Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Understanding Public Financial Management: How Is Your Money Spent?

SOAS University of London via FutureLearn


How does the Covid-19 pandemic affect the public finances of governments? What went wrong in Greece’s handling of its public debt? How did 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.

This course is designed for anyone looking to better understand contemporary financial issues. Some prior knowledge of economics, political science, or accounting is useful but not required.

It will also be of interest to those already working in public sector management.


  • Making sense of the numbers
    • Setting the scene
    • Understanding financial statements
    • Fiscal imbalance: causes and consequences
  • How is public money spent?
    • Understanding public sector spending
    • Planning and budgeting
    • Evaluating public expenditures
    • Cutting expenditures: the austerity agenda
  • Where does public money come from?
    • Sources of revenue
    • Taxation: the pros and cons
    • Can taxation be used to change our behaviour?
  • The buck stops where?
    • What's the purpose of auditing?
    • Understanding accountability
    • Understanding public governance
    • Next steps

Taught by

Alberto Asquer


3.5 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 42 ratings

Start your review of Understanding Public Financial Management: How Is Your Money Spent?

  • Andrew Pribram

    Andrew Pribram completed this course and found the course difficulty to be very easy.

    Can do a whole week in an evening. It's good for the very high level conceptual nature. Would be much much better if the expert teachers at least shared a reference guide with readings giving a sense of where the current debate is on the various topics -- for those industrious who want to engage the complexities they introduce. I would prefer this to open ended discussion questions -- what's the consensus? Where is the debate today?
  • Martin Dunn completed this course.

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.