The Employment Research Unit at the Cardiff Business School (University of Wales, Cardiff) is this year dedicating its annual conference to the question of change in the management of the public sector. Under the title of ‘The Contract State: The Future of Public Management’ 45 papers will be presented in three streams (organisation and markets; quality and professionals; industrial relations). The papers are drawn from a range of disciplines, showing how the issue of public sector change is emerging as a vital research agenda. Such is the complex nature of change within public services that the issues being raised appear to require a multi‐disciplinary approach. Furthermore, the development of quasi‐market relations within the public sector are also necessitating a more analytical and critical perspective due to the discourses of managerialism that are concurrently being developed. It is for this reason that the Employment Research Unit has, in line with its tradition of attempting to evaluate key developments in the spheres of management and industrial relations, decided to focus this year's conference on the question of the contract state and the future of public management.
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