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Public leadership

Open University Public Leadership & Social Enterprise

The Public Leadership and Social Enterprise (PuLSE) department at the OU is committed to generating public and social value through the impact of our work on research, policy and practice in the areas of collaborative and co-operative socio-economic governance, leadership and management of public and voluntary sector organisations, social and sustainable enterprise, and ethical professional practice. The reputation and success of the department is manifested in the work of three research centres (Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership; National Centre for Policing Research and Professional Development; Collaborative Governance Strategic Research Area). Our research employs diverse conventional, non-traditional and multidisciplinary approaches and combines critical understanding of leadership and management with a focus on working with practitioners in a variety of public, voluntary and private sector contexts. 

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) plus 120 credits in research methods training or, ideally, a masters degree in Research Methods (MRes), which is the usual precursor to PhD studies.

Potential research projects

Internally funded full-time research studentships are advertised in January (closing date end of March) and may include the areas below. We also welcome part- and full-time self-funded applications in these areas:

  • Public- and third-sector governance, leadership and management
  • Interorganisational and intersectoral collaboration
  • Social and sustainable enterprise, innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Ethical professional and organisational practice
  • Practice-based learning and pedagogy.

Current/recent research projects

  • Employee engagement in corporate greening: a study of Belarusian companies
  • Institutional resilience? Developing an enhanced model for catchment based collaborative governance
  • The ethics of demand management in policing
  • Voluntary sector leadership in the context of cross-sector collaborations
  • A global majority framework of leadership
  • Impact investment, enterprise development and inclusive governance
  • Development and ‘buen vivir’: the governance and impacts of indigenous community-based enterprises in the Andean region
  • Ethical leadership as lived experience
  • City leadership in European cities
  • Creating collaborative advantage for public and social value
  • The performance of democratic practice in development organisations
  • The impact of entrepreneurial capital on environmental improvement in SMEs: contemporary practices and interventions in the leather sector in Pakistan
  • A new phase of collaborative leadership in the voluntary sector
  • Moral identity work in senior business practitioners
  • The role of leadership development interventions in peace building

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Lin Nilsen
+44 (0)1908 865365

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.