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Research project

Centre for Comparative Public Sector and Civil Service Reform

The Centre is dedicated to research, education and consultancy in the field of Comparative Public Sector Reform with a special focus on civil service systems. This field has traditionally been one of the cornerstones of the Leiden Institute of Public Administration.

Frits van der Meer

The activities of this center are aimed at the study of the structure and functioning of public governance (on a systemic, organizational and an individual Civil Service actor level) from a multilevel, international and historical comparative perspective. Our research is empirical in nature and pays attention to the normative analysis of Public Administration. We are keen to emphasize the interaction between empirical and normative questions. In addition,  we foster our relations with the (inter)national academic and professional communities in public administration. Both fundamental and applied research and education are essential parts of the activities of the Centre. Our interest thus also goes to applied research, education and consultancy both nationally and internationally on our fields of interest and from our expertise.

Our focus and objects are to conduct research and education along the lines of three interrelated fields of interest

i. Public sector and civil service system reform in a comparative perspective given the background of Dutch public administration as a gradually changing multi-level governance system: consequences of MLG and enabling state, public performance, professional autonomy, good governance, legitimacy.

ii. Normative aspects of public administration, including values, ideas, ethical stances, norms and legal frameworks that shape PA and give rise to tensions and challenges involving issues as integrity, corruption, juridization, normalization of civil servants, and fields as asylum policy

iii. Historical research of public administration, including work on the discipline of PA, its methods and interests: (administrative history, foundations of PA, training & education in the public sector).

1. Expand national and international cross-collaboration and -cooperation within our academic network by conducting research, including publications, conferences, papers for national and international academic platforms.

2. Strengthen the interaction with the professional community by offering education directed at professional excellence (for instance in BA, MPS, (online) seminars, interactive courses & masterclasses) and interacting and participating in relevant discussions and debates.

3. Increase the impact of our research and fuel societal debate by publishing in traditional and social media, such as (inter)national newspapers, (professional) magazines, digital platforms.

4. Do applied research, education and consultancy both nationally and internationally from our expertise.

I Public service system reform in comparative perspective against the backdrop of   Dutch public administration as a gradually changing multi-level governance system.


Relevant questions:

Do national and international changes in society lead to an intensified multi-level governance  character of the public sector? Does it demand the need for a new type of public servant with a different role, background, personal qualities, values, virtues, competencies and attitude?

  1. How does the transformation from old to new style public sector take place?
  2. Is this transformation typical for the Dutch situation or do we also find evidence in other countries?

Our attention goes to the effects of national and international changes in society on contemporary public administration and public service (particularly on the civil service system). An international and historical comparative approach may help to determine trends on the basis of which actual consequences can be mapped and judged on their merits. Essential in this context is the increasing MLG character of the public domain including multiple scales and the combination of public and private actors. In our next program (2016-2021) we will not only focus on central and international government but also direct our attention towards decentralized government (and their officials) and the relationship with the private-public domain. Furthermore, we will continue our study of the role of public administration and of the relationships between politicians, civil service officials and advisors, and the consequences of the rise of the enabling state for public service.

Important themes are the influence of both trends (MLG and the rise of the enabling state) on size, composition and functioning of the public service and civil service system; the relationship between civil servants and ministers (and their advisors); the relationship between political administrators and the private-public domain including citizens; diversity of the public service; the practice of short-term policy advice hires (consultocracy) necessary skills and professionalism for civil servants; the need for training and education of the civil service; necessary protection of the position of civil servant enabling them to live up to their role; the decline of loyal contradiction including appraisal through ex ante voice; a comparative approach.

The Centre for Public Sector Reform publishes books and articles on these subjects. Our research is also made available for practitioners through conferences, lectures, articles in professional magazines, websites and the media. We make sure that issues in professional practice are brought to scientific attention.

II Normative aspects of public administration, including values, ideas, ethical stances, norms and legal frameworks that shape Public Administration and give rise to tensions and challenges


The Centre for Public Values and Ethics, founded by Kerkhoff and  Overeem  (formerly Leiden, now Free University, Amsterdam but still affiliated with the CPVE), presently headed by Kerkhoff and Poama, researches the place, role and importance of philosophy, ethics, values, corruption and integrity in Public Administration. The Centre houses the database which Kerkhoff and Overeem have set up to cover this entire field of research. Kerkhoff has published extensively on these issues in national and international scientific journals and has added to the valorization of his findings through assignments for public and civic organizations. Kerkhoff, Overeem and Alexander De Becker cooperate in research on integrity violations.

In the historical and conceptual study of corruption, integrity and public morality, related to our third field of research, the questions on which public values prevail in a certain era and why, take center stage. And why do they change over time and what are the implications for the way we think about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ public administration. The focus of Kees Nagtegaal in this area is on the ethics of asylum policy, human rights and minority representation. His PhD research is a historical and comparative approach to five refugee crises in the Netherlands. In his current and future research he directs his attention towards interdepartmental responsibility for refugee crises, private initiative in the housing of refugees, the political reasons for a separate secretary for immigration policy after 2000, private organizations using volunteers for the care of refugees and asylum seekers, the Swiss example for Dutch policymakers, and public sector response to fluctuations in the refugee flow.

Our research on political administrative relations also focuses on normative implications for public administration. The normative legal dimension, for instance, comes to the fore in our (inter)national study of the harmonization of the civil servant status (De Becker, Dijkstra, Van den Berg and Van der Meer).  We chose a multidisciplinary approach for a number of upcoming publications. Comparative research on “the decline of appraisal as a civil service function and the rise of the “can do” civil servant: a comparative analysis on causes and future developments”, combines quantitative and qualitative elements, and will be presented at the IPPC Conference in Singapore followed by articles in international journals (Dijkstra & Van der Meer). Research on the relationship between staff reduction and the quality of the public sector, will result in international presentations and several papers (Dijkstra & Van der Meer). The Rio paper on tri partisan political-administrative cooperation will be turned into an international article. Comparative EU research “The Regulation of Executive Pay in the Public and Semi-Public Sector across the European Union”, carried out with EIPA was commissioned by the Dutch home office (Van den Berg). We continue to discuss the institutional dimension of the Dutch Ombudsman in several professional articles and Dutch newspapers (Dijkstra & Van der Meer). The project ‘Patterns of Politicization in 14 democracies’ (Van den Berg), includes the following subprojects: Political Assistants in the Netherlands 1994-2014, The use and usefulness of the ‘traditions approach’ for the study of politicization, The Fiscal crisis, Austerity and Politicization (with Prof. Tiina Randma, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia), Politicization of the legislative-juridical function (with Dijkstra) and Dynamics in the Dutch policy advisory system.

The project of Jaap Uijlenbroek on (Dutch) ministers who were forced to step down will result in a book “Gevallen”, likely to appear at Boom publishers. Van den Berg, Van der Meer, Dijkstra and Kerkhoff all contribute.

We have also put normative judicial and legal questions on the agenda, such as the judicialization of public administration (Van der Meer, Dijkstra, Van den Berg, Raadschelders en De Becker).  An example is ‘Politicization of the legislative-juridical function’ (Van den Berg & Dijkstra 2015; Van den Berg & Dijkstra 2016).

And, finally, we research the effects of New Public Management on the “Rechtsstaat” and the judiciary (Dijkstra, Raadschelders, Van der Meer en De Becker). Dijkstra is preparing a book in English on the developments of the judiciary in international comparative perspective. De Becker and Dijkstra have published on the German Constitutional Court and are preparing articles for a professional Belgian magazine and an international scientific journal. Dijkstra, Kerkhoff and Van der Meer were involved in the “Klokkenluiderscongres” of CAOP on13 October 2016. 

III Historical research of public administration, including work on the discipline of PA, its methods and interests


The historical dimension is mainly addressed in the projects and publications turned out by the Centre for Public Values & Ethics. Research is conducted on the history and development of training and education of civil servants in the Netherlands since the beginning of the 19th century. Together with researchers from the Institute of History of the Leiden University (Dr. Joris Oddens and Prof. Henk te Velde), Kerkhoff works on a joint research proposal on Dutch traditions of legitimate authority. Kerkhoff researches the history of advice and advisory to the Dutch government, particularly the role and functioning of national committees in Dutch administrative history since 1814. Van der Meer and Raadschelders have researched aspects of Dutch administrative history since 1992, out of the working group “History of Government” of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS). The chapters on the Netherlands in the IIAS publications, will be updated and assembled in the book “Bestuursgeschiedenis van Nederland” which is due to appear in 2018.

Our research group consists of: 

  • Prof. dr. Alexander De Becker, Faculty of Law at the University of Gent, Belgium).
  • Dr. Caspar van den Berg (Associate Professor with a focus on Comparative Bureaucracy, Politicization and Political-Administrative Relations, Europeanization of Domestic Governance, Politics, Governance and the Media, Public Affairs).
  • Prof. dr. Jos Raadschelders (Honorary Professor and Professor at John Glenn School of Public Affairs, Ohio State University)
  • Mr. dr. Gerrit Dijkstra (Assistant Professor of Public Administration & Law).
  • Prof. Wolfgang Dreschler (Professor of Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia) 
  • Dr. Toon Kerkhoff (Assistant Professor of Public Administration, co-founder of the Centre for Public Values & Ethics, focus on integrity, corruption, historical perspective).
  • Prof. dr. Frits van der Meer (CAOP Professor of Comparative Public Sector Reform).
  • Drs. Kees Nagtegaal (Lecturer, PhD on Dutch refugee policy; asylum policy, minority representation).
  • Rigtje Passchier MSc (Dual PhD student, Impact of different local governance styles on social policy).
  • Dr. Andrei Poama, philosophy of social sciences in general and PA in specific..
  • Jan Porth MSc (External PhD student, Impact financial crisis on Dutch municipalities).
  • Prof. Tiina Randma (Professor of Public Management and Policy, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia)
  • Nelly Samosir MSc (PhD student, Ethics and financial management.
  • Prof. dr. Jaap Uijlenbroek (CAOP Professor of Industrial Relations and Director General National Real Estate at Ministry of Internal Affairs).
  • Prof. dr. Zeger van der Wal (CAOP Professor of Public Organization Reform and Professor of public management at the National University of Singapore).
  • Mr. Wilma der Weduwe (Dual PhD student, Reform of the Judiciary organization).

The wider network:

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