Public Sector Reform

School: School of Government
International Development Department

Modular value: 20 credits

Module Convenors: Adrian Campbell and Simon Delay

Aim of the Module

The module has three components:

Public Administrative Reform (PAR)  (including civil service reform) in developing (including transitional and middle-income) countries.  This component will take as its starting Andrews’ critique of universalist PAR and how a more balanced approach, less dominated by formal systems might make reform more effective.

Public Service Reform in developing (including transitional and middle-income) countries, including changing forms of delivery. This component takes as its starting point the works of Batley, Larbi and Mcloughlin on the changing role of government and non-state providers in public services in developing countries and the factors influencing the success and failure of reforms in particular contexts.

Decentralization Reforms (including territorial reform, functional decentralisation, fiscal reform and decentralised finance) in developing (including transitional and middle-income) countries. This component takes as its starting point the series of studies carried out by the global observatory on decentralization, established by the Union of Cities and Local Governments and uses these to explore international variations in the relationship between decentralized governance, fiscal and functional decentralization.

The module concludes with presentations and discussions aimed at identifying and analysing commonalities and inter-connections between the three different field of reform and the issues arising from these.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will be able:

  • To be able to provide insightful critical analysis of the potential benefits and problems associated with Administrative and Civil Service Reform in developing countries
  • Have the capacity to evaluate and critically analyse  different strategies of Public Services Reform in developing countries
  • Engage critically with the main policy choices regarding in State Territorial Reform in developing countries
  • Be capable of conducting critical comparative analysis of different approaches to fiscal and financial decentralisation in developing countries

Teaching and learning approach

The module will be delivered as three hour sessions per week, using a range of teaching and learning methods, including break-out discussions and group presentation based seminar sessions – one on each sub-topic of the module.

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction: the role of government and governmental reform in developing and transitional countries
  • Different approaches and ideologies of state reform – beyond modernisation, new public  management, neo-weberianism and westernisation
  • Public services reform – non-state providers – the cases of Ghana and Nepal
  • Institutional and labour market reform – the case of China
  • Civil Service Reform – the cases of India and Bangladesh
  • Decentralisation – the cases of Indonesia and Thailand
  • Territorial Reform – the cases of Russia and Pakistana
  • Fiscal Reform – the cases of Brazil and Indonesia
  • Reform case study exercise
  • Group presentations


  • Two 3,000 word assignments. Each assignment is worth 50%.

Related courses:

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.