• Class Number 6551
  • Term Code 3370
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic Online
  • Mode of Delivery Online
    • Dr Vafa Ghazavi
    • Dr Vafa Ghazavi
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 10/11/2023
  • Class End Date 22/12/2023
  • Census Date 24/11/2023
  • Last Date to Enrol 10/11/2023
SELT Survey Results

How can public leaders exercise ethical leadership, and how can we promote clean government, given the many excuses for 'dirty hands' made by government leaders? This course provides students with an introduction to debates over public sector ethics, focusing on the roles and responsibilities of public servants and their relationships to politicians and others sharing public power. The unit uses practical examples and case studies of ethical problems from across the public sector, blending Australian and international material so that students can learn from a variety of policy frameworks appropriate to the regulation of public conduct. Students will examine core theories of ethics with the aim of relating these to prevailing theories of public policy and practices of public administration.  They will also examine various approaches to codifying and enforcing public sector ethics.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. critically understand the main concepts and theories in public sector ethics;
  2. critically apply ethical concepts and theories to examples of public sector practice;
  3. access relevant source materials on public sector ethics;
  4. critically understand the role of ethics in professional public sector practice;
  5. apply critical analytical capacity to answering questions on public sector ethics.

Required Resources

Required readings are available via Wattle.

Recommended resources are available via Wattle.

Staff Feedback

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

  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class and individually

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.

Other Information


The Crawford School of Public Policy has its own Academic Skills team dedicated to helping students to understand the academic expectations of studying at Crawford and succeed in their chosen program of study. Through individual appointments, course-embedded workshops and online resources, Crawford Academic Skills provides tailored advice to students keen to develop their academic reading, thinking, planning, writing, and presentation skills.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Moral agency and the ethically responsible public servant (10 November)In this introductory class, students will learn the objectives of the course. We will then turn to the central question of the ethics and moral agency of public officials. We will consider notions of discretion, moral integrity, and the connection between individual and public purpose. We will also reflect on the relationship between public power and ethical commitments. This class will include a case study on lessons for public sector ethics emerging from the Robodebt scheme which operated in Australia.
2 Ethics and public policy: foundational ideas (16 November) Building on our first class, we will explore the complex subject of ethics in public policy by considering a range of philosophical and moral thinking. We will discuss some key concepts in ethical thought (such as justice, equality, and the common good) and consider their relevance to public policy, as well as introduce some major approaches to moral reasoning (utilitarianism, the social contract, deontology, pragmatism, virtue ethics). 
3 Ethical leadership for a world in crisis (17 November) In this class, we will consider some of the big public policy questions of our time — including inequality, climate change, and the effects of artificial intelligence — and ask how ethical leadership in policy contexts can or should play a role in confronting these collective challenges. International and local case studies will be used to explore this question. Essay due on Friday, 17 November.
4 Public servants and politicians (29 November) In this shorter online class, we will examine the relationship between public servants and elected politicians, with particular reference to Westminster conventions of public service neutrality. We will also critically consider the relationship between expertise and democratic decision-making.
5 Ethical dilemmas and public trust (30 November) In this class, we will explore ethical dilemmas in public ethics. In particular, we consider the problem of 'dirty hands', the issue of truth and deception in public life, the question of complicity in wrongdoing in public contexts, and the issue of conflicts of interest. We will also consider notions of trust and trustworthiness in the context of public policy.
6 Integrity codes and systems (1 December) In this final class, we will consider the forms, functions and effectiveness of codes of conduct — both for politicians and public servants — and institutional arrangements and entities specifically designed to encourage public sector integrity and combat corruption. We will reflect on the importance of rules and norms, as well as their limits. We will also consider the issue of whistleblowing or public interest disclosure. Ethics and policy innovation analysis due on Friday, 1 December.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Essay 30 % 17/11/2023 21/11/2023 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Ethics and policy innovation analysis 60 % 01/12/2023 11/12/2023 1,2, 3, 4, 5
Class participation and engagement 10 % * * 1, 2, 4, 5

* 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: 30 %
Due Date: 17/11/2023
Return of Assessment: 21/11/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Students will be required to write a short essay in response to a question related to the moral agency of public servants (a choice of specific questions to choose from will be provided in the first class and made available on Wattle). The essay will provide an opportunity to critically engage with key normative concepts considered in the course, and to demonstrate their relevance to the practical demands of making and implementing public policy. Length: maximum 1500 words (excluding references).

Assessment Task 2

Value: 60 %
Due Date: 01/12/2023
Return of Assessment: 11/12/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2, 3, 4, 5

Ethics and policy innovation analysis

Students are required to identify a real world public policy challenge and then proceed to analyse how an ethical lens could help unlock policy innovation to better tackle this challenge. This assignment is intended to enable you to draw on insights from the course, demonstrate research skills and critical thinking, and make connections between normative theory and public policy practice. The analysis should articulate the ethical issues and values at stake, show how these are relevant in the institutional context of the specific case, and offer concrete solutions informed by normative reflection and analysis. Further guidance will be provided in class on possible ways to structure and present the analysis. Length: maximum 3000 words (excluding references).

Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 4, 5

Class participation and engagement

Students will be assessed on their engagement with the class, in particular the quality of contributions to class discussions.

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 Vafa Ghazavi

Research Interests

Dr Vafa Ghazavi

By Appointment
By Appointment
Dr Vafa Ghazavi

Research Interests

Dr Vafa Ghazavi

By Appointment
By Appointment

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