• Class Number 4228
  • Term Code 3230
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic On Campus
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Laura Davy
    • Dr Laura Davy
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 21/02/2022
  • Class End Date 27/05/2022
  • Census Date 31/03/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
SELT Survey Results

This course explores the theory and practice of public administration. It will introduce students to a variety of historical, political, legal, organisational and emerging perspectives on public administration, and apply these perspectives to issues public administrators encounter in their day to day professional practice. The course will engage students in classical and contemporary debates and problems of government, including the relationship between the state and civil society, the state and the market, and the state and the law.

Key themes will include power and legitimacy, equity and engagement, and the impact of structural reform on citizens and the public service workforce. Students will consider how public administrators negotiate the regulatory and organisational contexts that structure, and at times constrain, their fields of action and authority.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Understand key debates in public administration theory and practice.
  2. Apply concepts and theories from public administration scholarship to contemporary debates and problems of government.
  3. Evaluate a variety of historical, political, legal, organisational and emerging perspectives on public administration.
  4. Analyse the historical, legal, political, and organisational context of public administration.
  5. Demonstrate the capacity to think analytically and reflectively about the role of public administration in contemporary governance.

Required Resources

Required readings are available on the POGO8137 Wattle site.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, and to individuals

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 What is public administration? In this first session we will discuss some of the key questions that drive this course. How should we define public administration? What is at stake in our definitions of public administration? What are the limits of public administration? What is the relationship between public administration scholarship and practice? Seminars will involve introductions, an overview of the course structure and assessments, and the assignment of readings for Assessment 1.
2 Historical perspectives This week we examine some of the ‘classical’ texts of public administration. While we will problematise aspects of these early writings over the course of the semester, many of the debates and problems they highlight have remained central to public administration scholarship and public debate to today. How did these classics establish and shape the field? What do they describe as the key issues? What do they leave out?
3 Political perspectives This week we explore the relationship between politics and administration, looking at questions of political authority and the operations of power. How should we define the role that public administrators play in political and policy processes? How do political objectives, processes, and values shape public administration? What mechanisms are and/or should be in place to ensure the responsiveness of administrating organisations to the public they serve?
4 Legal perspectives This week we look at how the law frames and regulates government administration, focusing on Australia and other common law jurisdictions. What role does the law play in defining and legitimising public administration? What limits does the law place on the nature and scope of public administration? What impact have international law, human rights law and anti-discrimination law had on the activities of public service organisations? Assessment 1 (Course reading summary) due this week
5 Organisational perspectives What role do organisations and institutions play in determining policy outcomes? Are our public organisations and institutions effective? How can they become more effective? In this topic we will look at how organisational structure and culture shapes public administration practice and individual behaviour. We will also look at how the culture and structure of public organisations and institutions is in turn shaped by wider social and cultural norms and values.
6 Emerging perspectives This week we will look at new and emerging paradigms in public administration scholarship. What can critical, interpretive and postmodern approaches offer to the study and practice of public administration? To what extent can these approaches drive innovative practice as well as critique of the status quo?
7 The public This week we look at the notion of the public. We will discuss the meaning of concepts such as ‘public goods’, ‘public interest’, 'public value', ‘public sector’ and ‘public sphere’. We will also explore critiques of how these concepts have been traditionally defined within public administration. Who is counted as ‘the public’ and how do we count them? What issues are public issues and what issues are private, and who decides?
8 The market Following on from the previous week’s topic, this week we look at the concept of the market. When, why and how does the market administer public services and public goods? In market contexts, who is responsible for delivering the public good, and how are they held accountable? How have global trends towards commissioning and contracting out essential public services influenced the relationship between the state and the market? We will also look at the influence of market values, methods and frameworks on the culture and practice of public organisations. Students to present an outline of their case response (Assessment 2) in class
9 Implementation: art or science? Why do policies fail? How can public administrators reduce the gap between design and implementation? There has a push over the past couple of decades within scholarship and practice towards identifying the keys to successful policy implementation. In this topic we will discuss the extent to which this is possible, with particular reference to the role of collaboration, evaluation, political will, complexity, uncertainty and ‘wicked’ problems. Students to present an outline of their case response (Assessment 2) in class
10 Equity and engagement This week we look at the notion of social equity, which is usually viewed alongside values such as effectiveness and efficiency as a central tenet of public administration. We look at citizen engagement in policy processes as a key method of creating greater social equity in policy outcomes. How can citizens participate more fully in the administration of public goods and services? What cultural and other changes might be necessary to enable strategies such as co-production to work to their full potential?
11 Labour and reform This week we zero in on the people doing public administration - the public service workforce - looking at issues such as professional practice, merit, ethics, leadership and capability. How are human resources acted on and through in public administration? What workforce characteristics and individual attributes are seen as essential to public administration? Why are these are privileged over others? We will focus in particular on the Australian experience of public sector workplace reform.
12 Autonomy, collaboration, constraint This week’s topic focuses on how public administrators ‘get things done’. What scope is there for individual agency, action and conscience within public administration? Why is it so hard to work collaboratively across levels and domains of government? We will also spend some time in the seminar reflecting on the process of writing Assessment 4 – Reflective essay, and sum up key learnings from the course. Assessment 3 (Reflective essay) due this week

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Course readings summary 15 % 20/03/2022 30/03/2022 1,2,3
Case response - Report 50 % 15/05/2022 27/05/2022 1,2,3,4
Reflective essay 35 % 05/06/2022 30/06/2022 1,2,3,4

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 20/03/2022
Return of Assessment: 30/03/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Course readings summary

Students will be asked to summarise the course readings for a particular week’s topic in a short report (max 750 words). With this they should prepare 3 or 4 seminar discussion questions and write a 'tweet' (max 280 character summary) of the key argument/contribution of each text, to be posted on Wattle.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 15/05/2022
Return of Assessment: 27/05/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Case response - Report

Students will be asked to prepare a policy report or brief in response to a contemporary case in public administration (max 3,000 words). This will involve critically applying the concepts and theories from the course to contemporary problems in public administration. In addition, students will have the opportunity to present an outline of their case response in class in weeks 8 and 9 to receive formative feedback from the course coordinator and other students before submitting the written assessment.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 05/06/2022
Return of Assessment: 30/06/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Reflective essay

Students will be asked to write an essay (max 1,500 words) that reflects on how one of the weekly topics and associated readings might inform their professional practice in public administration into the future. This will involve thinking and writing analytically and reflectively about the role of public administrators in contemporary governance and the historical, political, legal and organisational context public administrators work within.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
Dr Laura Davy
02 6125 2558

Research Interests

Dr Laura Davy

By Appointment
Dr Laura Davy
02 6125 2558

Research Interests

Dr Laura Davy

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions