Dr Chris O’Leary

Senior Lecturer
Dr Chris O’Leary


Chris is a specialist in public policy and is Deputy Director of the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit. He is responsible for managing a number of research projects, providing leadership on the design and delivery of research and evaluation projects around public sector reform and its impact on social policy design, implementation and delivery. He manages projects that involve multidisciplinary teams (often in collaboration with academics and practitioners within and outside PERU) and mixed methods research methods. Much of his work before joining PERU was around modelling need and demand in terms of multiple needs, prevention and integration of services. Chris is programme lead for the MSc Urban Studies: 21st Century Cities. This programme explores theoretically and empirically issues around urban governance, policy, and policy analysis, drawing on research strengths in PERU and the Big Data Centre. He also teaches a third year undergraduate module on rational choice theory as a social theory. His teaching interests include the political economy of public policy and social policy. He is also currently supervising a PhD student who is researching homelessness in Manchester.


Chris had a successful career as a civil servant and in applied policy research before he entered academia in 2010. He completed his PhD in Public Policy at King's College, London, which examined the motivations and interests of various actors in the policy process around the regulation of professions, using a mixed methods design. Outside of academia, Chris enjoyed a successful career as in the public and private sectors delivering social policy research and consultancy. Before entering academic, he was Director of Policy and Deputy Chief Executive of the Hearing Aid Council. This executive Non-Departmental Public Body was abolished and its statutory regulation functions transferred to the Health and Care Professions Council in the summer of 2010. Chris has a proven track record of winning and managing research and consultancy contracts, for clients in central government departments, NDPBs, local authorities and charities. These range from a three year, £1.5m programme evaluation for the Department for Communities and Local Government (delivered with academic and market research partners, and delivered on time and on budget and with published outputs) through to small, intensive research projects delivered with a small team. His social policy experience covers housing, criminal justice, public health, health and social care and professions regulation.  Chris is a former Chair of Housing in an inner London borough, former non-executive director of a large housing association and former non-executive director of a regeneration company.


Research Interests

Chris is interested in the purpose, design, implementation and effect of public sector reform, particularly in areas where areas of social policy interact and where collaboration or partnership working to deliver prevention and integration are seen as likely means of delivering results. Much of Chris’s work is around the interaction or gaps between different areas of social policy, and he is particularly interested in the challenges of public sector reform in relation to people with multiple, complex and sometimes chaotic needs.

Chris is fascinated with current debate around evidence-informed policy and how this sits with concepts of complex adaptive systems, knowledge problems and fundamental uncertainty. Chris is particularly interested in what this means for policy makers and the policy making process. His research interests include the political economy of public policy, particularly how economic models can be used to understand policy change and the policy process. Chris is particularly interested in Public Choice models of bureaucratic behaviour.

My other research interests include the policy process around the formation and development of professions and professions regulation. Developing a theory of professions as economic institutions. The impact of institutional design on rational actors in the policy process. The limits of rationality, bounded rationality and impact of fundamental uncertainty. 

Research Activity

Chris currently manages and delivers a number of projects, including:

Evaluations of six pilots under the Children’s Social Care Innovation programme, funded by the Department for Education. Chris leads on three Staying Close evaluations, an accommodation and support innovation aimed at young people leaving care.

Evaluation of the Grand Mentors programme. Grand Mentors is an intergeneration mentoring scheme aimed at young people leaving care. The programme is delivered by Volunteering Matters. In 2017, Chris led a rapid review of the programme, and is currently leading work on part of the evaluation using Qualitative Comparative Analysis.


  • Co-investigator on the European Cohort Development Project Funded by the European Commission (2017 - 19) a pan-European, Horizon2020 project creating the specification and business case for a new Research Infrastructure on youth wellbeing. This follows on from MYWEB. View project »
  • Contributor to Co-Creation of Service Innovations in Europe (COSIE) a pan-European Horizon 2020 project looking at innovation in co-creation of services. View project »
  • Research on homelessness from the private rented sector, funded by the Residential Landlords’ Association, seeking to explain the decade long increase in the number of households accepted as homeless whose last settled accommodation was in the private rented sector. View project »
  • Evaluation and research programme for Interserve Justice View project »
  • Innovative Social Investment: Strengthening communities in Europe (InnoSI) View project »


  • O’Leary, C (expected 2018) Public Service Motivation: a rationalist critique. Accepted for publication by Public Personnel Management
  • Ozan, J, O’Leary, C, Baines, S, and Bailey, G (expected 2018) Troubled Families in Greater Manchester in Baines, S, Csoba, J, Sipos, F, and Bassi, A (eds), Implementing innovative social investment, Policy Press, Bristol.
  • O’Leary, C (2018) Policy brief: homelessness from the private rented sector, Manchester, UK: MMU MetroPolis. Available at: https://mcrmetropolis.uk/blog/homelessness-from-the-private-rented-sector/
  • O’Leary, C and Fox, C (2018) Understanding the potential policy impact of a European longitudinal survey for children and young people, in Pollock et al (eds) (2018) Measuring youth wellbeing: How a Pan-European Longitudinal Survey Can Improve Policy, UK: Springer
  • Albertson, Fox, O’Leary and Painter (2018) Payment by Results and Social Impact Bonds: Outcome-based Commissioning in the USA and UK, UK: Bristol, Policy Press
  • O’Leary, C, Ozan, J and Bradbury, A (2017) Grandmentors review for Volunteering Matters: final report, Policy Evaluation and Research Unit, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Pollock, G, Ozan, J, Baldwin, R, Goswani, H, O’Leary, C and Fox, C (2016) D7.2: Evaluation report: Cost benefit analysis of an ELSCYP, projected operational field costs, operational practice in longitudinal surveys, European Commission
  • Hunter, D, Visram, S, O'Leary, C, Finn, R, Gosling, J, and Adams, L (2015) Evaluation of Health and Wellbeing Boards Interim report no. 2: Mapping the configuration and operation of Health and Wellbeing Boards across England, National Institute for Health Research
  • O’Leary, C (2015) Agency termination in the UK: what factors explain the ‘bonfire of the quangos’? West European Politics, 38 (6), pp1327-
  • O’Leary, C (2013) What does the evidence tell us about the role of stable accommodation in reducing the risk of recidivism?, Safer Communities Vol. 12 Iss: 1, pp.5 – 12
  • O’Leary (2013) Need, demand and cost of relay services for d/Deaf people in the UK, UK Council on Deafness
  • O’Leary, Weiss and Linney (2010) Understanding the financial benefits of local handypersons services, Department for Communities and Local Government
  • O’Leary, Rogers and Goldup (2007) Building for all: identifying the need for additional supported housing in London, Greater London Authority, National Housing Federation and Housing Corporation
  • Supporting People Benefits Realisation (2004) Matrix Research and Consultancy, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
  • Review of the development of policy and costs of housing-related support since 1997 (2003) Matrix Research and Consultancy, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
  • O’Leary, Mallender and Lowdell (2002) Chapter 3: Costs of accidents and injuries to London in A cost too high? Accidents and Injuries in London, London Health Observatory

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