • What is public policy?
  • Summary: the importance of context in managing
Unit 2: Understanding the State
  • Why public action? Market failure as an explanation?
  • Size and functions
  • Economic development and the state
  • States and welfare
  • The state and politics
  • Implications of regime type for public policy and management
Unit 3: Ideal Types
  • Introduction
  • The classical Chinese civil service
  • Max Weber and bureaucracy
  • Progressive Public Administration: taking the politics out of management
  • The ‘New deal’
  • Post-Bureaucracy: reinventing government
  • New Public Management
Unit 4: Policy Analysis and Evaluation
  • Introduction
  • The policy process: ‘Rational Model’ and its opponents
  • Institutions, élites and policy networks
  • Policy in practice: case study on China’s economic reforms
  • Policy evaluation
  • Summary and review
Unit 5: Policy and Management Dilemmas I
  • Markets, hierarchies, clans or networks?
  • Public choice or public spirit?
  • Summary and review
Unit 6: Policy and Management Dilemmas 2
  • Managing discretion: centralisation and decentralisation
  • Managing reforms: big bangs, cultural change and reorganisation
  • Unit review questions
Unit 7: Policy Transfer
  • A theory of policy transfer: institutional form
  • Case study 1 – the USA occupation of Japan: The New Deal as policy transfer
  • Case Study 2 – ‘Structural Adjustment and New Public Management’
Unit 8: The Future of the State?
  • The end of the state?
  • Choices
  • Organisational structures: separating policy from service delivery
  • End of course review questions

Method of assessment

You will complete two assignments, which will be marked by your tutor. Each assignment is worth 15% of your total course mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the course, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published in April each year.