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Administrative Fairness Lab

There are millions of 'frontline' interactions between people and public services every day, but we know remarkably little about whether the public thinks they are treated fairly in these encounters. We have very little evidence and theory on what the public thinks fairness looks like in these interactions, or the consequences of fair and unfair experiences. 

The Lab’s vision is to see frontline public service provision reshaped around robust evidence and analysis of what the public thinks is fair, so that interactions with public services have greater positive social, health, and economic effects.

Frontline procedures in government can leave people feeling unfairly treated and this can generate wider negative outcomes. Equally, good processes can have positive effects and we need to learn more about how to harness them. Recent data collected by the Lab shows how large majorities of the UK public do not have confidence in the fairness of frontline procedures. The purpose of the Lab is to seize this huge missed opportunity and mobilise better process as a means of building a more equal, healthier, and greener society.

Professor Joe Tomlinson, Director, Administrative Fairness Lab

have confidence in procedures set up by government to support people through fuel poverty will be fair.

Lab survey conducted by YouGov, October 2022

would be assured if they had to make an application for social care in the next 12 months, that the procedures used would be reasonable.

Lab survey conducted by YouGov, October 2022

said if they made an application for Universal Credit in the next 12 months, they would think the procedures used to decide their case would be principled.

Lab survey conducted by YouGov, October 2022

About us

Our teams from across the UK interact with researchers and partners to continually develop and improve administrative practices as well as nurturing early career researchers.

The Lab's priorities

  1. Significant impacts - We prioritise work on administrative processes that affect large amounts of people that impacts their everyday life and wellbeing.
  2. Social disadvantage - We focus on administrative processes that particularly affect people in a position of social disadvantage.
  3. New technologies - We analyse administrative processes that seek to deploy AI, automation, and other new technologies.
  4. UK systems - Our current work focuses on administrative fairness processes in the UK but we are developing international connections around our work.
  5. Complex policy challenges - Administrative fairness intersects with major policy challenges such as climate change and poverty. We work to understand these problems better and find effective solutions.
  6. Fundamental insights - Developing and testing new insights into the fundamental nature of administrative fairness.

What we do at the Lab

Advancing knowledge

We conduct research on how the public perceives and responds to administrative fairness and unfairness in frontline public decision-making.

Developing methodologies

Our work develops and refines sophisticated mixed methods approaches to understanding administrative fairness.

Mobilising knowledge

Frequently seeking to mobilise the new knowledge we develop about administrative fairness to reshape frontline public processes.

Building expertise

We are building a vibrant and diverse community of interdisciplinary researchers to advance administrative fairness research.

Our projects

The Lab builds on a long tradition at the University of York of taking public administration seriously as a key part of building a fairer society. Administrative fairness is central to so many of the major challenges faced by society today, and the work of Lab-and the impact it is achieving-is an important part of our strategy to be a University for public good.

Professor TT Arvind, Head of School, York Law School

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