PEACO Algorithm

PEACOHow the proportion of enrolment-adjusted course offerings (PEACO) numbers are generated

This page describes the methodology for generating PEACO numbers to portray the distribution of instruction provided to the typical student enrolled in a particular Master’s program, taking account of the distinction between required and elective courses. The PEACO numbers are used to calculate the results found in Block II and Block IV of the Curriculum Comparison Tables. Block II calculates the distribution of courses (enrolment-adjusted) among domains and subjects. Block IV provides a subject-matter shortfall analysis (described in MPP/MPA Core Competencies) and calculates the number of courses (enrolment-adjusted) in core subjects relative to core competency requirements.


The PEACO number for any characteristic (e.g., “analysis and skills courses” or “institutions and context courses”) is the proportion of the overall course offerings with that characteristic, after making an adjustment for the number of students who enrol in the course. For example, an “analysis and skills PEACO” of 0.25 means that, on average, 25% of the courses taken by students in completing their degrees are can be classified as “analysis and skills courses.”

The enrolment adjustment is made by assuming that all students take required courses and that enrolment in elective courses is evenly spread over the elective courses available, given the number of electives that a student needs to graduate and the number of available elective courses (or elective course sections, where an elective has more than one section in a year). An adjustment is made for relative credit where an elective is shorter than a normal required course and has a fractional credit value.

The enrolment-adjustment factor for an elective course = ([minimum number of electives that a student may take] x [course credit relative to a required course] x [number of sections of that elective offered in a year]) / [total number of elective courses and sections offered in a year].

The PEACO number for a given characteristic = ([number of required courses with that characteristic] + ([number of elective courses and sections with that characteristic] x [enrolment-adjustment factor])) / [number of courses required to graduate].

The validity of the three simplifying assumptions implicit in this methodology (students do not take more than the minimum number of electives; students take all their electives from within the program; and, all elective courses and sections have the same enrolment) will differ among programs.

NOTE: See the additional note at bottom of page on dealing with programs with requirements to select among a list of options, and programs with concentrations (specializations) having individual requirements.

Sample Calculation

An example of a PEACO calculation for an MPP program with 14 required and 8 elective courses (all of the same one-semester length) is shown below. The fractional values for some of the required courses arise because these required courses have three or four section options sometimes in different subjects.

NOTE: The PEACO calculations shown below still use the 33 subject nomenclature which has been slightly modified to a 34 subject nomenclature by splitting the former Policy and Management Analysis into two subjects (Policy Analysis and Process; Implementation and Delivery) and renaming Democratic Institutions and Policy Process (to Governance and Institutions). These changes do not substantially effect the quantitative results for distribution of subject matter among domains.

From the Enrolment-Adjusted Instruction numbers, one can calculate the PEACO scores using the formula set out above. Here are the results for subjects and groupings of subjects under each of the Atlas domains:


NOTE: PEACO Special Cases – Required-elective and Required-by-concentration Courses
Required-elective courses

Assume the number of courses to graduate is G and there are a total of T courses offered.

Some programs have, in addition to purely required courses, require that students select a specific number, N, of a list of P courses.

In this case, we can think of three types of courses: 1) pure required (where one must take R specific courses) 2) required-elective (where one is required to select N of P options, but where one could also select additional of the P options as an elective), and 3) pure elective.

In the PEACO model, the number for Enrolment-Adjusted Instruction (the expected number of courses taken) in any subject =

(Number of required courses)+(Number of elective courses)*(G-R-N)/(T-R-N)

For the required-elective courses we can treat them as if they were a composite of N/P of a required course and 1-N/P of an elective course. The entries are as follows:


Required-by-concentration Courses

Some programs have a number, C, of concentrations (specializations) and some courses are required for students taking this concentration.

If there are C concentrations and one of them has a required course, if we make the assumption that each concentration has an equal number of students, this course should have an Entry in the Required Courses Column of 1/C and an Entry in the Elective Courses Column of 1-1/C.


Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 9 April 2016.

Image: RocketRoute, at, accessed 15 December 2015.