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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 module 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.

Learning outcomes

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

  • discuss the variety of approaches to public policy and management in different parts of the world and periods
  • analyse the elements of the social, economic, political and cultural contexts in which governments operate and the influence of these elements on approaches to management and policy
  • explain how ideal types of government arrangements have influenced government policy
  • advise on some of the major choices that governments have to make when making management arrangements
  • evaluate the applicability of ideas about policy and management developed in one jurisdiction to another
  • assess claims that the role and function of the state is everywhere in decline.

Study materials

Study guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight 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 Virtual Learning Environment.


The pre-module reading for the whole of Public Policy and Management programmes is:

Hague R & M Harrop (2016) Comparative Government and Politics: An Introduction. 10th Edition. Palgrave Macmillan.


Because no single textbook could be found that covered all the issues raised in this module, 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.

Virtual learning environment

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

Module overview

Unit 1 The State, Public Policy and Management
  • 1.1 What is public management?
  • 1.2 What is the public sector?
  • 1.3 What is public policy?
  • 1.4 Summary: the importance of context in managing change
Unit 2 Understanding the State
  • 2.1 Why public action? Market failure as an explanation?
  • 2.2 Size and functions
  • 2.3 Economic development and the state
  • 2.4 States and welfare
  • 2.5 The state and politics
  • 2.6 Implications of regime type for public policy and management
Unit 3 Ideal Types
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 The classical Chinese Civil Service
  • 3.3 Max Weber and bureaucracy
  • 3.4 'Progressive' Public Administration: taking the politics out of management
  • 3.5 The 'New deal'
  • 3.6 Post-Bureaucracy: reinventing government
  • 3.7 'New Public Management'
  • 3.8 After 'New Public Management'
Unit 4 Policy Analysis and Evaluation
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 The policy process: 'Rational Model' and its opponents
  • 4.3 Institutions, élites and policy networks
  • 4.4 Policy in practice: case study on China's economic reforms
  • 4.5 Policy evaluation
Unit 5 Policy and Management Dilemmas I
  • 5.1 Markets, hierarchies, clans or networks?
  • 5.2 Public choice or public spirit?
  • 5.3 Summary and review
Unit 6 Policy and Management Dilemmas 2
  • 6.1 Managing discretion: centralisation and decentralisation
  • 6.2 Managing reforms: big bangs, cultural change and reorganisation
  • 6.3 Unit review questions
Unit 7 Policy Transfer
  • 7.1 A theory of policy transfer: institutional form
  • 7.2 Case study 1 – The USA occupation of Japan: The New Deal as policy transfer
  • 7.3 Case study 2 – Public Sector Transformation in South Africa
Unit 8 The Future of the State?
  • 8.1 The end of the state?
  • 8.2 Choices
  • 8.3 End of course review questions

Tuition and assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total 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 module, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in September/October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in April each year.

Module sample

Click on the link below to download the module sample document in PDF.