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Professor Deborah Mabbett

BCA (Hons) (Victoria University of Wellington), D.Phil in Economics (Oxford), Professor of Public Policy

MSc Public Policy and Management Programme Director

Academic background

My academic training is in economics, but I have worked on public and social policy for most of my professional career. In the 1980s and 1990s, I worked mainly on comparative social policy and held research grants from the (then) UK Department of Social Security and the European Commission. I also worked for a short spell with the New Zealand Royal Commission on Social Policy. From 1993-1996 and again in 1999-2001 I worked as a consultant for the World Bank in Moldova and Lithuania. Subsequently, much of my research has been on the EU, including the effects of the single market on social insurance, the impact of anti-discrimination law and the political economy of the euro area. I have also written on pensions policy from a comparative perspective, and I am currently working on a project on the implications of higher and flexible retirement ages. Other current projects are on delegated governance, specifically the relationships between central banks and governments and the comparative political economy of minimum wages.

Research interests

The public is often told that 'there is no alternative' to the adoption of specific economic policies. In the contest for economic resources, partisan political debate is limited to a narrow range of redistributive taxation and spending policies, while many policies with profound effects on economic well-being are made by central bankers, regulators, judges and other experts. In my research, I try to illuminate how decisions affecting economic welfare are assigned between politically-contested and uncontested arenas, and how each arena works in constructing policy alternatives, seeking consensus, and responding to 'irritants' that disrupt prevailing policy settlements. Comparative studies can be revealing about how policy choices are constrained in specific national settings. For example, market-regulatory policies are often more politically contested in the United States than in Europe, while policy-making in the European Union has thrived on non-partisan regulatory methods.  Through my research, which is primarily based on case studies of important policy areas, I aim to challenge the view that markets are beyond political influence and to show the potential of taking a view of social policy which is not limited what can be done with the constrained budgetary resources of governments.


  • I convene the MSc in Public Policy and Management, and teach the following postgraduate courses:
    • Modern British Politics
    • Public Management: Theories and Innovations
  • I also teach the undergraduate module 'Governing by Numbers'.


  • I am currently supervising dissertations in the following areas:
    • Influence of public service contractors on policy-making
    • Education policy-making: the role of formal consultations
    • The 'securitisation' of social policy in Russia


Inaugural lecture

Deborah Mabbett

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Deborah Mabbett in the Departmental 40th anniversary series

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