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This module examines the theories and rationales of the regulation of infrastructure and utilities. Drawing from several case studies from various countries, it will examine current debates on regulatory policy and the political economy of regulation, including regulatory discretion and commitment, regulatory quality and capacity, and the design of regulatory systems.

Learning outcomes

This course aims to make students:

  • understand what is regulation and why governments should be con-cerned with regulatory policy;
  • learn how to apply regulatory tools for attaining desired economic and social behaviour in infrastructure and utilities;
  • learn to analyse regulatory systems and their impact on infrastructure and utilities;
  • learn to evaluate the performance of regulatory policies and regulatory systems;
  • learn to design regulatory systems and policies to fit particular prob-lem scenarios and contexts.

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • explain what is regulation and why the governments should regulate infrastructure and utilities;
  • explain what kind of regulatory tools are available for governments;
  • assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of alternative regulatory strategies;
  • explain what is regulatory failure and devise remedies to prevent regulatory failure to happen;
  • explain the variety of regulatory systems across infrastructure and utilities sectors of the economy and across countries;
  • advise on the design of regulatory systems for the pursue of different policy objectives.

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.


This course is based on several readings. There is no main textbook. The reading list includes several articles and some book chapters, and some publications of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank.

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 Theories of Regulation
  • 1.1 Introduction
  • 1.2 Regulation, Regulation Everywhere: The Rise of Regulatory Capitalism
  • 1.3 Explaining Regulation
  • 1.4 The Regulation of Infrastructure and Utilities
  • 1.5 Case Study: The Regulation of the Energy Sector in Thailand
  • 1.6 Conclusions
Unit 2 Regulatory Approaches and Strategies
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Crafting regulation of privatised infrastructure
  • 2.3 Regulating through mixed public-private ownership firms
  • 2.4 Regulating through contracts
  • 2.5 Regulating through independent regulatory agencies
  • 2.6 Regulating through market competition
  • 2.7 Case study: privatisation and regulatory reform of toll motorways in Europe
  • 2.8 Conclusions
Unit 3 Regulatory Reforms
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 What are regulatory reforms?
  • 3.3 Why do regulatory reforms happen?
  • 3.4 The effects of regulatory reforms
  • 3.5 Case study: the reform of the British and German railway regulation
  • 3.6 Conclusions
Unit 4 The Politics of Regulation
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Regulation in the age of governance
  • 4.3 Playing regulatory games
  • 4.4 The struggle between autonomy and political control
  • 4.5 Case study: regulating telecommunications in India
  • 4.6 Conclusions
Unit 5 Regulatory Commitment and Investments
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 The economics of infrastructure development
  • 5.3 The role of institutions in infrastructure development
  • 5.4 Which policies can stimulate investments in infrastructure?
  • 5.5 Case study: regulation of expressways in Indonesia
  • 5.6 Conclusions
Unit 6 The Performance of Regulatory Systems
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 How well do regulatory systems work?
  • 6.3 Benchmarking and yardstick competition
  • 6.4 Regulatory governance and performance
  • 6.5 Case study: local public transport in Barcelona
  • 6.6 Conclusions
Unit 7 The design of regulatory systems
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Regulatory Impact Assessments
  • 7.3 Regulatory design guidelines
  • 7.4 Regulatory obsolescence
  • 7.5 Case study: light-handed regulation of airports in Australia and New Zealand
  • 7.6 Conclusions
Unit 8 Regulatory Capacity
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Improving regulation in developed countries
  • 8.3 Improving regulation in developing countries
  • 8.4 Building regulatory capacity
  • 8.5 Case study: regulatory reform in Africa
  • 8.6 Conclusions

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.