Governance (GOVN) 390

Public Policy and Administrative Governance (Revision 5)

GOVN 390 Cover

Revision 3 is closed for registrations, see current revision

View previous revision

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Sciences. Course can also be used as Applied Studies (Business and Administrative Studies) area of study by credential students only.

Prerequisite: None. A previous course in administrative studies, public policy, or public administration/management is recommended. This is a senior-level course and as such students are expected to have advanced analytical and writing skills.

Precluded Course: GOVN 390 is a cross-listed course—a course listed under two different disciplines—with POLI 392. (GOVN 390 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit for POLI 392).

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Governance, Law & Management Home Page

GOVN 390 has a Challenge for Credit option.

check availability


Governance 390: Public Policy and Administrative Governance has been designed for senior undergraduate students who are interested in the creation and implementation of Canadian public policy. There are no formal prerequisites for this course. While it is recommended that students have taken another course in political science or public administration, the course material should be accessible to anyone with the intellectual sophistication and academic maturity expected of senior undergraduate students.

Governance 390 aims to give students the knowledge, analytical skills, and tools necessary to think critically about matters associated with the making and implementation of Canadian public policy. This course will benefit those who have chosen a career in the public service, those who simply wish to increase their awareness of public policy-making and implementation, as well as students with aspirations toward graduate studies.

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the character of public bureaucracy and provide a theoretically informed analysis of the contrast between a classic Weberian bureaucracy and the type of public bureaucracy advocated by the New Public Management (NPM).
  • Explain the role of bureaucratic, political, and non-state actors in the policy process.
  • Contrast the various policy instruments and service-delivery mechanisms used in policy implementation, and explain the factors shaping the possibility of successful policy implementation.
  • Explain the nature of democratic accountability in parliamentary government, and comment on approaches to ensuring ethics in administrative governance.
  • Explain the significance of social diversity to the making and implementation of public policy, and discuss the relationship between social diversity and the “differential impact” of public policy.
  • Contrast the governing paradigms associated with the administrative welfare state and those of the neo-liberal state, and explain the relationship of the NPM to the neo-liberal mode of governance.


The course consists of the following eight units.

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Public Policy and Administrative Governance
  • Unit 2: Public Bureaucracy in Theory and Practice
  • Unit 3: Parliament, Bureaucracy, and Accountability in Canada
  • Unit 4: Policy Formulation—The Institutions and Processes of Political Governance
  • Unit 5: Administrative Governance—The Challenge of Policy Implementation
  • Unit 6: Non-State Actors in Policy-Making and Administrative Governance
  • Unit 7: Social Diversity and the Question of “Difference“ in Policy-Making and Administrative Governance
  • Unit 8: Governance in the 21st Century


Your final grade in GOVN 390 will be based on the marks you achieve on the assignments and the final examination. To receive credit for GOVN 390, you must complete all the assignments, achieve a mark of at least D (50 percent) on the final examination, and obtain an overall course grade of at least D (50 percent). The weighting of the assignments and exam toward your final grade are outlined below.

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1: Concepts Paper 15%
Assignment 2: Policy Memo Proposal 0%
Assignment 3: Policy Memo 20%
Assignment 4: Research Paper Outline 10%
Assignment 5: Research Paper 25%
Final Exam 30%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Dunn, C. (Ed.). (2018). The handbook of Canadian public administration (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Other materials

All other course materials are available online through the course home page. These include a Course Information, Study Guide, and additional readings.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the GOVN 390 challenge registration, you must receive a grade of “pass” on the exam.

Activity Weighting
Exam 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 5, February 6, 2020.

View previous revision