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Online course

Understanding Public Financial Management: How Is Your Money Spent?

How do governments acquire and spend public money? Take a fresh look at public financial management with this free online course.

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Understanding Public Financial Management: How Is Your Money Spent?

Why join the course?

What went wrong in Greece’s handling of its public debt? How does a city government like Detroit go from prosperity to bankruptcy? And how could the looting, theft and corruption in Malawi’s “cashgate” have been avoided?

We are all concerned about where “our” money goes. We all want good roads and schools, thriving industry, and personal and national security, but how can we be sure that public monies are being managed properly, and how can we hold those in charge to account?

Understand and evaluate the management of public finances

This free online course will provide you with the knowledge and tools to understand and evaluate the management of financial resources across the public sector, wherever you are.

Drawing on the expertise of the Centre for Financial and Management Studies at SOAS, University of London, we’ll look at:

  • how governments and public sector organisations obtain financial resources through taxation, fees, charges, natural resources and other means;
  • how public sector organisations decide to use financial resources for attaining public policy goals and implementing public programmes;
  • how public sector organisations report their financial performance to the public;
  • how the use of public financial resources is audited;
  • and how governments are made accountable for their financial decisions.

By the end of the four-week course, you will be able to:

  • understand the basics of public financial management;
  • read simple public sector financial statements;
  • explain how governments raise finance through various means;
  • explain how the budget process works at national and sub-national levels;
  • understand how auditing is conducted in public sector organisations;
  • and understand how public sector organisations are held accountable to the public.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsWe're all concerned with where our money goes. We all want good roads, schools, hospitals, thriving industry, personal and national security, but how can we be sure that public monies are managed properly and how to hold those in charge to account? I'm Alberto Asquer, lecturer of Public Policy and Management at SOAS, University of London, and I'd like to welcome you to the world of public financial management.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsPublic financial management is a fundamental component of public sector governance for every country, sub-national government, and public sector entity, right down to the local council in your borough or town. When it works, we see prudent, accountable, and effective use of public monies. When it doesn't, we see misallocations, misappropriations, and a waste of financial resources. For example, what went wrong in Greece's handling of their public debt? What happens when a city government like Detroit files for bankruptcy? Just how do institutions and organisations manage our money? What are the key practices and processes used to acquire, spend, and keep our public finances under control?

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds This course will provide you with the knowledge and tools to understand and evaluate the management of financial resources in the public sector, wherever you are. Drawing on the expertise of colleagues here in our Centre for Financial and Management Studies, we'll be taking a look at real examples from recent and not so recent history, from close to our home here in London and further afield in countries like Singapore, Malawi, Brazil, and the United States, to study public financial management and how it affects you. Over the course of four weeks, we'll be unpicking some basic accounting categories and terms and seeing how they're used in context. How does the public sector raise revenues? Are all public expenditures necessary?

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 seconds How do public sector organisations report their financial performance to the public? And what's the relationship between accountability and public governance? Whether you're a student of economics, political science, or accounting, already working in public sector management, or simply looking for a better understanding of contemporary financial issues at home and around the world, this course has something to offer you. Join us, join in the discussions, and take your learning to a new level.

What topics will you cover?

  • Understanding financial statements: an examination of the information contained in common accounting terms
  • Fiscal imbalances: causes and consequences
  • Understanding public sector spending: how governments spend public money to implement public policies and execute programmes and projects
  • Planning and budgeting: an analysis of how public expenditure decisions are made
  • Evaluating public expenditures: understanding the effect of public spending decisions
  • Cutting expenditures and the austerity agenda: how government austerity policies are used to reduce government activity
  • Common sources of public revenues, including inter-governmental transfers, and alternative sources used by governments across the world
  • Taxation: an exploration of the advantages and disadvantages of taxation, custom duties and fees, and their uses, from behavioural change to stimulating business activity
  • Auditing and accountability: exploring the concept of accountability and explaining the importance of corporate governance in ensuring government accountability
  • Understanding public governance: exploring how the crisis of public administration has led to financial disaster in cities like Detroit

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Explore and understand the basics of public financial management
  • Interpret and reflect on simple public sector financial statements
  • Explain how governments raise finance through various means
  • Explain how the budget process works at national and sub-national levels
  • Discuss how auditing is conducted in public sector organisations
  • Explore how public sector organisations are held accountable to the public

Who is the course for?

This is a general level course, however some knowledge of economics, political science, or accounting may be useful.
This course would also be of interest to those already working in public sector management or simply looking for a better understanding of contemporary financial issues.

Who will you learn with?

Alberto Asquer

I am lecturer in Public Policy and Management at SOAS University of London. I do research on the management of public sector entities, public financial management, and regulation.

Who developed the course?

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £59.00

Statement of Participation £39.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.