CAPPA Standards for Student Competencies

CAPPA-AccreditationThe accreditation standards of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA)

In 2016, CAPPA published on its website a new set of standards and procedures. Those below are reproduced from, accessed 4 July 2019.

NOTE 1: CAPPA describes itself on its About page as follows: “For the past 40 years, the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA) has been the leading Canadian association for those with an interest in education and scholarship in public administration. It is an institutional membership organization with approximately 25 graduate and undergraduate program members across Canada all of which are involved in public administration teaching and research. Its membership includes schools, programs, and departments engaged in teaching public administration from the college level through to PhD. It also includes government organizations involved in teaching public administration such as the Canada School of Public Service. All of its member organizations are dedicated to continuously improving the quality of public administration education and scholarship in Canada.”

Universal standards – student competencies

Regardless of the specific mission of each accredited program, CAPPA expects that students will graduate with a set of skills and values that are suitable for success within a changing public sector environment.

Specifically, each program that is accredited by CAPPA must be able to demonstrate that graduates have obtained and can demonstrate certain standard competencies, which provide a basis for professional conduct in public policy and administration. All accredited programs will be able to demonstrate that they are producing graduates with the following competencies:

  1. The ability to analyze and think critically about public sector problems;
  2. The ability to lead and manage within public organizations;
  3. Knowledge and understanding of the tools and techniques required to engage stakeholders in policy and governance processes;
  4. An appreciation of the purpose of public service and associated standards of ethical behaviour;
  5. A capacity to communicate and interact both professionally and productively with a diverse and changing citizenry.

It is incumbent on each program to demonstrate how these competencies are acquired and how knowledge of competency acquisition is obtained.

Mission-based standards

CAPPA accreditation is a combination of universal and mission-based standards. All programs, therefore, need a mission statement that is continuously reviewed to ensure alignment between goals and outcomes. Faculty and students should be engaged in this process, as well as alumni, employers and other members of your community. You should be able to demonstrate consultation and engagement to the CAPPA Accreditation Board.

The mission statement should reflect a commitment to professional education, high ethical standards, and the ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement of the program. Mission statements should be framed in a manner that assists programs to identify priorities and assign resources to meet goals.

To ensure that the program’s missions can be accomplished:

  1. The program will have dedicated academic and professional leadership with sufficient resources, access and authority to realize the mission of the program.
  2. Members of the faculty will be academically and/or professionally qualified to help in the pursuit of the mission. There will also be efforts to ensure a diverse faculty that engages in research and scholarship. Programs should also have a core faculty of at least five full-time faculty members, or their equivalent.
  3. Student recruitment will be transparent and will provide evidence of support for students, in terms of advising, career counseling, internships and so on.  Programs will also show clear efforts to recruit a diverse student population.
  4. The program will provide sufficient information, specifically about its mission, practices, accomplishments, and learning outcomes, to inform decisions by students, faculty, and other stakeholders.
  5. The curriculum of the program will demonstrate consistency and coherence in meeting its mission. The curriculum should be matched to the overall mission, should reflect a commitment to public service values, and should be designed to allow students to engage with real world problems.
General Standard for Eligibility

To be eligible for CAPPA accreditation, your program must offer a master’s degree in public policy/administration (or a similar professional master’s degree preparing students for professional careers in public service).

Your program must be a member in good standing of CAPPA, and the quality assurance body in your province should recognize your home university.

Programs should be in operation for at least a four-year period before seeking CAPPA accreditation in order to provide the data required to complete a review.

Programs that have not been in operation for at least four years must provide a rationale as to the adequacy of program data to support an evaluation. CAPPA accreditation is awarded at the master’s program level only, not at the school or institutional level.

Programs seeking accreditation should have as their goal the preparation of students for careers as analysts, managers and leaders in a profession focused on the public sector.  Excluded would be programs focused on educating students for other professions such as social work, education and nursing.

Online programs are eligible for accreditation if they can demonstrate an adequate amount of interaction between students and faculty, and some socialization into the norms and aspirations of professional public servants.   In such programs, faculty members must be able to adequately assess students’ interpersonal and communications skills and ensure that they enter the profession prepared and able to operate at a high level of skill.


CAPPA Accreditation, Standards & Procedures, at, accessed 17 February 2017.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last updated 3 July 2020.

Image: CAPPA Accreditation, Standards & Procedures, at, accessed 30 May 2016.