David Richards

Prof, Professor of Public Policy

Personal profile


Joined the University of Manchester in 2012, appointed a Diamond Professor of Public Policy and was Head of Department 2018-2021.

Awarded PhD from the Department of Government, University of Strathclyde (1996). The thesis examined the politicisation of the Civil Service under the 1979-97 Conservative Government. Became a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham (1995-1998). In 1998,  joined the School of Politics and Communication Studies, University of Liverpool as a Lecturer, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 2001,  Reader in 2004 and Professor in 2009. In the year 2000, he was a Visiting Honorary Fellow at the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney, Australia. In 2008, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. He joined the University of Manchester in September 2012 as a Diamond Professor of Public Policy.

His main research interests are in British politics, democracy, public policy, governance and political biography. I am currently the P.I. on two separetely funded projects: 

1. 'Public Expenditure Planning and Control in Complex Times:  A Study of Whitehall Departments’ Relationship to the Treasury (1993-Present)' - The Nuffield Foundation  with Diane Coyle [Cambridge], Martin Smith [York] and Sam Warner [Manchester].  


The project examines whether effective financial control is constrained by an approach emphasising centralised, Treasury control, but without a proper understanding of how money is spent and managed throughout complex policy chains for the period since 1993.

2. The UK Productivity-Governance Puzzle:  Are UK’s Governing Institutions Fit for Purpose in the 21st Century? - The ESRC with  Andy Westwood [co-P.I. University of Manchester], Patrick Diamond (QMU) and  Mike Kenny [University of Cambridge]. 


The research area is aligned to the ESRC Productivity Institute's  Institutions and Governance theme and focuses on the central claim that improvements in UK productivity are constrained by a range of governance pathologies: overcentralised decision making; top-downism; short-termism; siloised policy-making; and the absence of effective joined-up government. The  project explores the extent to which the centralised nature of the UK polity and related policy instruments, notably top-down management of service delivery and public spending prevent the local adaptations and development of transport infrastructure and training to improve productivity at the regional and local levels and hence support the levelling up agenda.  It examines the ways in which local governance institutions have not been given the tools to integrate training and transport in ways that would allow them to tackle their particular productivity puzzles.

His most recent completed research was as P.I. for an ESRC funded project Westminster's Dilemma in a Post-Brexit World: Reconciling a `New Politics' with the Westminster Model with Patrick Diamond [QMU, London] and Alan Wager [UCL] examining  the rise of anti-politics in the UK, demands for new ways of doing politics and considers why, in the shadow of Brexit  reform has  has been limited. 

Previous areas of research have included the changing role of the state through a critique of the literatures on governance, democracy and accountability, the regulatory state and implementation; leaks and whistle blowing in government; a multi-theoretical study on diffuse water pollution; UK institutions and crisis in the 21st century; and finally the role of political biography in political analysis.

Research interests

His main research interests are in British politics, democracy and anti-politics, public policy, governance,  and political biography.  Current research projects addresses issue both of UK productivity and the role of the  Treasury in UK goverance. 

Other research

Current Funded Projects

Title of Project: Public Expenditure Planning and Control in Complex Times:  A Study of Whitehall Departments’ Relationship to the Treasury (1993-Present)

Awarding Body: Nuffield Foundation

People Involved: P.I. David Richards, Co-Is Diand Coyle [Cambridge] and Martin Smith [York] and R.O. Sam Warner [Manchester]. 

Duration: March 2020-April 2023

Total Award: £324,488


Title of Project: The UK Productivity-Governance Puzzle: Are UK’s Governing Institutions Fit for Purpose in the 21st Century?

Awarding Body: ESRC 

People Involved: P.I. David Richards, P.I. Andy Westwood, Co-I Patrick Diamond [QMU, London]  and R.O. Jack Newman. 

Duration: 2022-25

Total Award: £443,346


 Previous Recent Funded Projects

 Title of Project: Westminster’s Dilemma in a Post-Brexit World: Reconciling a ‘New Politics’ with the Westminster Model

Awarding Body: ESRC IAA

People Involved: P.I. David Richards, Co-I Patrick Diamond [QMU, London]  and R.O. Alan Wager [UCL]. 

Duration: 2017-present

Total Award: £17, 200


Title of project: The Technical, Governance and Regulatory Muddle of Diffuse Urban Water Pollution

Awarding body: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

People Involved: David Richards [P.I.] and Daniel Fitzpatrick [Politics], John Hennerbury [Town and Regional Planning] , David Lerner, Virginia Stovin and Adrian Saul [Engineering] – all University of Sheffield.

Duration: 2011-12

Total award: £50,125


Title of project: Building Bridges between Political Biography and Political Science – A Methodologically Innovative Study of the Core Executive under New Labour

Awarding body: Economic and Social Research Council 

People Involved: David Richards 

Duration: 2006-9

Total award: £81.251


Title of project: Public Service Delivery Programme: Analysing Delivery Chains in the Home Office.

People Involved: Martin Smith, David Richards and Andrew Geddes

Duration: 2007-9

Total award: £43,275

Other teaching information

Teaching Ethos

I have been teaching for over twenty years on a wide range of politics modules from large Level 1 foundation courses on concepts in politics, representation, political analysis and British Politics to much more specialised Level 4 modules reflecting my own particular research specialisms.  Whatever level I teach at, my main concern is to engage students in contemporary debates at the cutting edge of the subject, encourage them to make their own connections between the theoretical and the empirical and to approach the learning process from a critical perspective challenging established orthodoxies.   My teaching is very much informed by whatever my current research interests are, helping to ensure that the material on my courses is fresh, contemporary and engaging.  

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Areas of expertise

  • JA Political science (General)
  • JF Political institutions (General)
  • JS Local government Municipal government

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Policy@Manchester
  • Global inequalities
  • The Productivity Institute


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