DV450      Half Unit
Policy, Bureaucracy and Development: Theory and Practice of Policy Design, Implementation and Evaluation

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Adnan Khan 4.03A, 32LIF


Teaching assistant

Dr Geoff Goodwin CON.8.15


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, MBA Exchange, MPA in European Policy-Making, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact, MSc in African Development, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies and Master of Public Administration. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Some knowledge of economics, especially microeconomics, is desirable but not essential. 

Course content

The course will start with an introduction to policy and bureaucracy in the developing world, discussing how thinking on bureaucracy has changed and showing how cutting-edge research is helping us gain a better understanding of how states operate and perform.  The first part of the course covers personnel economics and in particular incentive mechanisms and issues around selection of bureaucrats. The principal-agent model is introduced and applied to explore how best to recruit, train, motivate and monitor bureaucrats. Since policy formulation and implementation are embedded in politics, the course then covers political economy of government performance and introduces the long and short routes of accountability. Given the trade-off in delegation, the course explores the conditions under which politicians delegate to bureaucrats and hold them accountable for performance. The course then covers how evidence can inform formulation of policies.

The final part of the course will explore opportunities for pro development policy change along several dimensions. Building on the analysis from the earlier parts covering personnel economics and political economy, we explore what incentive structures are required to encourage bureaucrats and politicians to introduce and successfully implement pro-development policy. Drawing on the latest research in the field, we then explore when policy actors can effectively use evidence to inform policy decisions and discuss cases where good evidence is produced, understood and acted upon to shape policy in critical ways. The course concludes with a discussion on creating, identifying and building on opportunities for policy change.

The course is aimed at anyone who is interested in public policy, economic development, and building more effective governments that are accountable to their citizens. It balances theory and practice and draws on policy questions and examples from the real world. The course is designed to engage development professionals and anyone interested in public policy in thinking more deeply about policy challenges and finding feasible solutions. The instructor brings to the class 15 years of experience as a bureaucrat in different policy positions and 10 years as a researcher, catalyser of other people’s research and as someone who connects research and policy worlds on growth and development. The teaching assistant adopts innovative approaches to teaching and learning, drawing on his diverse research experiences in the developing world.


22 hours of lectures and 16 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to present in at least one seminar and will also be expected to write a formative policy memo and essay plan. Feedback will be provided on all elements of formative coursework.   

Indicative reading

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).

Finan, Frederico, Benjamin Olken, and Rohini Pande, The Personnel Economics of the State (The Handbook of Field Experiments, 2015).

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

Paul J. Gertler et al, Impact Evaluation in Practice, (Washington D.C.: The World Bank, 2011).

Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (Oxford University Press 2017).

Carden, Fred, Knowledge to Policy: Making the Most of Development Research (International Development Research Centre, Sage Publications, Ottawa 2009).

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.

Khan Adnan, Asim Khwaja, and Benjamin Olken. 2016. ‘Tax Farming Redux: Experimental Evidence on Performance Pay for Tax Collectors’, Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Duflo, Esther et al. 2013. ‘Truth Telling by Third-Party Audits and the Response of Polluting Firms: Experimental Evidence from India.’ Quarterly Journal of Economics 128 (4): 1499-1545.


Essay (50%, 4000 words) in the LT.
Project (35%) and other (15%) in the MT.


Individual essay (50%) in the LT

4,000 words paper that applies the concepts and framework of the course to a specific topic. Students to submit essay beginning of LT.

Group project (35%) in the MT

Group project on a pre-approved topic. Involves a group presentation and the submission of a short policy brief (2-3 pages) in Week 11.

Policy memos (15%) in the MT

Students will write two brief policy memos (2-3 pages) which apply the concepts covered on the course to particular empirical cases, with the first memo formative and not formally assessed. The memos will be submitted in Week 6 and Week 10. 

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2016/17: 38

Average class size 2016/17: 13

Controlled access 2016/17: Yes

Lecture capture used 2016/17: 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