Public Management

School: School of Government
Institute of Local Government Studies

Modular value: 20 credits
Duration: Full time: weekly 2 hour seminars, Part time: 2 x 2 full day seminars

The aim of this module is to introduce participants to the key concepts and principles in the management and governance of public organisations. The objectives are to provide participants with a grounding in the development of public management and in the principles of good governance, social inclusion and community cohesion, the role of the state in provision and commissioning of public services; the nature of public accountability, forms of democracy; ethics; corruption and institutional aspects of governance. It provides an important foundation for many key concepts and ideas that are developed further in subsequent modules.

The module covers a wide range of ideas and concepts. To help you make the most of your studies, we suggest you aim to read at least one relevant article or book chapter before the session to which it relates. This should help put the session in perspective.

The aims of the module are that participants should:

  • Examine and assess the nature of public management and governance, with a particular focus on the UK
  • Understand the contribution and limitations of relevant ideas, concepts and frameworks
  • Be aware of the key contemporary debates
  • Understand the economic arguments that explain the existence and role of the public sector
  • Become familiar with the literature on public management and governance
  • Be able to relate theory to practice
  • Develop the capacity to write clearly and analytically about this field of study
  • Strengthen their appreciation and skills in understanding, analysing and solving complex public management and governance problems

Teaching and learning approach

Unit 1

  • Ideas about governance – framework for thinking 
    -  Hierarchical governance 
    -  Managerial governance 
    -  Market governance 
    -  Network governance
  • Analysing your organisations
  • Democratic governance 
    -  Democracy, legitimacy and accountability Break 
    -  Changing forms of government 
    -  Understanding policy discourse: the case of Birmingham

Unit 2

  • Management challenges 
    -  Providing and commissioning roles of the state 
    -  The regulating and enabling roles of the state 
    -  The global financial crisis: causes and consequences 
    -  Managing organisational complexity
  • Corporate governance 
    -  External regulation 
    -  Internal structures 
    -  The Enron case
  • International perspectives on governance: 
    -  Good governance in conflict and post-conflict zones 
    -  Governance at the European level
  • Governance challenges 
    -  Justice, security and rights in a democratic society: International perspectives on governance 
    -  When Things Go Wrong: Lessons from the Stockwell Tube Station Enquiry

Learning outcomes

As a result of the module, participants will be able to:

  • Illustrate the way in which the definition and nature of public management and governance has changed
  • Critically assess the impact of the changing institutional framework
  • Identify and demonstrate the significance of the corporate governance and ethical agenda for public servants
  • Show how different theoretical perspectives on democracy and citizenship relate to the governance and management of public services
  • Identify and illustrate the impact on the public service of the changing social, economic and value environment
  • Identify key features of the political and managerial environment and illustrate its implications for public management and governance
  • Demonstrate improved analytical and problem solving skills in relation to complex public management and governance issues
  • Identify an agenda of issues which they will be able to pursue through their programme of study.


The module will be assessed through the completion of two written assignment:

  • 2 x 3,000 word assignments (each 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.