Noteworthy Practices

innovationInnovative approaches to specialization, international exchange, math-econ preparation, and student initiatives

This page will provide examples of noteworthy practices observed in our global sample of over 100 public affairs programs in the database of the Atlas of Public Policy and Management. The identified practices address curricular and co-curricular design questions faced most public affairs programs, including: 1) whether and how to certify successful completion of a specialization (concentration); 2) whether and how to provide access to an international exchange experience; 3) how best to ensure that incoming students possess or can quickly obtain adequate fluency in math and economics; 4) how best to involve alumni and other practitioners in career advisement; and 5) how best to encourage and support student-run co-curricular activities such as pro bono consulting and on-line publications.

Certification for specializations (concentrations)

Optional specializations with certification: The Texas LBJ MPAff program provides a certificate upon successful completion of a specialization option whereby as student chooses to “declare a specialization by focusing the scope of their second-year studies in one of seven policy areas: International Affairs; Natural Resources and the Environment; Nonprofit and Philanthropic Studies; Public Management and Leadership; Social and Economic Policy; Technology, Innovation, and Information Policy; Urban and State Affairs. A total of 15 credit hours is necessary to receive certification.” (At, accessed 19 March 2015.)

Mandatory specializations with suffix on the degree: The LSE MPA requires that, at “the start of Year 2, all students must select one of the five Policy Streams: (i) Public and Economic Policy; or (ii) Public Policy and Management; or (iii) International Development; or (iv) European Public and Economic Policy; or (v) Public and Social Policy.” (At, accessed 8 April 2015.) Successful completion is indicated by a degree where the specialization is included as a suffix in the degree name: MPA Public and Economic Policy, MPA Public Policy and Management, etc.

International exchanges

One-semester exchanges: Some MPP/MPA programs have arrangements with another institution, usually in a different country, whereby students may take courses for a period, typically one semester, at the that institution. For example, second year Toronto SPPG MPP students have the opportunity to study abroad for the fall semester of their second year at one of four exchange partner institutions, Hertie Berlin, SciencesPo Paris, Singapore LKY, GRIPS Tokyo (at, accessed 18 March 2015).

One-semester international study requirement: The Brunei IPS new MPPM program is unique among programs reviewed to date in its requirement that the final semester of study is taken at one of five partner policy schools in the United States of America: McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University; School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University; and Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley.” (At, accessed 15 March 2015.)

Dual degree programs: Dual degrees are arrangements, usually in two-year programs, where students can take first-year courses in one institution and, in their second year, take specified courses in a second institution and then be awarded a degree from each institution. Notable examples are the arrangements developed among the members of the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN). See Dual Degree Programs and the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN).

University-wide exchange arrangements: An interesting example is the CAMPUS Asia Program (at, a partnership of the University of Tokyo, Peking University and Seoul National University “linking public policy and relations to provide special perspective from a three-way perspective” with “classes taught in English in Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul.”

Math-economics preparation

Admonition regarding prior coursework: Columbia SIPA warns prospective applicants that “Because SIPA’s core curriculum includes economics, statistics, and financial management, the Admissions Committee looks for evidence of a candidate’s ability to undertake quantitative coursework at the graduate level. There are no specific prerequisites for admission, but the Committee prefers applicants who have completed introductory courses in macro- and microeconomics. Broadly speaking, courses in economics, statistics, and mathematics will bolster an applicant’s candidacy and provide a helpful foundation for study here. To complete the (optional) higher-level economics sequence requires familiarity with calculus, and even the lower-level sequence assumes an understanding of algebra. Applicants lacking any quantitative background are therefore encouraged to consider enrolling in high-level mathematics courses above all else, and if possible a statistics course as well. To pursue careers in certain fields — development economics, quantitative policy analysis, trade, finance, environmental economics, energy policy, and international banking — requires an even higher level of preparation before enrolling at SIPA — namely, completion of calculus and an intermediate micro- and macroeconomic sequence at the undergraduate or graduate level. Students without an economics background who are interested in pursuing these fields are strongly encouraged to make up this deficiency before applying to SIPA.” (At, accessed 20 February 2015.)

Demonstrable knowledge requirement: The new Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs program at the University of British Columbia states on its application requirements that: “All applicants offered admission to the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs program must demonstrate knowledge of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and statistics prior to the commencement of studies. … If you do not have the necessary pre-requisites for the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs program you may still apply to the program but you will need to take them before commencing your studies in September. You may take the courses at UBC in the summer, at your current post-secondary institution, at a post-secondary institution near to you or online.” (At, accessed 14 March 2015.)

Preparatory courses: The Calgary MPP has two preparatory one-week block courses (each with five days of 5.5 contact hours per day). Foundations I (at is on micro and macroeconomics and Foundations II (at is on statistical reasoning. The courses are mandatory unless the student can demonstrate prior course equivalence.

Boot camp in mathematics and quantitative methods: The Toronto MPP notes that for successful applicants there will be a “mathematics/quantitative methods boot camp offered at the beginning of the MPP program for those incoming students who are interested in an overview of the key concepts/tools required for the theoretical courses in public policy analysis offered in the first semester of the MPP program.” (At, accessed 8 April 2015.) This week-long training is optional but is taken by most incoming students.

Pre-sessional preparation in other subjects

Pre-sessional component in research skills and socioeconomic analysis: ANU Crawford requires all MPP and MPA students to undertake two required, non-credit, pre-sessional elements (CRWF6900 Graduate Academic and Research Skills for Public Policy and POGO6900 Graduate Preparatory Economic, Social and Political Analysis). The course descriptions state that the anticipated workload is “Approximately 30 hours class, with an equivalent number of hours in self study” which is precisely half the 120 hours of in-class plus outside-class study that we deem equivalent to a single one-semester course.

Career advisement and alumni

Most of the larger programs have well established Career Services facilities. At NYU Wagner, this includes WAG-NET (at, where “students and alumni can contact Wagner graduates (and working students) who have volunteered to share career tips and advice. Wag-Net advisors can offer insights on industry trends, organizational culture and hiring patterns among many other career topics.” The University of Minnesota’s Career + Employer Services website ( provides links to a wide range of services for students and alumni, including an alumni-sponsored mentoring program in operation since 1987.

Student-run pro bono consulting

Some programs have initiatives, run by the students, that provide consulting services for nonprofit entities. One example is Toronto SPPG’s Public Good Initiative.

Student-run journals and blogs

Approximately a quarter of the programs in our sample reference student-run journals. Some examples include Berkeley Goldman’s PolicyMatters Journal; Toronto SPPG’s Public Policy & Governance Review, Michigan Ford’s Michigan Journal of Public Affairs; Princeton Wilson’s Journal of Public and International Affairs; and ten journals at Harvard Kennedy found at

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 2 July 2016.

Image: Edith Cowan University, at, accessed 15 December 2015.