Welfare State Reforms: Accountability, Democracy, and Future Challenges

Research Team Publications Events Conferences Partners

Principal Investigator, Dr Paola Mattei, and Project Director, Mahima Mitra, presented some of the project's initial findings at an international conference in Shanghai in May 2013.


This comparative, interdisciplinary project investigates the recent managerial reforms in hospital care, welfare services, and immigration administration in Germany and Scandinavia. Funded by the Research Council of Norway, and in collaboration with the Stein Rokkan Research Centre, this project builds on Dr. Paola Mattei's previous work, including her 2009 book "Restructuring Welfare Organizations in Europe: From Democracy to Good Management?"

Between January 2011 and October 2014 the team at the European Studies Centre is working as part of an international network of research centres, which comprises the University of Bergen (Norway), the University of Potsdam (Germany), and the Danish Institute for Governmental Research (Denmark).


Our aim of this project is to understand how recent welfare reforms affect the link between democracy and the welfare state through the conceptual lens of public accountability.

Our central research questions include:

  • How do recent welfare reforms reshape the relationship between traditional and new forms of public accountability in Northern Europe?
  • How have the welfare reforms in Norway, Denmark and Germany affected the democratic system of public accountability over the last decades?
  • How has the role of elected politicians changed and hence also the way social sectors in those countries are governed?
  • And, are welfare politics becoming an increasingly technocratic and depoliticised process?


Dr. Paola Mattei's recent book on welfare reform.


Research Team

Dr Paola Mattei
Principal Investigator

Dr. Paola Mattei is University Lecturer in Comparative Social Policy and has been a Governing Body Fellow at St Antony’s College since 2010. She has published on healthcare reforms in West European Politics, Public Administration, and other international journals. She is the author of Restructuring Welfare Organisations in Europe (Palgrave, 2008). Her current research interests also include higher education reform and she co-convenes a weekly seminar series on that topic.





Dr Therese Feiler
Research Officer

Therese has completed a D.Phil. in Theology at the University of Oxford. She studied English and Religious Studies in Berlin and Aberdeen before coming to Oxford for an M.St. in the Study of Religion in 2007. She has worked in journalism as well as political consulting. Her research focuses on political ethics, specifically the ethics of war between theology and philosophy. Apart from the ethical dimension of the healthcare sector, she is also interested in modern intellectual history and the theology of films.







Antonina Santalova
Research Officer

Antonina is completing a D.Phil in Social Policy at the University of Oxford. She holds a Master of Philosophy in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford and the M.Sc. (Hons) in Economics from the National State University of Kyrgyzstan. She is a Programme Director of Graduates of Oxford and Adelaide (GOA Project). Previously Antonina worked as a Country Director in Kyrgyzstan of a regional Central Asian education development project funded by USAID. Antonina worked for the Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic, when she became a Fellow of John Smith Memorial Trust. Her research interests include welfare reforming, education policy and organizational accountability.



Jeremy Pilaar
Research Assistant

Jeremy is completing an M.Phil in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford, where his research focuses on public tertiary education access and affordability. He holds a BA in Political Economy from the University of California, Berkeley. While there, Jeremy served as Budget Campaign Chair for the University of California Student Association and as a student representative in California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom's Working Group for the Future of Higher Education. Prior to attending Oxford, Jeremy worked at a civil rights law firm in Washington, D.C. focused on combating workplace discrimination and wage and hour violations. He has interned at the California Department of Justice and for United States Senator Barbara Boxer.



  • Neby, S., Laægreid, P., Mattei, P., & Mitra, M. (2013). Same cheat, different wrapping: DRG scandals and accountability in Germany and Norway. Uni Rokkan, The Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies, Working Paper 4-2013. Read paper.
  • Mattei, P., Mitra, M., Vrangbæk, K., Neby, S., & Byrkjeflot, H. (2013). Reshaping public accountability: hospital reforms in Germany, Norway and Denmark. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 79(2), 249-270. Read paper.
  • Lægreid, P & Mattei, P. Guest Editors. IRAS Special Issue: Reforming the Welfare State and implications for Accountability Relations in a Comparative Perspective, June 2013, 79 (2). Read journal.

Project Events, Workshops and Seminars

14-15 February, 2014 (Upcoming)

An international conference Public accountability under market pressures: Reshaping its forms and values, organised jointly by the Oxford Institute of Social Policy and the Accountability and Welfare Reform Project, at the European Studies Centre, Oxford. (See the conference programme here)

7-8 November, 2013

VAM - Conference (section Welfare, Working Life and Migration; Research Council Norway): Accountability in the Welfare State - Theoretical Perspectives and Cross-Sectoral Analyses, at the University of Potsdam.

September 2012

A PhD symposium Reforming Welfare Organisations in Europe was held in Bergen, Norway.

16-17 December 2011 An international workshop Researching Accountability - Conceptual and Methodological Challenges was held at the European Studies Centre, Oxford. The workshop aimed to bring out parallels and contrasts in the interpretation of democratic accountability in mature European welfare states and discuss approaches to comparative study in this field.

Conference and Workshop Participation


19–24 July 2014


9–11 April 2014

14-16 March 2014

11-13 September 2013


International Political Science Association (IPSA) Conference, Montréal, Canada; SOG Panel titled "The Moral and Ethical Implications of Transformed Accountability Relationships in Contemporary Administrative Welfare Reforms" has been accepted and will be chaired by Dr Paola Mattei.

International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM) Ottawa, Canada. Panel: "Accountability: deficits, overloads and new approaches". A paper by Dr Paola Mattei has been accepted

Council for European Studies (CES) , Washington DC. A paper by Dr Paola Mattei and Dr Therese Feiler has been accepted. Direct link to the proposal:

Paper presentation: “Accountabilities in Tension - Political vs. Social in the 2012 NHS Reform”, European Group of Public Administration (EGPA) Conference, Edinburgh.

May 2013
Presentation of paper on "Reshaping Public Accountability: Hospital Reforms In Germany, Norway and Denmark" International Conference organised by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Shanghai, China.
May 2013
Presentation of paper on "Reshaping Public Accountability: Hospital Reforms In Germany, Norway and Denmark" 38th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of German Politics (IASGP), London, UK.
July 2012 Presentation of paper on "Different Forms of Accountability in Hospital Reform" XXII World Congress of Political Science, International Political Studies Association, Madrid.
May 2012 International workshop on "Healthcare Funding in Germany Norway and Denmark", Scancor, Stanford University
April 2012 Presentation of paper on "Hospital Reforms and Accountability Regimes in Norway, Denmark and Germany" Midwest Political Science Association's National Conference
November 2011 Presentation of paper on "Hospital Investment Funding Reform in Germany: Pressures, Policy Reforms, Outcomes" at the conference "The changing organization of the welfare state - between efficiency and accountability" in Potsdam. (See the conference programme here.)

Links to our project partners: