Mark Bovens studied Law, Political Science, and Philosophy at Leiden University (BA Law 1977; BA Political Science 1977; MA Law 1982, Phd 1990) and at Columbia University Law school in New York (LL.M. 1983). Before coming to Utrecht in 1997, first as Professor of Legal Philosophy and later also as Professor in Public Administration, he was lecturer at the Departments of Political Science and Public Administration of Leiden University where he taught political and legal philosophy, government, policy analysis, and public administration.
In 2000 he became full professor of Public Administration and co-founder of the Utrecht School of Governance (USG). Together with Paul Verweel, he directed the USG from 2000 until 2013. Between 2013 and 2024 he was a member (0.6) of the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy, the strategic thinktank of the Dutch cabinet.
He was a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, the University of Western Sydney, the LSE, and the Australian National University. He was an Adjunct Professor (honorary) at the Department of Political Science in the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian National University in Canberra (2007-2012). In 2019 he was visiting fellow at the Metaforum Institute of the KU Leuven.
He has published more than twenty monographs and edited volumes in the area of.politics, government, and constitutional theory. One of his main research topics is public accountability. On this topic he published a number of papers and several books, such as The Quest for Responsibility (Cambridge University Press 1998), The Real World of EU Accountability (with Deirdre Curtin and Paul 't Hart, Oxford University Press 2010), and The Oxford Handbook of Public Accountability (with Robert Goodin and Thomas Schillemans, Oxford University Press 2014).
Another research topic are educational inequalities in political participation and educational divides in society. This was the theme of Diploma Democracy: The Rise of Political Meritocracy (with Anchrit Wille, Oxford University Press 2017).
He received a number of academic awards for his work. He is a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2008 he was elected as supervisor of the year by the NIG, the Dutch national research school in Public Administration and Political Science. In 2013 he was the first Dutchman to be elected as Fellow of the American National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). In 2019 he received the Van de Spiegelprijs, the lifetime-achievement award of the Dutch Society for Public Administration.