STV4402B – Organizational Design and Administrative Reforms

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

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, as reforms are driven by policy fashions and have unexpected consequences and side-effects.

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 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. It will also cover theories of organizational change and reform.

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. In particular, based on empirical studies, it will focus on different actors’ motives for engaging in administrative reforms.

Learning outcome


Having completed this course, students will

  • understand the connection between organizational design and the substance of political and administrative decision making
  • know different causes of organizational change and the possibilities and constraints of deliberate design
  • be closely familiar with important reform trends in the public sector, nationally and internationally
  • have gained in-depth knowledge of theories of administrative reform, both related to the substance and the process of reforms, be able to apply those theories and to relate them to each other
  • have obtained a clear understanding of consequences of reforms, in particular with regard to policy effectiveness and political control over the bureaucracy


Having completed this course, students will

  • have developed the ability to analyze public sector organizations and how organizational decision-making reflects key dimensions of organizational design
  • have acquired in- practical skills for analyzing the causes and consequences of public sector reforms, both nationally and internationally
  • be able to independently conduct empirical studies on organizational reform and design
  • be able to effectively contribute to organizational design in a policy context through knowledge on the effects of design alternatives and the potential for successful reform


Having completed this course, students will

  • have enhanced their capability to think critically and reason about central arguments concerning the need to reorganize the public sector
  • have enhanced their understanding of the genuinely political nature of administrative reform and organizational design
  • be able to recognize and assess 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.



Compulsory activities

  • Comment on two term paper outlines


Literature review, policy paper and term paper.

Literature review

  • students are required to deliver a single authored literature review during the course.

Policy paper

  • students prepare a policy paper in small groups. The paper is presented in a seminar format during the last lecture. The policy paper and the presentation are assessed together.
  • policy paper should have a limit of 1200-1500 words.

Term paper

The term paper must

Each element is graded on a scale from A to F. Students have to pass all individual elements to pass the course, and all individual elements have to be delivered in the same semester. For the final grade, the literature review counts 20%, the policy paper (including presentation) 20%, and the term paper 60%.

Previous exams and grading guidelines

Submit assignments in Inspera

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

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.

Language of examination

The course language is English. All elements of the examination must be delivered in 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

Ask for an explanation

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






Autumn 2018

This course is not given on a regular basis


Autumn 2018

This course is not given on a regular basis

Teaching language