This course has been changed into a fully online course from 13.3.2020. See the course Moodle page for updated information.

This course will provide an overview of the phenomena of coordination and centralization in public administration and government.

Coordination and centralization are long-standing contested issues in public administration that have received increasing attention in recent policy trends. The meaning given to coordination is usually the making of many parts to work together as a larger whole, whereas the meaning of centralization is mostly given as the concentration of parts, tasks and powers within a centre. Different theoretical and policy approaches to public administration have their own takes on coordination and centralization. Sometimes these are presented as closely related and sometimes as opposing ideas and practices. Coordination in government often appears as a positive and widely accepted policy objective, about which there nevertheless might be open disagreement or implicit contradictions between various means for best achieving it. In contrast, centralization is often presented as a negative threat, or as a policy option that is both potentially useful and harmful and therefore has to be applied carefully. The political significance and implications of coordination and centralization issues might vary a lot over different political contexts. However, they commonly combine highly politicized aspects (such as the distribution of power and authority) with depoliticized ones (such as ideas of technically efficient and expedient government) in a tense way. Within the Western world and “Anglosphere” influence, the role of coordination and centralization issues appears to have increased in recent policy trends. This is reflected in theories and policy ideas such as post- New Public Management, Governance and its variants (e.g. network governance, metagovernance and e-governance) and phenomenon-based public administration. There has been both a re-emergence of various coordination ideas, such as horizontality, broadness, wholeness and unity, into the centre of policy agenda, as well as a reframing of other policy issues, such as social impact and knowledge-basedness, as questions of coordination. These developments are often contrasted with predecessor trends such as New Public Management which were ostensibly less interested in coordination. However, the nature and scope of this change, as well as the internal cohesion of the new coordination agenda, are matters of debate.

This course will approach different research problems that relate to the contemporary coordination and centralization issues and will discuss among others the following questions:

- What different kinds of coordination and centralization ideas are there?
- What kinds of political contexts and implications can they have?
- Is the contemporary coordination agenda something genuinely new or is it merely the same as before?
- Can there be coordination without centralization?
- Is coordination fundamentally a political or administrative issue?
- Can government be coordinated through knowledge and expertise?

Through completing the course, students will

- be familiar with relevant coordination and centralization -related ideas and issues in research theory and policy practice
- be able to critically discuss, contextualize and evaluate these
- be able to relate them to other significant political and administrative issues, including those of their own interest and choice
- be able to independently utilize these in their further studies, research and practice

Please note this is a contact teaching version of the course PVK-P210 Special Topics in Public Administration. The study materials information of the standard literature exam version (see below in Description and in WebOodi) does not apply to this version. The prerequisites and timing guidelines given below in Description apply only to UH degree students.

The course is suitable for exchange students. An advanced level in bachelor’s studies is recommended.

The language of instruction is English.

Teacher: Joonatan Virtanen

13.2.2020 at 09:00 - 9.3.2020 at 23:59
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Here is the course’s teaching schedule. Check the description for possible other schedules.

Mon 9.3.2020
16:15 - 18:45
Wed 11.3.2020
14:15 - 16:45
Mon 16.3.2020
16:15 - 18:45
Wed 18.3.2020
14:15 - 16:45
Mon 23.3.2020
16:15 - 18:45
Wed 25.3.2020
14:15 - 16:45
Mon 30.3.2020
16:15 - 18:45
Wed 1.4.2020
14:15 - 16:45


The course is one of the optional intermediate courses under the Study Track in Politics and Organisations.

Introduction to Politics and Organisations; Decision-making in Finland and the European Union; Theoretical Approaches to Politics and Organisations; Organisation Research

After completing the course, students will be familiar with the central content of a chosen topic in public administration and the most important related research approaches. In addition, they will be able to analyse the significance of questions related to the topic from the perspective of institutions of public authority and civic society, as well as apply their learning to social activity and professional expert positions.

Third year of studies

The course will deepen students’ understanding of research in public organisations in a separately chosen field. Specific course content may vary from term to term. Potential subject matters include the international organisation of administrative activities, collective activity in organisations, the effects of administrative reforms on the operations of public organisations, and challenges in controlling public organisations.

Three from the following:

- Michael W. Bauer, Christoph Knill, Steffen Eckhard (eds.): International Bureaucracy: Challenges and Lessons for Public Administration Research. Palgrave Macmillan 2017. 210 pp

- Bruce Bimber: Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change. Cambridge University Press 2012. 240 pp

- Christopher Hood & Ruth Dixon: A Government that Worked Better and Cost Less?: Evaluating Three Decades of Reform and Change in UK Central Government. Oxford University Press 2015. 256 pp

- Jonathan G S Koppel: The Politics of Quasi-Government: Hybrid Organizations and the Dynamics of Bureaucratic Control. Cambridge University Press 2008. 256 pp

Graded on a scale of 0 to 5 (0=fail, 1=pass, 2=satisfactory, 3=good, 4=very good, 5=excellent)

Language of instruction: Finnish/Swedish or English

Contact teaching is not necessarily offered on an annual basis. If the course is not on offer, major subject students in the study line for administration and organisations who began their studies on 1 August 2016 or earlier can complete the course by taking an online book examination in the Examinarium facility. The book examination covers all required literature and substitutes for the entire course. The book examination can be taken throughout the academic year.