DV450      Half Unit
Bureaucracy and Development

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Adnan Khan 32L4.03A


This course is available on the MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MSc in Development Studies and MSc in Development Studies (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Some knowledge of economics, especially microeconomics, at the undergraduate or graduate level is highly desirable. However, some students who may not fulfil these requirements may still be admitted at the Lecturer's discretion provided they can demonstrate that this course is a close fit for them given their background and ambition, and that they will learn the basics of economic theory on their own.

Course content

The first part of the course introduces the scope of government policies and the role of bureaucracy in public provision. It then covers classic issues in personnel economics. It looks at recruitment into civil service and at screening of job applicants with imperfect information. It also covers incentives for candidates to signal ability and to invest in relevant skills. Finally it covers performance evaluation and the design of monetary and non-monetary incentives to elicit good performance.

The second part of the course covers political economy of bureaucratic decision making and accountability. It analyses bureaucratic working using the principal-agent and game-theoretic frameworks. It discusses the necessity of delegation to bureaucrats and the potential problem associated with it, looks at constraints imposed by collective action and credible commitment.

The third part of the course examines evidence based policy formulation and programme evaluation and explores under what conditions policy actors effectively use evidence to inform policy decisions and discusses ways of shifting bureaucratic culture towards pro-development change. It will look at some cases where good evidence is produced, understood and acted upon to shape policy in critical ways, even in environments characterised by limited resources and weak governance.

The final part of the course explores ways of recognising and building on opportunities for policy change.


20 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 individual assignment and 1 group assignment in the MT.

Indicative reading

Relevant chapters from:

Edward P. Lazear and Michael Gibbs, Personnel Economics in Practice (John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2009)

James Q. Wilson, Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why they Do it (New York: Basic Books, 1989)

Cristina Corduneanu-Huc, Alexander Hamilton and Issel Masses Ferrer, Understanding Policy Change: How to Apply Political Economy Concepts in Practice (Washington D.C.: World Bank Publications, 2012)

Paul J. Gertler, Sebastian Martinez, Patrick Premand, Laura B. Rawlings, Christel M. J. Vermeersch, Impact Evaluation in Practice, (Washington D.C.: The World Bank, 2011)

Matt Andrews, The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

John D. Huber and Charles R. Shipan ‘Politics, Delegation and Bureaucracy’ in Barry R. Weingast and Donald A. Wittman, 2006, The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy, Oxford University Press

World Bank, World Development Report 2004: Making Services Work for Poor People, World Bank 2004.

Relevant research papers


Essay (50%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Project (40%) in the MT.
Class participation (10%).

Individual Assignment (50% of grade): This is a 2,500 to 3,000 words paper that applies the concepts and framework of this course to a specific topic. After approval of topics by week 4, students will submit a draft outline and will receive feedback on it in week 7. The final paper will be due at the beginning of Lent Term.

Group Assignment (40% of grade): This involves groups of students jointly working on pre-approved topics. This will involve feedback on the work in progress and a final presentation in weeks 9 and 10, followed by submission of a short policy brief (3 pages).

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2014/15: 8

Average class size 2014/15: 8

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills