Defining Core

Untitled-11 copyWhat we mean by core competency, core learning outcome, core subject, core topic, core concept, core term, and core curriculum

A principal aim of the Atlas project is to examine the extent to which there is a body of curricular content that is common to leading MPP and MPA programs. This work is described in the working papers listed below. (For examples of leading programs, see Reference Programs.)

General definitions implied by the professional nature of the degree

Because the MPP and MPA are professional degrees, the definition of core can start with the competencies expected of graduates, as specified by standards-setting bodies. The core curriculum – with its topics, concepts, and terms – is what is required to teach the competencies.

core competencies: competencies, as specified by standards-setting bodies and implied by the required courses of leading programs, that are expected of graduates from a leading MPP or MPA program

core curriculum: course content needed to ensure that students acquire the core competencies by the time they graduate

core topics, concepts, and terms: topics, concepts, and terms covered in the core curriculum.

Specific definitions used in the Atlas

In our application of the Normed Topic Model, we use the adjective core in the following terms:

MPP/MPA core competency: one of the 7 competencies included in MPP/MPA Core Competencies, derived from our analysis of the standards promulgated by NASPAA and UDESA/IASIA and the contents of required courses in leading MPP and MPA programs

MPP/MPA core learning outcome: an assessable comprehension of subject matter that can be specified at three levels (for each of the 7 MPP/MPA Core Competencies; for each of the 17 core Subjects; and for each of the 120 core normed Topics) as illustrated at MPP/MPA Core Learning Outcomes and Atlas Examination Standards

core subject: one of the 17 subjects (listed with an asterisk on the Subjects page) that contribute to the core curriculum of MPP and MPA programs and to which one or more of the 120 core normed topics is assigned

core normed topic: one of the 120 normed topics (listed in Table 1 of the Topics database) that we have constructed to achieve the learning outcomes associated with the 7 MPP/MPA core competencies

core concept: one of the concepts (listed with an asterisk in the Concepts database) specified in one or more of the 120 core normed topics

core term: one of the terms (listed with an asterisk in the Concepts database) used in the exposition of a core topic or concept

core curriculum: a set of courses that teaches all 120 core normed topics (as illustrated at Core Curriculum, which links core subjects and competencies to Atlas Courses)

Atlas working papers addressing the definition of core
(selected from Papers and Monographs)

Should CAPPA Have a Core? Lessons from International Comparisons of MPP/MPA Curricula, Clark and Pal, 26 May 2015

Mapping the Topics and Learning Outcomes of a Core Curriculum for MPP and MPA Programs, Clark, Eisen, Lennon, Pal, 26 May 2015

What are the core curricular components of Master’s-level public management education and how is learning within them assessed? Clark, Eisen and Pal, 21 May 2014

Academic Respectability Meets Professional Utility: Canadian MPA/MPP Programs and Professional Competencies, Clark and Pal, 21 Nov 2011

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 4 June 2017.

Image: Marketing Review Weekly, at, accessed 13 December 2015.