Using the Atlas to Design an MPP or MPA Program

… one way of Using the Atlas

Click for Atlas Subjects page

Selecting program comparators and designing required courses with Atlas core subjects and topics

Imagine being asked by a senior university administrator to design an MPP or MPA program from scratch. What courses should be taught?

Finding program comparators

One can see how other universities have designed their programs by using the Atlas Programs page to link to 120 MPP and MPA programs in 17 countries, and by using the Reference Programs page to review four schools with highly ranked MPP and MPA programs and online curricular materials.

Selecting the curricular type

One can use the MPP/MPA Curricular Types page to help determine the broad type of curriculum desired through positioning along three crucial design dimensions:

  1. The number of courses required for graduation, which is closely related to the normal time to completion.
  2. The subject-matter emphasis, which can be expressed in terms of the proportion of course work taken by the typical student in particular subjects.
  3. The extent to which the curricular subject matter requires familiarity with mathematics and economics, which can be expressed in terms of the proportion of courses taken by the typical student in quantitative methods and economic subjects.
Designing required courses with Atlas core subjects and topics

The 34 Atlas Subjects have been derived from the subject matter taught in MPP and MPA programs. Each subject comprises a number of Topics, each of which could be taught in one course-week. Some topics are taught in almost all highly regarded programs and can be considered to constitute the Core Curriculum. Our work to date on the Atlas Core Curriculum Project suggests that the core comprises about 120 topics across 17 subjects, 5 of which have 12 topics (equivalent to a one-semester course) and the others have 9, 6 or 3 topics (which could be considered as modules potentially to be combined into 12-topic courses). The core MPP/MPA curriculum is displayed in Table 1.

Table 1: The MPP/MPA core curriculum of 120 topics in 17 subjects
delivered through 5 semester-length courses (12 topics each) and 12 modules (9, 6, or 3 topics each)
Policy Analysis and Process
(12 topics)Implementation and Delivery
(12 topics)Governance and Institutions
(12 topics)Quantitative Methods
(12 topics)Economic Analysis
(12 topics)
Macroeconomic Policy
(6 topics)Analytic Methods
(6 topics)Evaluation and Performance Measurement
(6 topics)Socioeconomic and Political Context
(6 topics)Global Context
(3 topics)


Ethics, Rights, and Accountability
(6 topics)

Leadership Skills
(9 topics)Communication Skills
(3 topics)Public Financial Management
(6 topics)Human Resource Management
(3 topics)Information and Technology Management
(3 topics)


Environment and Sustainability
(3 topics)

Determining the most important concepts

The Atlas provides a number of different perspectives on the concept collection that might be helpful in determining the most important concepts to be included in a new program’s curriculum. These include:

  1. Most Viewed Concepts – which, as described in Who is using the Atlas? used Google Analytics to generate the one hundred most frequently viewed concept pages on the Atlas a reports on page views for the period 1 January 2019 to 27 April 2019.
  2. Top 50 Concept Readings for Toronto MPP Courses – which provides (when completed) links to Atlas pages for 8 x 50 = 400 concepts taught in the eight first-year courses in the Toronto MPP curriculum during the 2017-18 academic year, and selected by students to be the most useful in learning the course material.
  3. Preparing for the Policy Profession with Concepts in Beyond Policy Analysis – in which Exhibit 2 displays concepts on the Atlas that align most closely with the specific competencies in the Policy Profession Competencies Table.
  4. Atlas206 Internship Reading – which includes five collections of concepts thought by the Atlas editors to be among the most important in typical first-year courses:

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 4 May 2019.

Image: Programs, Atlas of Public Management, at, accessed 22 April 2019.