Comparisons with International Affairs Programs
How MPP and MPA curricula overlap with and differ from professional Master’s programs in International Affairs
How does professional Master’s-level training in international affairs compare with professional Master’s-level training in public affairs? If a university were to offer Master’s-level professional training in both public affairs and international affairs, design choices include: a) same or different schools; b) shared or different core courses; c) same or different degrees; and d) possibility of joint degrees. Examples of the possible variations are set out in Exhibit 1, drawn primarily from members of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA).
APSIA has 37 Member Schools and 30 Affiliate Member Schools, which meet “some but not all of the following full membership requirements: be an educational program of high academic quality; demonstrate a substantial commitment to the study of international affairs; possess a basic commitment to graduate professional training; and have significant autonomy within a major university, e.g., as one would expect to find with a Law School or graduate Business School.”
Some APSIA schools offer both international affairs degrees and public affairs degrees. For example, Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs offers a Master of International Affairs and a Master of Public Affairs. Other APSIA schools are in universities that offer public affairs programs through another school. Another variation is to blend features of both public affairs and international affairs in the same degree, typically with “international” or “global” in the name. Two examples from non-APSIA schools are the Master of Arts in Public and International Affairs degree offered by the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Master of Public and International Affairs offered by York University’s Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.
Exhibit 1: Design variations for offering Master’s-level professional training in public affairs and international affairs
Public Affairs Degree
International Affairs Degree
Single (either/or) degrees
|Same school, shared core courses, same degree with different specializations||Harvard Kennedy MPP (PED concentration)||Harvard Kennedy MPP (MGA concentration)|
|Same school, shared core courses, different degrees||Columbia SIPA MPA||Columbia SIPA MIA|
|Same school, different core courses, different degrees||Texas LBJ MPAff
Toronto Munk MPP (after 2018 amalgamation)
|Texas LBJ MGPS
Toronto Munk MGA (after 2018 amalgamation)
|Different schools, different core courses, different degrees||Carleton SPPA MAPA
Toronto SPPG MPP (prior to 2018 amalgamation)
|Carleton Paterson MAIA
Toronto MSGA MGA (prior to 2018 amalgamation)
Joint, concurrent, or combined degrees
|Same school, combined degrees||Harvard Kennedy MPA/ID|
|Same school, blended degree||Ottawa MAPIA|
|Different schools, joint degrees|
NOTE: On 1 July 2018 the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs (see Toronto MSGA) and the School of Public Policy and Governance (see Toronto SPPG) were amalgamated to create the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (see Toronto Munk) offering both the MPP and the MGA degree.
Programs can be compared on the basis of groupings of subjects studied by the typical student, using the PEACO Algorithm to take account of required and elective courses. Exhibit 2 provides data on the Graduation Requirement, and on five different subject groupings:
Math-Econ (Mathematics-Economics) Subjects: Percentage of total courses taken by the typical student in the following four subjects: Economic Analysis; Quantitative Methods; Macroeconomic Policy; and Financial Markets. Pol-Or (Policy-Oriented) Subjects: Percentage of total courses taken by the typical student are in the following 24 subjects: Policy and Management Analysis (50-50); Economic Analysis; Quantitative Methods; Analytic Methods; Professional Practice (50-50); Socioeconomic and Political Context; Intergovernmental and Global Context; Evaluation and Performance Measurement; and the 16 subjects of the Policy Sectors domain. Mgt-Or (Management-Oriented) Subjects: Percentage of total courses taken by the typical student are in the following 12 subjects: Policy and Management Analysis (50-50); Leadership Skills; Communication Skills; Professional Practice (50-50); Democratic Institutions and Policy Process; Ethics, Rights and Accountability; Public Financial Management; Human Resource Management; Information and Technology Management; Program and Service Delivery; Regulatory Policy and Management; and Nonprofit Management and Advocacy. Arch PA (Archetypal Public Affairs) Subjects: Percentage of total courses taken by the typical student in the following four subjects: Policy and Management Analysis; Economic Analysis; Quantitative Methods; Democratic Institutions and Policy Process. Arch IA (Archetypal International Affairs) Subjects: Percentage of total courses taken by the typical student in the following three subjects: Intergovernmental and Global Context; International Development; Defence, Security and Foreign Relations.
Exhibit 2: Course Distributions of Professional Master’s Programs
in Public Affairs and International Affairs (2015 data)
These tables can be used to answer the question of whether public affairs and international affairs programs that are housed in the same school are more similar to each other than those offered within the same university but by different schools. We have done the PEACO comparison for four pairs of programs (indicated in blue in Exhibit 2): Columbia University’s MPA and MIA delivered by the School of International and Public Affairs; New York University’s MPA with Policy Specialization and MPA with International Specialization delivered by the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; the University of Toronto’s MPP and MGA were delivered by two different schools until they were amalgamated in 2018: the School of Public Policy and Governance and the Munk School of Global Affairs; and Carleton University’s MAPA and MAIA delivered by two different schools: The School of Public Policy and Administration and the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.
The data in Exhibit 2 suggest that some of the PA-IA differences in subjects studied can be just as large substantial when the programs are delivered within the same school as they are when they are delivered by different schools within the same university. Columbia is an example of relatively small differences between the PA and the IA degree. For example, the typical Columbia MIA student had the same course requirement and takes almost the same 22-23% proportion of courses in subjects with high mathematics-economics content and roughly the same 27-30% proportion of courses in management-oriented subjects as the typical student taking the Columbia MPA, while taking about 8% fewer courses in archetypal public affairs subjects and 5% more in archetypal international affairs subjects. At NYU Wagner the differences between the courses taken by the typical student in the Policy Specialization and those taking the typical student in the International Specialization were greater: 35% vs. 22% in courses with high mathematics-economics content; 35% vs. 26% in management-oriented subjects; and 24% vs. 4% in archetypal international affairs courses.
By comparison, the typical student in the Carleton MAPI had a lower course requirement (11 vs. 15) and took a lower proportion of courses with heavy mathematics and economics content (9% vs. 23%) than the typical student in the Carleton MAPA. The Carleton MAIA had a dramatically higher proportion of archetypal international affairs courses than the Carleton MAPA.
In the case of the University of Toronto, which had separate schools until they were amalgamated in 2018, the typical student in the Toronto MGA took about 7% fewer courses in subjects with a high mathematics and economic content than the typical Toronto MPP student and 10% fewer in archetypal public affairs subjects.
Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 7 October 2018, although note that the PEACO analysis is based on data collected in late 2015.
Image: Bridging the Academic/Policy Divide, Elliot School of International Affairs, at http://professorsheehan.com/category/elliot-school-of-international-affairs/, accessed 11 December 2015.