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Where Does Britain Rank? – International Public Services Rankings

The ESRC Public Services Programme and The Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) held a 1-day conference on Tuesday 13th December 2005 to consider the UK’s performance across a range of public services, including education, health, transport and crime as well as asking what makes a meaningful rankings framework?

Conference Information


Will a World Cup win this summer solve the current crisis in the NHS?

The year 2000 saw France not only win the European Championships but also top the World Health Organisation League Tables and Andrew Street has demonstrated a strong correlation between FIFA rankings and WHO rankings. Yet Beckham and Co. will not be carrying the weight of the nation’s health on their shoulders in Germany; Street was using this spurious example to point to some of the difficulties with composite rankings data.

Street’s presentation was typical of the prevailing atmosphere of practical scepticism at the conference. Christopher Hood tallied Britain’s individual public service and good governance rankings and found that overall Britain sat in the bottom three of OECD countries, marginally ahead of France and the US, but then went on to point out the myriad of inherent difficulties in compiling such data sets. The OECD education league tables and specifically the German Government’s reaction to them brought forth questions about the influence of rankings on policy decisions. Memorably, Nick Manning warned of the motives behind some rankings data sets, drawing a distinction between the ‘entrepreneurial’ and the ‘train-spotting’ data compilers.

In spite of these criticisms the delegates did not dismiss rankings data as useless. Many agreed that the ‘data clubs approach’ is a promising innovation and that rankings data will and should have a role in the evaluation of public services in the future, even if presently that role is only prima facie.
Full report (pdf)

The conference was covered by the BBC Radio 4 Programme ‘More or Less’. More or Less broadcast their report on Janaury 4th 2006 but you can still listen to the episode, which features interviews with Christopher Hood, Andrew Street, Alison Wolf and Chris Pollit.


Christopher Hood & Craig Beeston (Oxford University) ‘How Does Britain Rank and How Do We Know? International Rankings of Public Service Performance’
Abstract | Presentation

George Gaskell & Juni Kouha (Methodology Institute, LSE) ‘A Statistical Perspective on International Public Service Rankings’
Abstract | Presentation

Andrew Street (Centre for Health Economics, York) ‘Comparing Health Performance and the 2000 WHO Health Rankings Experience’
Abstract | Presentation

John Cresswell (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) ‘Comparing Educational Performance and the OECD PISA Rankings’
Abstract | Presentation

Martin Killias (Ecole des Sciences Criminelles, Lausanne) ‘Comparing Crime and Police Performance’
Abstract | Presentation (not available)

Steve Glaister & Richard Anderson (Imperial College, London) ‘Transport Performance and the Data Clubs Approach’
Abstract | Presentation

Wendy Thomson (McGill University, ex UK Cabinet Office) ‘The Way Forward: Using and Developing International Comparisons of Public Service Performance’
Abstract and presentation not available.

Nick Manning (World Bank and OECD) ‘Management in Government: Development of OECD Comparative Country Data’
Abstract | Presentation


Chris Pollitt (Erasmus University, Rotterdam) Opening Session

Ted Marmor (Yale University) Second Session

Alison Wolf (King’s College, London) Second Session

Tony Travers (LSE) Third Session

Geoff Mulgan (Young Foundation) Fourth Session