The image is of a large group of professions, all of which belong to different public sector jobs.

Welcome to the course

Welcome to the course. In this course, you will explore some of the theories relating to public financial management to help you understand the purpose of public financial management. You will also learn about how public money is managed in practice. We hope that it will stimulate your interest and you will enjoy your time of learning with us.

The course considers the whole of the public sector including central and local government, hospitals, police forces, and schools. The first week of the course looks at how the public sector differs from the private sector and the implications that has on the financial management skills required.

The remaining three weeks of this course follow the annual financial management cycle. Week 2 will help you understand and evaluate budgeting. It will cover two uses of budgets: planning income and expenditure for the year ahead and authorising the spending of money during the year. You will learn about different approaches to budgeting including incremental budgeting and zero-based budgeting.

Week 3 is concerned with value for money: what it is and why it is important for public managers to manage the spending of public money on their services or projects to create the greatest possible value for money.

Week 4 focuses on accountability. You will learn how to assess and understand the accountability mechanisms which operate in the public sector, such as the publication of annual financial reports. Week 4 will also cover the role of internal and external auditors in the public sector.


Public financial management has many technical terms. To help you throughout the course you can download a glossary from the bottom of this page.

The course team

Dr Henry Lahr is the lead educator for the course. He is a Lecturer in Finance at the Open University Business School. His research focuses on financial constraints to investment and innovation, financing of research and development, innovation dynamics in entrepreneurial firms, listed private equity and venture capital.

Stephen Henderson is a mentor on this course. He is an OU Associate Lecturer in Personal Finance, Business and Economics. Also Secondary School Teacher of Business and Economics with particular interest in Personal Finance Education.

Paul Corner is a mentor on the course. He is an Associate Lecturer in The Open University, Tutor & Examiner @ London Institute of Banking & Finance, Adviser for Pensions Ombudsman, Chartered Financial Planner, FinTech Project Manager.

Your learning on the course

The examples and case studies you will be looking at for this course are mainly drawn from the public services in the United Kingdom. If you are not based in the UK, there are opportunities for you to find similar information about your country. You can also use the UK examples as opportunities to think about the similarities and differences with your own context.

There are plenty of opportunities to communicate with other learners. You’ll be able to make comments at any point in the course. You’ll also notice the discussion points, which offer a more structured dialogue with educators and fellow learners. So please join in! Why not introduce yourself now in the comments?

You can also view the profile pages of your fellow learners and follow them to keep track of their comments.

Using FutureLearn

For a quick start guide of how to learn with FutureLearn, visit Using FutureLearn.

Get extra benefits, upgrade your course

You can now get extra benefits by upgrading this course, including:

Unlimited access to the course: Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

Access to tests: Ensure you’ve mastered the material with access to tests on the course.

A Certificate of Achievement: To help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement when you become eligible.

Find out more

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This article is from the free online course:

Managing Public Money

The Open University