Leadership and management of public services

This module provides you with the opportunity to study the many dimensions of managing public services. The definition of what public services are will be deconstructed to enable you to analyse and integrate the many areas it spans. The notion of ‘public service’ is broader than that of ‘public sector’: you discover how to manage a public service irrespective of the legal nature of the provider of the service, which may be public, private for-profit or private not-for-profit. Notably, the role of the third sector/voluntary sector in the governance and management of public services is central to developing your thinking on public services and is core to this module.

Vocational relevance

The content and activities in this module are designed to develop knowledge and understanding of the leadership and management of public services. This distinctive body of knowledge, cognitive and professional skills enables students to develop their employability, both by enhancing their direct employability in organisations involved in the delivery of public services (both public sector and third sector) and by enabling them to engage in professional posts and responsibilities in the commercial sector at key interfaces with the public sector, including the manifold governance arrangements entailing the private provision of public services.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module aims to develop your expertise and understanding of what leadership and management embody in public services. The different examples that you'll explore across the units, as well as activities that you complete, will enhance your learning through application to real-world situations. Even if you're not a public sector employee, you'll have concrete experiences of receiving and interacting with public service provision that will bring to life your learning. You'll also analyse and discuss two course-long case studies, a public sector case and a third sector case, to consolidate your understanding of how leadership and management work in practice.

The module is divided into the following five units:

Unit 1
You'll first be introduced to the key notions of this module: public service; public administration and public management; public leadership; public governance. You'll then see how these concepts can be used in practical cases. You'll also reflect on the importance of public leadership and collaborative governance.

Unit 2
You'll explore the significance of context and contextual influences and how managing public services requires taking account of contextual differences. One-size-fits-all approaches are doomed to fail in public management. Effective public management depends on the capacity to take into consideration the specific context. Context will be analysed in terms of the specific features of a cultural, political and administrative system.

Unit 3
You'll explore the notion of space and place, and the related topic of territorial development. Public services inextricably have a spatial dimension: whether the public service is about urban planning or social care, it is defined by the territory where the service is being delivered. Entitlement to receive a public service is, in most instances, connected to the very fact of being resident in a given locality. As technological developments and digitisation transform the notions of space and place, this is reflected in the changing nature of delivering public services.

Unit 4
You'll analyse patterns of decision-making in public services. These include: decisions on financial resources (financial management and processes of public budgeting and accounting); decisions on human resources (human resources management systems); the use of performance measures for making decisions in public services management; and the issue of public values (in the plural) as well as the creation of public value (in the singular) as guiding principles and criteria for public decision-making.

Unit 5
You'll study patterns of service delivery and how to organise public services. Issues analysed include: alternative governance arrangements for service delivery; inter-agency coordination and joined up government; processes for involving private providers in service delivery; the involvement of users in public services towards forms of co-production and collaborative governance; and the distinctive nature of public services in which coercion is a constitutive requirement (the example, policing and security).

The five linked units in this module will require you to study six hours per week, for 22 weeks between May and September.

Please be aware that this module may engage with topics that are considered distressing in society. Contact us if you would like to discuss this further with an advisor prior to registering for the module.

You will learn

This module is designed for professionals from a wide range of contexts and backgrounds who wish to actively engage with the challenges of leadership and management in public services. You'll learn about the complexity of management in this realm and the many and varied links and dependencies within public services and the private sector.  You'll develop your ability to analyse public services from different perspectives, such as contextual influences, and employ a range of managerial tools for leading and managing public services.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you'll likely need a headset with a microphone.

You will learn by working online in structured activities supported by a wide range of resources, including specially designed books and a world-class online library. Activities generally require online participation over two to six and contribute to your reflective practice and your assessment.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

Course work includes

1 Tutor-marked assignment (TMA)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Leadership and management of public services starts once a year, in May. This page describes the module that will start in May 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in May 2028.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

Whilst this module is primarily designed to be an elective 15-credit module in the MBA, it is also available as a stand-alone module or a component of other learning paths.

The MBA qualification (F61) is for practising middle and senior managers who want to develop their careers. It focuses on strategic analysis, interdisciplinary skills, intellectual stimulation and independent judgement and covers core themes such as critical engagement, embedding theory in practice and global impact awareness. Among the core disciplines included are organisational studies and behaviour, accounting and finance, marketing, operations and business intelligence. The programme is modular, flexible and designed to enable managers to critically assess multiple perspectives and start applying their new understanding of management as reflective practitioners.


Start End England fee Register
03 May 2025 Oct 2025 £1680.00

Registration closes 17/04/25 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in May 2028.

Future availability

Leadership and management of public services starts once a year, in May. This page describes the module that will start in May 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in May 2028.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

As well as the individual tuition provision, you'll have access to regular opportunities for engagement with other students, university library access, an extensive variety of specially written resources presented in different media (print and online) and designed exclusively for this module, audio-visual material, published articles, case studies and a set of interactive tools.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

Elements of this module are delivered online and include the use of real-time online discussions and an interactive whiteboard space, so time spent using a computer and the internet will be extensive. If you use assistive technology or have a hearing or speech impairment and have concerns about accessing this type of virtual environment and materials, you contact us to discuss it further before registering.

Written transcripts of audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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