Public Services Procurement and Contracting

School: School of Government
Institute of Local Government Studies

Modular value: 20 credits
Duration: 2 x 2 full day seminars

Module convenors: Dr Peter Watt

This module will explore the complex and varied activities associated with procurement and contracting in the public sector, and help participants to plan and organise their activities in this area. It will also introduce some theoretical models to help participants understand and analyse the benefits and risks associated with this approach to public service delivery. Participants will consider the concept and reality of public service markets and supply networks, and some of the economic and behavioural theories of contracting. They will explore approaches to mapping, analysing and developing provider markets and supply-chains, based on experience and research from the public, commercial and third sectors.

The module will examine the ‘make, buy or partner?’ decisions facing commissioners, and a range of public service production models including in-house provision, external procurement, and hybrid approaches such as Public-Private Partnerships, Private Finance Initiatives and Joint Ventures. Contributors will help participants to explore the diversity of potential provider markets, and the issues associated with commissioning from different types of organisations.

The module aims to improve participants’ understanding of what constitutes a transparent and fair approach to activities such as service specification, tendering, contract monitoring, performance management and decommissioning, with a particular emphasis on the shift towards ‘outcomes-based contracting’ for public services. It will also consider the need for procurement and contracting by public authorities in future, in a context where service users are increasingly involved in directly securing their own care and support.

Teaching and learning approach

Unit 1

  • Introduction to the module - commissioning and procurement of local authority and health services Markets and the ecology of provision
  • Economics of contracting I
  • Economics of contracting II
  • Working with the third sector
  • Organising for contracting - understanding the organisational dimension - partnership, capacity and process
  • Private sector lessons for public procurement

Unit 2

  • Contract management and monitoring I
  • Contract management and monitoring II
  • De-commissioning services I
  • De-commissioning services II
  • Partnerships and Cases in procurement partnerships
  • Creating NHS Local
  • Using commissioning to really deliver
  • Commissioning for quality and outcomes I
  • Commissioning for quality and outcomes II
  • User involvement in commissioning

Learning outcomes

As result of completing the module, participants should be able to:

  • Critically analyse different planning and procurement models in public sector organisations, their underlying assumptions, risks and benefits
  • Map and analyse markets (including determining primary objectives; undertaking segmentation, benefits and feature analysis; and using theories of competitive advantage to enhance commissioner influence)
  • Understand procurement options (make or buy decisions, aggregated contracts, hybrid commissioner-provider organisations, different provider models, monopolies and networks)
  • Understand approaches to the management of contractual relationships including service specification, contract management, monitoring of providers and dealing with inadequate performance
  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of markets in local government and health services, and how supplier development contributes to efficiency in procurement and commissioning
  • Critically evaluate evidence of the impact of procurement and contracting decisions in public services
  • Assimilate, synthesize and critically analyse the impact of government decisions regarding procurement and different models of contracting


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

  • 1 x 1000 word assignment (25%) 
  • 1 x 3000 word assignment (75%)

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.