STV4402B - Organizational Design and Administrative Reforms

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Course content

The reform of administrative structures and procedures is something governments regularly engage in. This course seeks to shed light on dominant ideas and trends of administrative reforms, why governments engage in reform activities, and what difference these reforms make.

In an ideal world, reformers have a full overview of the effects of alternative ways of organizing the public sector, and they have the capacity to overcome potential resistance to reform. Yet research shows that reforms seldom fulfil these ideal-typical conditions:

  • they are driven by policy fashions rather than policy problems
  • they have unexpected consequences and side-effects
  • they meet with resistance from various actors.

A key question is whether there is a sound knowledge base for administrative reforms? Are there any systematic effects of alternative ways of organizing the public sector?

The first part of the course will address this aspect and focus on the effects of organizational design on the substance of decision-making and legitimacy as key dimensions of a political science perspective on the public sector.

The second part of the course will address trends, causes, and consequences of administrative reforms from various theoretical perspectives and uses empirical cases from a broad range of contexts.

Learning outcome


The students will become familiar with:

  • the connection between organizational design and the substance of political and administrative decision making
  • causes of organizational change and the possibilities and constraints of deliberate design
  • dominant reform trends in the public sector, such as New Public Management
  • theories of administrative reform, both related to the substance and the process of reforms
  • consequences of reforms, in particular with regard to policy effectiveness and political control over the bureaucracy


The students will:

  • develop the ability to analyze public sector organizations and how organizational decision-making reflects key dimensions of organizational design
  • develop practical skills for analyzing the causes and consequences of public sector reforms, both nationally and internationally
  • acquire practical skills in conducting independent empirical study
  • acquire the ability to contribute to organizational design in a policy context through knowledge on the effects of design alternatives and the potential for successful reform


The students will:

  • enhance their capability to think critically and reason about central arguments concerning the need to reorganize the public sector
  • be able to account for the genuinely political nature of administrative design
  • learn to appreciate the dilemmas faced by governments in organizing the public sector


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Apply for guest student status if you are admitted to another Master's programme.

For incoming students

All Master's courses in Political Science must be registered manually by the Department, they will not appear in Studentweb. Contact your international coordinator at UiO.



Lectures are held during five weeks, with examination in the sixth week.


3-hour written examination and term paper.

The term paper must:

The term paper counts more than the written examination. You receive one overall grade. You must pass the term paper and your written examination in the same semester.

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera. Read more about training in Inspera.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in before the examination. Please read regulations for dictionaries permitted at the examination.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English.You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

It is recommended to request an explanation of your grade before you decide to appeal.



The deadline to request an explanation is one week after the grade is published. For oral and practical examinations, the deadline is immediately after you have received your grade.

The explanation should normally be given within two weeks after you have asked for it. The examiner decides whether the explanation is to be given in writing or verbally.

Ask for an explanation

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Spring 2017

This course is not given on a regular basis


Spring 2017

This course is not given on a regular basis

Teaching language