What is Public Governance?

NB: This was originally posted in 2012. As of September 2018 I no longer work at Queen Margaret University. As such some of the links on the below post may no longer work. For information about my current post please go to the about me section of this website.
Focus and purpose

Queen Margaret University has recently developed the first ever Postgraduate Certificate in Public Services Governance. This is due to commence in September 2012. But what is Public Services Governance?

In later posts I want to look at the question of why public services rather than, say, public sector governance. But right now I am going to look at the question of governance.

Why governance and not administration or management? And what does this mean for the philosophy and content of our programme?

The purpose of this blogpost is to outline how our Public Services Governance programme differs from the more commonplace Masters in Public Administration (MPA) or Public Management courses.
Definitions of Public Governance

One of the challenges in developing a programme in Public Services Governance is that there are a number of differing definitions and even a number of different labels such as Public Governance / Responsive Governance / Network Governance / Public Services Governance. I’m not going to try to provide a comprehensive overview of Public Governance within this blogpost. There are many excellent academic texts, some of which are listed at the end of this post, that are worth reading for a more comprehensive understanding of the subject.

In terms of policy the term started to gain prominence in the 1990’s within a number of World Bank reports (1989; 1992; 1994). In this context the term was used to refer to the importance of good governance in international development. The World Bank defined the term as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development” (World Bank, 1992). What is interesting here is that the term is not specific to government or the public sector but involves all those with a role to play in international development.
From Public Management to Public Governance

The term public management, or New Public Management (NPM), is now a familiar term across academia and the public services. This term came to prominence within academia and policy-circles in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This period saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, publication of Francis Fukuyama’s (1989) End of History thesis, and the rise of a neo-liberal consensus across many western States. It was within this context that New Public Management emerged as a set of management tools (largely borrowed from the private sector) to improve efficiencies. Typically this consisted of:

  • emphasis on performance management
  • more flexible and devolved financial management;
  • more devolved personnel management with increasing use of performance-related pay and personalized contracts;
  • more responsiveness to users and other customers in public services;
  • greater decentralization of authority and responsibility from central to lower levels of government;
  • greater recourse to the use of market-type mechanisms, such as internal markets, user charges, vouchers, franchising and contracting out;
  • privatization of market-orientated public enterprises.

(OECD, 1993 as cited by Bovaird and Löffler, 2003: 17)

In education this led to the development of many public sector specific MBA’s (Masters in Business Administration) and MPA’s (Masters in Public Administration – though perhaps not so much in the UK.

Invariably these degree programmes consist of a number of generic management subjects such as human resource management and strategic management with some public sector examples tagged on. I certainly wouldn’t downplay the value of many of these degrees. But at Queen Margaret University we wanted to offer something distinctive which reflected the most recent debates in public service development and delivery[1].
Rationale for Public Services Governance programme

There are three key factors which have contributed to the design of our public services governance programme:

  1. There is an increasing recognition within policy and academia that public services are particularly complex. I will be posting more on the nature of public services later. In the meantime see this excellent blogpost;
  2. The prevalence of ‘wicked problems’ such as climate change, childhood obesity and population aging has led to the need for a notably different approach to the design and delivery of public services. Increasingly public sector organisations are working in collaboration (rather than in competition) with private and third sector organisations;
  3. Increasingly academics and practitioners alike are questioning the limits of private sector management techniques to address these ‘wicked problems’.

Elke Löffler summed up the rationale for a distinct public governance programme when she stated,

‘public agencies no longer only have to be good at getting their internal management systems right – financial management, human resource management, ICT and performance management – but they also have to manage their most important external stakeholders as well’ (Löffler in Bovaird and Löffler, 2003: 163).

This is not to say that NPM is no longer relevant. I share Bovaird’s view that the realms of public management and public governance are separate but interconnected (2003: 11). Nonetheless, in line with Osborne (2010), I do think public governance is worthy of study in its own right. It was this belief that led to the development of our Postgraduate Certificate in Public Services Governance – the first ever postgraduate course with a focus on public governance[2].

The Scottish government can be seen as an example of New Public Governance in practice. The Scottish Approach to public services has been described as a form of strategic state which has many of the features of New Public Governance (Elliott, 2020).
Programme Aim and Contents

Within our programme the key aim is to enable learners to:

  • Build on their professional experience by engaging critically with, and reflecting on, themes and issues in public services governance in order to better deliver public service outcomes

Modules are focused on themes and issues within public services governance – rather than focusing on managerial functions. Modules include:

  • Public Services Governance: Themes and Issues
  • Engendering Policy and Practice
  • Internal Communications
  • Leading Change in Public Services
  • Managing Customer Complaints
  • Public Finance

More to follow on these modules in later blog posts. In the meantime you can read about the rationale for inclusion of Engendering Policy and Practice.
UPDATE (Posted 04/02/2016)

Since first publishing this blog we have successfully delivered the PgCert Public Services Governance to many students. We have worked with Academi Wales to offer the programme to public service officials from across Wales (more on that here).

Subsequently it has become clear that there is significant demand from an international audience for Masters level programmes with a governance focus. Much of this experience has informed our development of the new Master of Public Administration (MPA) programme. For more on this programme see ‘What is an MPA‘; the course leaflet; and some further resources via FindaMasters.com.

Some Useful References:

Bovaird, T. and Löffler, E. (eds) (2003) Public Management and Governance. Routledge: London.

Elliott, I.C. (2020). “The implementation of a strategic state in a small country setting—the case of the ‘Scottish Approach’”, Public Money & Management, DOI: 10.1080/09540962.2020.1714206

Fukuyama, F. (1989) ‘End of History?’, National Interest, No 16, pp. 3–18.

Osborne, S. (ed) (2010) The New Public Governance. Routledge: London.

Pierre, J. and Peters, B.G. (2000) Governance, Politics and the State. MacMillan Press: Hampshire.

Rhodes, R.A.W. (1997) Understanding Governance. Open University Press: Buckingham.

Stoker, G. (2004) Transforming Local Governance. Palgrave: Hampshire.

World Bank (1989) Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Development. World Bank: Washington, DC.

World Bank (1992) Governance and Development. World Bank: Washington, DC.

World Bank (1994) Governance: The World Bank Experience. World Bank: Washington, DC.


[1] We also have an excellent MBA and MSc International Leadership and Management for those who are looking to develop their understanding of generic management and leadership: http://www.qmu.ac.uk/assam/PostGradDegrees.htm.
[2] The LSE does have a MSc Public Management and Governance.

Why Gender and Equalities?

This post was first published in 2012 under the title ‘Why Engendering Policy and Practice’ as it originally related to that module within our PgCert Public Services Governance programme. Since then the programme has been expanded into a full MPA programme and the module has become a core module on ‘Gender and Equalities’. Here I explain the rationale for having a module on ‘Engendering Policy and Practice’ and more recently ‘Gender and Equalities’.

Firstly I should clarify that I am not an expert in gender equality. However, as programme leader of our former public services governance course and now co-director of the Edinburgh MPA, it is something that I recognise as fundamental to public service delivery.

The importance of gender equality might seem obvious to some people. But during the redevelopment of our postgraduate course some of the questions that were raised included: why is there a module on engendering policy and practice? Would this be relevant to international students? Why is gender inequality more important than other inequalities? Isn’t this a very niche topic for a public services programme?

1. Why focus on gender equalities?

This is a very good question. There are nine protected characteristics (including age, religion and belief, and sexual orientation) noted in the Equality Act 2010. Given that there are nine protected characteristics why focus on one?

Well, it is certainly not to suggest that some equalities are more important than others. Rather, this module is seen as a useful starting point for exploring some issues that are common across many inequalities. It does cover, for example, the broader scope of the Equalities Act 2010 and includes practical guidance on how to conduct an equality impact assessment.

2. Isn’t this a very niche topic for a programme in public services governance?

Engendering policy and practice is a generic issue – common to all those who work in the development and delivery of public services. In no way is this a less important issue than say, decision making or collaborative working. In fact issues of equality and gender often cut across these other important issues. As such there is a robust academic and practical case for having the engendering policy and practice module as an elective in equal footing with other elective modules within this programme  (NB the update below to account for this now being a core module).

For example, the Civil Service Code, which was placed on a statutory footing as part of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, states that the values of the Civil Service include impartiality which includes the responsibility that all civil servants: “carry out your responsibilities in a way that is fair, just and equitable and reflects the Civil Service commitment to equality and diversity“. In the UK Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 sets out the public sector duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. There are also legal duties listed with the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011.

3. Gender equality may not be a subject of relevance to international students.

Gender equality has long been a key goal for international bodies such as the UN and EU. The UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) set out this expectation in 1979. The Millennium Development Goals, agreed by all 193 UN member states, includes the commitment to promote gender equality and empower women. Today the UN Sustainable Development Goals maintain a commitment to Gender Equality not only as a basic human right but also as a crucial aid to accelerating sustainable development.

More recently the EU Article 13 Equal Treatment Directive (2008) makes it clear that all governments and government agencies, including non-public sector organisations who deliver public services within the EU27, have a duty to uphold and promote equalities. Finally, the World Bank World Development Report (2012) focused on the issue of gender equality and development; highlighting continued gender inequalities and the need for governments internationally to address this through appropriate domestic policy as well as through international development.

4. Finally, why is there a module on engendering policy and practice?

Even if there was not such a robust de lire case setting out the responsibility to promote equalities through all public service activities there would be a de facto case for the inclusion of ‘engendering policy and practice’ in this programme at Queen Margaret University. That is, that promoting equalities and social justice is a common thread in all our activities. As stipulated in Our Values, we will uphold certain values such as ‘social responsibility towards all of the communities we serve, demonstrating respect, care, social justice, equality and fairness’. Our university was founded by Christian Guthrie Wright and Louisa Stevenson in 1875 with the principal goals of promoting educational opportunities and career prospects for women, as well as improving the health and wellbeing of the working classes.

Consequently our postgraduate programme includes a module on ‘Engendering Policy and Practice’ alongside modules such as ‘Internal Communications’; ‘Leading Change in Public Services’ and ‘Managing Customer Complaints’. More on these modules to come in later blogposts.

For more on the links between gender and inequality a useful starting point is Carol Craig’s excellent book, The Tears that Made the Clyde.

UPDATE (Post updated on 04/02/2016)

With the development of our new Master of Public Administration (MPA) programme we have built on the experience of our module on ‘Engendering Policy and Practice’ by including a new module on ‘Gender and Equalities’. Exactly the same rationale as above applies. What’s more, I’m delighted to say that this new module is CORE – not optional.

I’m proud that our university – that was started by women, for women, is the only university to have an MPA with a core module on Gender and Equalities. So all our students will be required to consider gender and equalities as part of their wider study of public administration, management and governance.

For more information on our new MPA see ‘What is an MPA‘; the course leaflet; and some further resources on FindaMasters.com.

Public Services Governance

A new programme has just been developed at Queen Margaret University.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Public Services Governance is a one year programme that has been developed to support those who are currently charged with delivering public services.

Modules on the programme include:

  • Public Services Governance: Themes and Issues (Core)
  • Public Finance
  • Leading Change in Public Services
  • Managing Customer Complaints
  • Engendering Policy and Practice
  • Internal Communication

As programme leader for this course I will be blogging about some of the programme content and related subject matter. The course is due to commence in September 2012. For more information, or to apply, click here.

Why You Should Tweet!

  1. Share
    I will #livetweet on use of twitter in research next Wed at 1215. Using #phdtweet. Please join in. More info to follow. #highered #loveHE
    Fri, Apr 20 2012 05:03:39
  2. Share

    Fri, Apr 27 2012 08:24:29
  3. My initial tweet on the subject attracted a lot of interest and was RT’d several times including by Guardian Higher Education.
  4. Share
    RT @ian_c_elliott: I will #livetweet on use of twitter in research next Wed at 1215. Using #phdtweet. Please join in. More info to follow. #highered #loveHE
    Fri, Apr 20 2012 05:25:18
  5. Share
    Thanks to everyone for your interest in the #livetweet #phdtweet event and for your RTs. More to follow next week. #LoveHE #highered
    Fri, Apr 20 2012 07:58:43
  6. In advance of the presentation I posed a few questions so that others could participate in the discussion. Tweets using the #phdtweet were displayed live on screen during my presentation. The questions and a few interesting responses are listed below.
  7. Share
    #phdtweet Q1. How has twitter helped you with literature searching?
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 06:51:11
  8. Share
    @ian_c_elliott Continually distracted me. Occasionally led to something useful. Allowed me to stalk favoured writers.
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 07:55:28
  9. Share
    @ian_c_elliott I’d say it’s helped me make contacts that have led me to new literatures #phdtweets e.g. @DrDaveOBrien & @Localopolis
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 09:26:57
  10. Share
    @ian_c_elliott I search for and collect tweets relevant to my case studies – many politicians and all public agencies tweet #phdtweet
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 09:39:33
  11. Share
    #phdtweet Q2. Has anyone used twitter to help with data collection? #highered #LoveHE
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 09:56:51
  12. Share
    @ian_c_elliott I’ve sourced many participants from twitter – general (members of the public etc.) & specific (certain professions etc.).
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 10:00:50
  13. Share
    #phdtweet Q3. How can twitter help with dissemination of research findings? #highered #LoveHE
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 10:39:00
  14. Share
    @ian_c_elliott absolutely brilliant for dissemination. Got twice as many hits as avg. for: http://bit.ly/II0iiS thanks to @amcunningham
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 10:54:41
  15. Share
    @ian_c_elliott re Q3 #phdtweet @QMUeResearch tweets automatically when new papers are put into it. A small thing, but hopefully helpful.
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 11:32:02
  16. Share
    #phdtweet Q4. How can twitter help with career development for early career academics?
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 03:38:32
  17. Share
    @ian_c_elliott Q4 opens up so many opportunities to work w/ those outside your uni, good way to learn about how unis “work” too #phdtweet
    Tue, Apr 24 2012 10:22:36
  18. Share
    @ian_c_elliott gave confidence to even consider doing PhD, &in response to other q, you can see beyond yr immediate surrounding #phdtweet
    Tue, Apr 24 2012 10:26:21
  19. Share
    #phdtweet Tweeting can help find co-authors & perhaps lead to an award-winning paper: http://bit.ly/f6FFI6
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 07:15:00
  20. The presentation was to be recorded for iTunesU but unfortunately technical problems meant that the recording did not work. However my slides are available here: http://storify.com/ian_c_elliott/why-you-should-tweet
  21. During the presentation lots more suggestions were made as to how Twitter can help with the development and dissemination of research such as this tweet from Brian Kelly:
  22. Share
    #phdtweet A tweet can take you to Catalonia! http://bit.ly/dNQlmW
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 07:30:03
  23. As well as the fairly instrumentalist rationale set out in the main body of my presentation I also highlighted what I believe to be the moral case for use of social media by academic researchers.Queen Margaret University was founded with the aim of extending educational opportunities – specifically to women who in Victorian Britain were excluded from Higher Education. Today social justice remains a key part of what we do. In addition, the creation and sharing of knowledge is ultimately what academia is all about.

    Twitter, and social media in general, provides new ways to both create and share knowledge. As such we should all consider how these new tools can help. I really like the following blog post from Brian Kelly on this subject:

  24. Share
    #phdtweet Do you want to observe the world or change it? If the latter, Twitter can help: http://bit.ly/IkDp6J
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 09:00:11
  25. Following my presentation there were a number of questions including how to reference a Tweet and the discussion continued through the afternoon.
  26. Share
    hears question on referencing tweets. Yes it can be done – just another source of information #phdtweet
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 08:01:22
  27. Share
    @ian_c_elliott @QMULRC Doesn’t a reference need to provide info that allows validation (e.g. a link)? or doesn’t this matter with tweets?
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 08:48:03
  28. Share
    @Localopolis @QMULRC useful guide available here: http://www.mla.org/style/handbook_faq/cite_a_tweet
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 08:39:04
  29. I believe there are great benefits to PhD students in engaging with Twitter. I would recommend that you get an account and, as a starting point, search for the #PhDchat. You will find it easy to make contact with other PhD students and academics.
  30. Share
    @qui_oui yes, #PhDchat is a really good resource. I would highly recommend it to all PhD students. #phdtweet
    Fri, Apr 27 2012 09:41:55
  31. A lot of people have asked if there will be another #livetweet event – perhaps one focused on use of Twitter for learning and teaching activities. This is something I would certainly be interested in facilitating if there is sufficient interest.Watch this space!

Introduction

Having read many blogs for quite a few years now I have finally decided to start my own.

The purpose of this blog is really to provide a site for personal reflections on my research, learning and teaching activities. By making this public I am hoping to stimulate some debate. This will (hopefully) lead to further discussion, debate and learning.

Things that are likely to feature include:

  • Strategy
  • Operations
  • Public Services
  • International Business
  • Learning and Teaching
  • Higher Education
  • Social Media

That’s the plan anyway!