GV4K1      Half Unit
Opening Government: Transparency, Accountability, and Participation

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Rehan Jamil


This course is available on the MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics), MSc in Political Science (Global Politics), MSc in Political Science (Political Behaviour), MSc in Political Science (Political Science and Political Economy), MSc in Public Policy and Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically very high.

This course is capped at 3 groups.

Course content

Is “sunlight the best disinfectant”? Can information empower citizens to hold their government accountable? Can greater public participation and deliberation improve policymaking? How have information technologies been used to enable civic engagement? What are the relationships between transparency, participation, accountability, and corruption?

This course will familiarise students with the theory and practice of transparency, accountability, and public participation in government; enabling them to critically address these questions and engage meaningfully in fast-moving contemporary policy debates. Policy innovations based on transparency, participation, and deliberation are increasingly suggested as potential solutions to contemporary crises of government legitimacy and performance, making such critical understanding more crucial than ever.

The course will offer a grounding in theories of democracy, representation, and accountability, as well as debates over the merits of different types of policy innovations that are often called “open government” or “democratic innovations.” The course will also enable students to evaluate the role played by different forms of information in political systems, as well as to critically assess the theories of change, assumptions, and evidence bases behind these initiatives.

The course has a global scope, focusing on applications in both developed and developing countries as well as at a global level; and on policy types including freedom of information, disclosure-based regulation, participatory budgeting and policy-making citizens’ assemblies, crowdsourced policymaking, open data, campaign finance and asset disclosures, and applications of transparency and participation to sectors like extractive industries, the environment, and public health.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 25 hours in the Autumn Term. There will be a reading week in Week 6 of AT.

Formative coursework

Students will have the option to produce one formative essay of 1,000 words, due by the end of the reading week in the AT.

Indicative reading

  • Fung, Archon, and Erik Olin Wright. 2001. “Deepening democracy: Innovations in empowered participatory governance.” Politics & Society 29(1): 5-41.
  • Fox, Jonathan A. "Social accountability: what does the evidence really say?" World Development 72 (2015): 346-361.
  • Stasavage, David. 2004. “Open-door or closed-door? Transparency in domestic and international bargaining.” International Organization 58(4): 667-703.
  • Tan, Yeling. 2014. "Transparency without democracy: The unexpected effects of China's environmental disclosure policy." Governance 27(1): 37-62.
  • Berliner, Daniel, 2014. “The political origins of transparency.” The Journal of Politics, 76(2), 479-491.
  • Gonçalves, Sónia. "The effects of participatory budgeting on municipal expenditures and infant mortality in Brazil." World Development 53 (2014): 94-110.
  • Fearon, James. 1999. “Electoral Accountability and the Control of Politicians: Selecting Good Types versus Sanctioning Poor Performance.” In Bernard Manin, Adam Przeworski, and Susan Stokes, eds., Democracy, Accountability, and Representation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Adsera, Alicia, Carles Boix, and M. Payne. 2003. “Are You Being Served? Political Accountability and Quality of Government.” Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 19(2): 445-490.
  • Mayka, Lindsay. 2019. “The Origins of Strong Institutional Design: Policy Reform and Participatory Institutions in Brazil’s Health Sector.” Comparative Politics 51(2): 275-294.
  • Hale, Thomas. 2008. “Transparency, accountability, and global governance.” Global Governance 14: 73.


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in December.

The essay component will be a research essay of 4000 words.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 52.1
Merit 44.8
Pass 2.1
Fail 1

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2022/23: 32

Average class size 2022/23: 16

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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