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MSc Philosophy and Public Policy

Course Description

About the MSc programme

This programme is based in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method and offers the following benefits:

It provides a foundation in the conceptual and normative questions underlying public-policy formulation.
It prepares for a wide variety of policy-oriented careers.
It is distinctive in three ways:
It is resolutely interdisciplinary. We take philosophical analysis to be continuous with the scientific study of political, social and economic problems.
It offers a thorough background in moral and political theory, which students learn to apply to issues in public policy.
It provides a foundation in evidence-based policy, which is now widely mandated at all levels of policy-making.

Students have access to a wealth of courses and resources within the Philosophy Department and at LSE that are relevant for the philosophical analysis of public policy, for example:
Research seminars on philosophy and public policy, rational and social choice, scientific evidence and policy-making;
The LSE Internships programme in Public Policy, Social Issues and Public Affairs;
The many policy-related courses and colloquia in LSE.
It is taught at an institution which is a major centre for national and international public policy debates.

The MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy will be of interest to students from various backgrounds, for example, from philosophy, history, economics, sociology and political science. We consider applicants with good first degrees in any discipline, with a considered interest in the area covered by the MSc. If your first language is not English, please submit with your application a sample of your work in English (five to ten typewritten pages).

We recruit students from all across the world to assemble a genuinely international group, which enriches the social and intellectual environment that the programme offers. We approach philosophical issues in public policy through the lenses of historical and contemporary developments in ethical theory and political philosophy and we teach students how to use results of the natural and social sciences in evaluating policy. Topics may include various policy areas (for example, health care, development, social security, climate change), approaches to the study of society (rational, social and public choice), central topics in political philosophy (for example, democracy, liberal neutrality, equality, human rights, punishment and just war) and science and policy (for example, the nature of evidence, objectivity, theory choice, facts and values).

Programme details

Instruction consists of lectures, seminars and one-on-one supervision sessions. Seminar sizes are kept small (less than 16 students). The average number of contact hours on this MSc is 180 hours.

We encourage our students to apply to the LSE Internships schemes in Parliament. Careers Service also provides assistance in applying for internships and work experience in various institutions across London. Please visit the Careers Service for more information.

The students in this programme typically form a tight social group. The Department, the School and the setting in London offer an interesting social environment.

Compulsory courses

Philosophy and Public Policy examines the design and evaluation of public policies from the perspective of moral and political philosophy.
Either Philosophy, Morals and Politics or Scientific Method and Policy. Philosophy, Morals and Politics covers central topics in moral and political philosophy. Scientific Method and Policy addresses questions such as the following: What counts as evidence for deciding the best policy? Are certain types of evidence (for instance, that from large-sample randomised trials) more objective and thus more telling than others? Do scientists have a responsibility to communicate policy-relevant research in a value-free way? In what sense, if any, is science a "public good", and what does this mean for how it should be governed?
Research and Writing Seminar in Philosophy and Public Policy – this seminar will prepare you to write a Dissertation of about 10,000 words on philosophical aspects of a public policy issue.
An additional one unit course or two half unit courses chosen from a range of options in the Department or on a space-available basis across the School.

Please note that not every course is available each year and that some courses may only be available with the permission o the course convenor and/or may be subject to space.

Graduate destinations

The programme prepares you for PhD work in philosophy as well as for policy-oriented careers in governmental, non-governmental or international organisations. We have a very good record of students moving on to good PhD programmes and to high-level jobs with think tanks, in government, or in business. Our graduates are currently working or studying in the following branches: non-government organisations and think tanks, governmental organisations, PhD programmes, law school or legal practice, commercial enterprises, banking and finance, consultancy, international organisations, academic research and teaching.

Visit the MSc Philosophy and Public Policy page on the London School of Economics and Political Science website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Mischa van den Brandhof

1801.jpg What really convinced me to attend LSE was visiting the Department. After talking to one of the professors about the MSc, I was positive that LSE is where I wanted to be. The philosophy we are doing is very hands-on. It is about important policy issues that refer to the basic question of what kind of society we want to live in. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that philosophy is absolutely vital in thinking about public policy. This MSc is great, because it teaches you the fundamentals: how to read, think and write critically about policy. Secondly, the fact that students come from different national and academic backgrounds makes the course intellectually stimulating. If I had to choose the best thing, it's how committed our professors are. They are very approachable and they are interested in what students have to say. In addition, they are dedicated to spending time with students outside the classroom. The MSc is really intense, so there is little time to do other things, but most students still manage to attend the interesting talks organised by the Philosophy Department or the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS). There is always something going on at LSE, from lectures by internationally eminent speakers to social events. The yearly departmental weekend was also a great opportunity to get intellectually and socially involved with students and professors. After I graduate, I would like to work at a policy institute or at an international NGO, like the Open Society Institute or Amnesty International.

(Student Profile)

Natalie Raaber

1802.jpg I was drawn to LSE's interdisciplinary, dynamic and theoretical approach to academic study; specifically, I valued my programme's focus on critical questioning, epistemology and research into and the analysis of political and moral philosophy.
The MSc in Philosophy, Policy and Social Value provides the unique opportunity to combine the study of moral and political philosophy with that of public policy, offering a strong interdisciplinary and practical component. The MSc is intensive and comprehensive, covering a broad range of topics in political and moral philosophy, challenging those with a background in philosophy, while remaining accessible to those with an undergraduate degree in a different discipline.

LSE has provided a backdrop of diversity, both in the academic backgrounds of attending students and professors as well as in their personal experiences and origins. The energy of a global city, the access to leading and progressive social science research and the high level of intellectual curiosity within the academic community contribute to the LSE's draw. Furthermore, the speaker selection at LSE provides a rare opportunity to engage in challenging debate with leaders in academia, government and international non-governmental organisations.

Upon completion of the programme, I plan on pursuing work as a research assistant in foreign policy development, with a specific focus on international human rights. Following this, I plan on attending Law School in New York in the fall of 2007. Ultimately, I would like to combine my degree in Philosophy and one in Law to pursue a career in international human rights law and policy.


Entry Requirements

2:1 or 1st class degree or overseas equivalent with a considered interest in the areas covered by the MSc; English standard level.

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