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Unit information: Corruption and Public Policy in 2021/22

Unit name Corruption and Public Policy
Unit code SPOLM0055
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Peiffer
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines the relationship between corruption and public policy processes, as well as policies designed to control corruption. While it is widely accepted within development policy circles that corruption poses a serious threat to international development, the regular coverage of major corruption scandals in the Global North continue to highlight the ubiquitous nature of the phenomenon. Drawing on cases from several contexts, the unit will encourage a critical assessment of what is known and not known about the causes of corruption, where corruption is concentrated in the world, and its consequences for public policy, as well as the effectiveness of anticorruption policies.

The unit will consider how corruption is defined and measured by many groups and how influential definitions of corruption have shaped anticorruption policies and beliefs about who in global society is likely to perpetrate corruption. As identified in different literatures, it will consider the hypothesized causes and consequences of corruption. Within this area, students will engage with competing arguments that suggest that corruption is a symptom or cause of political, economic and social developmental trajectories. Finally, it will introduce specific examples of anticorruption policies from several countries and will critically engage with the evidence available and arguments that have been made for how, and if corruption can and should be controlled.

The unit aims are to:

  • Develop an understanding for how corruption is thought to influence public policy processes in several different contexts.
  • Identify how corruption is measured and defined, by various groups, and the implications different understandings of corruption has on beliefs about how and where anticorruption efforts should be targeted.
  • Critically evaluate the evidence that exists for the causes of corruption and its consequences for developmental trajectories.
  • Examine a selection of anticorruption policies and develop an understanding of the critique of anticorruption efforts as being a part of an ‘anticorruption industry.’

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. Critically evaluate the reasons why corruption is thought to impact upon policy processes.
  2. Assess how different definitions of corruption have impacted upon beliefs about where and who in global society is likely to perpetrate corruption.
  3. Appreciate the methodological difficulties that exist to definitively establishing what impact corruption has on economic, social, and political outcomes.
  4. Analyse the key theoretical debates around why anticorruption policies have seemingly failed.
  5. Be well informed on the types of anticorruption policies that exist, and able to critically analyse a selection of anticorruption policies that are in use

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through blended learning involving a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including 10 weekly lectures, practical activities supported by study-group sessions, and self-directed exercises. Narrated power point presentations will cover conceptual and theoretical debates, whilst more applied and policy specific learning will be self-paced, with electronically delivered material, and undertaken individually or supported by pair and group work, and involving elements of tutor feedback and peer-assessment. Feedback will be provided for formal assessments, preparation for which will be supported through online activities and in weekly study group sessions with tutors.

Assessment Information

Two x 2,000 word written assessments (50% each).

Assessment one will test the first 3 listed intended learning outcomes with a 2,000 word essay.

Assessment two will require students to produce a 2,000 word report for a policy-making audience, and will test the last 2 listed intended learning outcomes.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SPOLM0055).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.