THE CASE METHOD IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION STUDIES

C. Devece Carañana, F.J. Garrigós-Simon, T. Barberá Ribera, G. Grau

Universitat Politècnica de València (SPAIN)
Public administration studies are a specific case of management. As in management, the case method is the most popular and practical way to learn. The aim of this method is to show to the student real examples and help them to understand how the theory studied can be applied. Most of the management problems, especially those related to strategic decisions, are complex, and the case method limits the complexity, reducing the amount of information presented and bounding the problem. This is perfectly valid for some managerial techniques that can be taught with structured closed problems, where all the variables are known and quantified, and the problems can be modelled in formulas and rules. These techniques, link to tactical and operational decisions, consider only a specific activity of organizations. This is an approach that can be very useful in the first years of the studies, but real problems rarely appear isolated. Usually there is a lot of variables involved, some of them quantitative, others qualitative, and the relationship between variables is not always clearly understood and known. Besides, public administration focused on service production, where the client-citizen is not segmented, there is no choice in the market where the organization perform its activities, there are more constraints and the environment is more complex than that faced by private companies. The necessity to introduce complex cases in the last year of the degree, with a great variety of data and information, where several aspects and subjects must be combined to find a satisfactory solution, implies the coordination of several subjects and the adaptation of this methodology.
This work presents a pilot project introduced in the public administration degree for teaching organization management in the Universitat Poltècnica de València, where a long case, with a great amount of information is presented, and the students can analyzed each specific question taking in account the global vision of the organization, its structure, capabilities, clients, environment and financial situation. The objectives for selecting, creating and presenting the case are analysed and some examples presented.
Results, advantages, disadvantages and problems found in this pilot project are commented.