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Good Governance and Sustainable Development


Dr Maria Gavris

Module Leader

Term 1
10 weeks
9 lectures, 9 seminars
Not available to students outside the School for Cross-Faculty Studies

Moodle Platform »

What makes governance 'good'? What are the factors that inhibit good governance? What institutional changes are required (at the local, national, regional, global systemic level) to achieve sustainable development? What is governance for?

These are the Big Questions that will be addressed as part of this module, in an interdisciplinary context. The module explores neoliberal restructuring as the mainstream on development governance, and alternatives to it (Keynesian global governance proposals, the debate between green growth and de-growth proponents) ; the multidimensional nature of governance (local, national, multilevel, global governance); different perspectives on the role of institutions in development, on why institutions and governance mechanisms differ across countries and on possibilities for institutional change.

As such, the module is directly linked to SDG16: ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’, which refers to the need to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels, to ensure participatory decision-making, and to strengthen global governance - but governance as a theme is more broadly relevant to all SDGs.

Principal Aims

This module aims to explore Good Governance as a necessary fourth pillar of Sustainable Development. The module focuses on institutions as the basis for good governance, as well as on the power relations in which institutions sit and are constituted by, and the challenges these pose for sustainable development, at different levels.

Principal Learning Outcomes

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

  • Apply key concepts related to the theme of good governance (e.g. 'government' vs 'governance’; ‘multilevel governance’; ‘participatory decision-making’; ‘institutional path dependence’ etc.)
  • Distinguish between, and critically assess, different theoretical perspectives on governance, the role of institutions in sustainable development, and possibilities for institutional change.
  • Analyse the power relations at the heart of the global system and the challenges they pose for development governance.
  • Engage in debates on the complex issue of what constitutes good governance and on governance reform proposals at the national and global levels.
  • Carry out independent research.
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing

Employability Skills

Through this module, you will develop a number of different skills that are sought by employers which will support your professional development. We have highlighted this to enable you to identify and reflect on the skills you have acquired and apply them throughout your professional journey including during the recruitment processes whether this on an CV/application form or at an interview.

  • Analytical: Find, evaluate, and use previous research (academic, policy and grey literature); use appropriate analytical methods to analyse research on governance
  • Research: Carry out independent research to assess the quality of governance and the institutional changes needed in order to achieve sustainable development in a case chosen by you
  • Reflective: Evaluate your own practice and learning process, consolidate your learning and demonstrate critical engagement with the learning material through a reflective journal
  • Teamwork: Work effectively with others on group tasks to facilitate discussion and debates on different topics
  • Written communication: Write well-structured reflective pieces and critical reviews
  • Oral communication: Developed through weekly presentations on the core readings
  • Subject-specific skills: An advanced understanding of good governance as a necessary fourth pillar of sustainable development, and of governance-related concepts; an ability to engage with different theoretical perspectives on governance and relate governance issues discussed in class to specific contexts; an ability to engage in debates on the complex issue of what constitutes good governance and on governance reform proposals at different governance levels.


The module starts with a historical overview of the shift from 'government' to governance, before considering the different scales of governance (national, supranational, global, local) via case studies from around the world and from an interdisciplinary perspective. The final session will consider the normative dimension implied by the concept of 'good governance', by focusing on the philosophy of what makes governance good.

Indicative content:

Introduction: from 'government' to 'governance' - the retreat of the state?

Neoliberalism as the mainstream on development governance

Alternatives to neoliberal development governance: Keynesian global governance proposals; green growth versus prosperity without growth

Why does governance differ across countries? Institutionalist perspectives

Supranational, multilevel governance: the EU, ASEAN and ECOWAS

Global governance: the developmental implications of IMF and World Bank policy conditionality

Global and regional hegemony as governance issues: China as hegemonic contender

Local governance and participatory democracy

What makes governance 'good'? Ubuntu and Buen vivir perspectives

Guidance on writing a critical review on governance


  • Portfolio of reflections: 35%
  • Critical Review: 50%
  • Group Presentation: 15%

  Please note: Module availability and staffing may change year on year depending on availability and other operational factors. The School for Cross-faculty Studies makes no guarantee that any modules will be offered in a particular year, or that they will necessarily be taught by the staff listed on this page.