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Public Administration (Online) - MPA

Course Description

The Masters of Public Administration is an internationally recognised qualification acting as the public service equivalent of an MBA. It is ideal for early- and mid-career professionals working in public service delivery. During your studies you'll develop the skills and knowledge required for management in large and complex organisations. You'll become familiar with the complex issues which you need to balance when managing or leading public service delivery.

By choosing this part-time, online course you will be able to combine your study with your career and family. You'll also be studying with one of the top universities in the world, with teaching and support from experienced academics and practitioners. Our Department is ranked 25th in the world, and 4th in the UK (QS World Rankings 2016). All our courses are run directly by us, with no outsourcing, so you can always count on coherent and strong support from your academic tutors, personal supervisor and our dedicated support team.

You'll study alongside your peers working in similar organisations around the world. You'll be able to actively engage with them and share ideas, learning and experience as you progress through the course. You'll also be in a position to immediately apply your learning and insight to your work and your organisation.

Course content

Our MPA will develop you as a professional public service manager. You'll develop your skills in analysis, decision-making and accountability. You will deepen your understanding of the ethos, culture, opportunities and constraints that govern public service delivery. You'll develop your ability to lead and manage people through successful strategic and organisational change. You'll learn how to influence policy decisions to shape future service delivery and enhance your organisation's learning and performance.

As you progress through this two year course you will apply your learning in the workplace. We'll encourage your development as a reflective practitioner throughout this process.

Towards the end of the course you'll start to prepare for your dissertation which will allow you to explore an area of particular interest.

You can also study for a shorter period of time and graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma.

To graduate with an MPA degree, you will need to take 140 credits of taught modules and complete a dissertation worth 40 credits.

You'll study these modules to a schedule. This will allow you to participate online with academics and fellow students from around the world.

Year one: foundation
In the first year you'll complete 80 credits of study through the following modules:
-Public Management and Delivery (20 credits)
-Strategic Planning (20 credits)
-Policy Analysis and Process (20 credits)
-Reflective Practice for Professional Development - Part One (10 credits)
-Digital Government: Policy and Practice (10 credits)

Year two: specialisation and dissertation
In your second year you'll study a combination of taught modules and work on your dissertation. You'll start the year by studying this module:
-Leading and Managing Organisational Change (20 credits)

You'll then choose one of the following modules:
-Project Management (20 credits)
-Public Finance (20 credits)
-Public Service Reform: Economic and Political Perspectives (20 credits).

You will also need to complete a dissertation, as well as modules designed to develop your professional and research skills:
-Reflective Practice for Professional Development - Part Two (10 credits)
-Dissertation workshop (10 credits)
-Dissertation (40 credits)


This course is ideal for people working in public and not-for-profit sectors as well as people working in for-profit organisations that deliver public services. It will enable you to develop the skills and understanding needed for management and leadership in complex public service environments.

Visit the Public Administration (Online) - MPA page on the University of York website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Grace Kagendo

As an evaluation officer with the United Nations world food programme based in Rome Italy, I manage evaluations of different programmes in different countries. I also provide technical support to staff at country level who commission and manage evaluation.

Skills I use and how I developed them:

Understanding of public policy processes and international development concepts. My masters study at York gave me a good foundation on these, but I have had to continually update my knowledge as the world evolves. Project management skills are very critical in my current job because evaluation is the last leg of the project cycle management, and it is process-heavy. I have honed these skills over several years working as a Monitoring and Evaluation officer as well as taking a post-graduate diploma course in PM.

How studying in the UK affected my job seeking:

There are rare programmes of study that allow one to steadily deepen their understanding of their area of work and their organisation at the same time. The online MA in public administration at York allowed me to do that. The most important aspect of the MA programme is that instead of examinations the students write essays to answer specific questions. For the 8 essays I chose subjects that were directly relevant and helped me to deepen my understanding of my organisation and its work. For example I wrote an essay on strategic planning processes in UN WFP and looked at how this has changed over time since 2004.

In 2008 when I was studying for my MA, there was a new position as head of Monitoring and Evaluation which I got largely because I had started gaining useful knowledge to function in that role. In 2011 I was given a very critical role to lead a strategic planning process, again largely because after my MA I had consolidated knowledge in this area. I can credit my career progress since 2008 to my study at York and most importantly to how I applied what I learnt during the 3 years.

(Student Profile)

Lee F.

I work for Citizens Advice researching people's lived experiences of policies and use the insight gained to influence Ministers and decision-makers to improve things

Skills I use and how I developed them:

I spent many years as a policy adviser to DWP and thought I wanted to apply my academic and civil service to a voluntary sector role. So I took a job where I can use qualitative and quantitative research techniques to get a in-depth perspective of what it means to live the consequences of social policies. I then reflect that to Government to lobby for change.

What surprised me about my career so far:

How diverse it has been ... I've run pubs & shops. I've opened charity shops. I've hired & fired people. Work has taken me to Iraq; Cyprus; Germany; Poland; Belgium; France; Gibraltar and throughout the UK. Expect anything; let nothing surprise you and go where things lead you.

My career history:
I worked my way through the ranks in the Civil Service - I had a target grade in mind - when I got there I decided it wasn't for me.
I took myself away to run a gift shop by the sea while I worked out what else I wanted to do.
I'd already done some work in the third sector and this seemed like a natural next step so here I am.

How my studies have helped my career:
I'd already got years of practical experience under my belt but lacked the paperwork to show the value of that to potential employers ... my degree cemented & crystalised that experience on paper.

What has helped my career to progress:
Talking to people - with honesty, passion and credibility. I'm naturally quite shy but building the skills I needed to build & maintain positive relationships with diverse stakeholders has always stood me in good stead ... more so than any other key skill.

(Student Profile)

Terence W.

What I do:
I am a policy advisor in the Home Office working as part of the International and Immigration Policy Group. The work involves drafting government policy specifically around passports and engaging with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders. I am also a qualified executive coach with Civil Service Learning (CSL).

Skills I use and how I developed them:
The main skill required for my role is the ability to write clearly and concisely on a range of topics and to engage with key stakeholders. I am a member of the Civil Service Policy Profession which provided me with the basic training to fulfill this role and continues to provide ongoing advice around policy issues. For coaching I was required to undertaking a validation process which was administered by Oxford Brookes University on behalf of CSL.

How I looked for work:
I joined the Civil Service straight from university in 1980 because I wanted a job with variety and where I could make a difference to the lives of people. I applied through the Civil Service Commission which consisted of an examination followed by an interview. I have changed roles and departments a number of times during my career. Civil Service entry is now through the Civil Service Jobs website.

Courses taken since graduation:
DWP provided the opportunity for staff to study at York part time for an MA in Public Services Management. I also achieved professional Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist qualification as an investigator and a manager accredited by the University of Portsmouth and was validated as an Executive Coach by Oxford Brookes University on behalf of Civil Service Learning (CSL).
How my studies have helped my career

How my studies have helped my career:
The successful completion of my MA helped me to achieve promotion and was instrumental in assisting me to secure my present role. My professional qualifications helped me to secure posts as both an investigator and later as a manager covering counter fraud activities and my coaching qualification allows me to practice as a coach in addition to my primary role as a policy advisor.


Entry Requirements

You should normally have at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification. If you don't have experience of undergraduate study we may consider your application if you have a suitable professional background. You should also have professional experience in the public service field. This could be in roles in local or national government, or in non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations, the voluntary and charitable sector, and private sector roles which support or deliver public services.

Last Updated

20 February 2017

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