Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL2078: Governing the Public Sector: Bureaucratic Power and Politics

This module descriptor refers to the 2016/7 academic year.


NQF Level 5
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Elena Madalina Busuioc (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


The module will provide you with indispensable insights into the inner workings of modern executive government. We will re-discover classic writings on the topic, which have fundamentally influenced public administration scholarship and practice, as well as cutting-edge literature. We will explore fundamental theoretical issues by working through empirical examples and cases from a variety of systems of executive government (including the US, UK and the EU) and covering organisations as varied as the Federal Drug Administration, the CIA, Europol, the European Food Safety Authority or health and safety executives.

Specifically, we will explore how and why bureaucratic structure matters, the factors that shape the design of bureaucratic organisations and answer puzzling questions such as what are ‘the rational reasons why agencies are irrationally designed’, or why do bureaucracies engage in ‘turf wars’. Drawing on specific examples, we will discuss the varied sources of bureaucratic power and influence over policy-making, as well as why and how some bureaucratic actors are more successful in holding on to power than others. We will study the patterns of interactions between civil servants, politicians and the wider political system as well as different approaches to how bureaucratic power is constrained and controlled by elected representatives. At the same time, we will also take a closer look within bureaucracies at different intra-organisational levels, to gain a differentiated understanding of the role and influence of middle-ranking and ‘street-level’ bureaucrats in policy-making, as well as that of administrative leadership, and the leeway left to chief executives in shaping their organisations.

The module does not have any pre-requisites. It is suitable for all students who want to work within a public organisation.

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