Understanding Organisations

School: School of Government
International Development Department

Modular value: 20 credits

Lecturer: Adrian Campbell

This module is concerned with understanding the theory and practice of organisational analysis in the public sector and focuses on the problems of organisations that are specific to the public administrative context.  The module reviews different ways of looking at organisations and diagnosing organisational problems. 

Particular attention is paid to the dual nature of public bureaucracy, as analysed by Weber, Simon and later theorists. In order to analyse case studies from public administration in different national and institutional settings, students are given a grounding in the rational, political and cultural models of organisation, all of which have a particular relevance to the public sector and which provide a framework for understanding the changes that have occurred in government and the public sector over the last twenty years.  The dissolution of organisational boundaries and the rise of network, project and virtual models of organisation are discussed in the context of the long-term development of bureaucratic organisations, with an emphasis on how government organisations have evolved in developing, transitional and newly-industrialised countries.

The module explores approaches to organisation change in public organisations, focusing on the choice between competitive and collaborative, radical and incremental approaches.  It is taught largely through the analysis of a series of case studies, each of which illustrates a particular set of problems which are characteristic of public administration in different geographical contexts.

By the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Take the role of an informed, objective and critical analytical observer in an organisational context
  • Understand and apply a range of organisational concepts to diagnose problems of public administration
  • Appreciate well the role of strategic management in the organisational change process and the different approaches and models that might be adopted in different institutional and cultural contexts
  • Be capable of developing innovative and effective solutions to complex organisational problems in a public administration context.


  • This is by two 3,000 assignments.

Related courses:

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.