Photo of Professor Oliver James

Professor Oliver James

BA (Oxon); MSc, PhD (LSE, London)


Extension: 4504

Telephone: 01392 264504

Professor of Political Science

Oliver James works on the politics and accountability of public services, citizen-provider relationships, public sector organisation and reform, executive politics (particularly politician-administrator relations) and regulation of publicly owned and/or funded bodies and services. He uses a range of methods including survey and field experiments. Current interests focus in particular on three strands of work

1) The role of performance information about public services (eg provided about local governments, schools, hospitals) in citizens and service users' perceptions of services, political voice and service choice. Use of performance information in systems to improve service quality and responsiveness, issues of information presentation and source credibility, and the debiasing of information processing and use. This strand of work, builds in part on the EU FP7 Project on the Public Sector of the Future discussed below.

2) Field and survey experiments as methods in public management research, including the book Experiments in Public Management Research (eds: Oliver James, Sebastian Jilke, Gregg Van Ryzin, Cambridge University Press 2017).See

3) The implications of policy trends and changes on government organisation and capacity, including the implications of different forms of Brexit for the UK state's competence and capacity. This interest builds on previous research on structural change within public organisations as part of the ESRC funded 'Structure and Organisation of Government' project ( and work on the causes and effects of public management leadership change on organisational performance, including the ESRC chief executive succession project outlined below.

Short Bio: Following his undergraduate BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Anne's College, University of Oxford he completed his MSc (with Distinction) and PhD in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, University of London. He has held academic posts at LSE (lecturer) and at Exeter (lecturer, senior lecturer and reader). He has also worked in HM Treasury on an academic placement and with bodies including the World Bank, OECD, UK National Audit Office and Audit Commission. He supervises several PhD students and teaches courses on the Exeter MPA programme, runs methods courses and teaches about the politics of public services.

list of publications at google

see papers and articles at:

Grant funded research: The project on the ‘Structure and Organisation of Government’ in the UK (2014-17) is supported by £320K (approx.) from the ESRC following a competition under the European Open Research Area. The Project analyses the political logic of government reorganisation and response/lack of response to policy challenges including case studies of climate change/environmental disruption and financial regulation.Building on the findings, the implications of changes under different Brexit scenarios are currently being assessed. Prof. James is working with two Research Fellows at Exeter and in collaboration with researchers in the Netherlands, France and Germany.

A previous ESRC funded project assessed leadership succession effects on organisational policy and performance (Grant RES062232471: Chief Executive Succession and the Performance of Central Government Agencies £215K Oct 2010-Sept 2013),  Related work was conducted as part of a joint EU FP7 Project 'COCOPS: Co-ordinating for Cohesion in the Public Sector of the Future' (2011-14). Prof James conducted several projects as part of the ESRC Public Services Programme, including the project 'Standards of Evidence for Assessing Public Service Performance' (Grant RES153270014).


Publications are mainly in political science, public policy and public management/administration journals, recent publications include:

James, O., Petrovsky, N., Moseley, A. and Boyne, G.A.. 2016. ’The Politics of Agency Death: Ministers and the Survival of Government Agencies in a Parliamentary System.’ British Journal of Political Science.46 (4) pp. 763-784

James, O. and Van Ryzin, G.G., 2016. ‘Motivated Reasoning about Public Performance: An Experimental Study of How Citizens Judge the Affordable Care Act.’ Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, doi:10.1093/jopart/muw049

James, O., Jilke, S., Petersen, C. and Van de Walle, S., 2016. Citizens' Blame of Politicians for Public Service Failure: Experimental Evidence about Blame Reduction through Delegation and Contracting. Public Administration Review, 76(1), pp.83-93.

Fernández‐Gutiérrez, M., James, O. and Jilke, S., 2016. ‘Competition and switching in public service markets: Can they reduce inequalities?’ Regulation & Governance. Doi: 10.1111/rego.12110

James, O. and Moseley, A. 2014. ‘Does performance information about public services affect citizens' perceptions, satisfaction, and voice behaviour? Field experiments with absolute and relative performance information’, Public Administration, vol. 92, no. 2, 493-511.

Boyne, G, James, O. John, P , Petrovsky, N. 2012. ‘Party Control, Party Competition and Service Performance’ British Journal of Political Science  Vol. 46, pp. 641-660. Published online first 21 Feb 2012.

James, O.  2011. 'Performance Measures and Democracy: Information Effects on Citizens in Field and Laboratory Experiments', Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 21: 399-418.

Boyne, G.A., James, O., John, P. ; Petrovsky, N. 2010. ‘Does Public Service Performance Affect Top Management Turnover?’ Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 20: 261-279.

Boyne, G.A, James, O. John, P., Petrovsky, N. 2009. ‘Democracy and government performance: holding incumbents accountable in English local governments.’ Journal of Politics. Vol. 71 No. 4, pp.1273-1284 doi:10.1017/S0022381609990089