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Public Administration (MPA)

Course Description

The aim of the York Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree is to enhance your capacity to manage, lead, change and improve public services. It reflects the current public service modernisation agenda and aims to equip you to make a practical difference in the delivery of public services programmes and agendas.

The programme is distance-based and materials are made available via a web-based virtual learning environment. Students are closely supported by online tutors and there is a strong emphasis on highly interactive collaborative, small-group working, and on shared learning.


This is a part-time, postgraduate-level programme delivered wholly online in fully supported environment. The programme can be completed to Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters level.


The programme is based on a number of principles that inform its structure, content and general approach, as follows:
*While the focus of the programme is on the delivery of services, this activity can only be fully understood and improved when it is linked to the processes of policy development and decision-making. The programme therefore addresses all of these issues.
*The wider context within which governments work is changing rapidly and has created pressures quite unlike those faced by public managers in earlier decades. Key issues in this wider environment are the role of global institutions and the implications this has had for governance and decision-making; the rising demands that governments and citizens are making on public service managers, against a background of constrained resources; and the conflicting drivers facing managers in many sectors of innovation and standardisation. Public managers need to understand this wider context in order to function effectively within it.
*Effective service delivery increasingly involves leading and managing change. The skills that this involves include understanding change at the level of the individual, organisation and society.

Who is the programme for?

The programme accepts participants from public sector and non-governmental organisations, and from private sector organisations that work with public services. It will be relevant to you if you work in or are looking to develop skills and understanding in:
*Leading and managing change in public services.
*Working across boundaries (public, private and non-governmental).
*Influencing policy decisions in order to shape service delivery for the future.
*Innovation and enterprise in the context of constrained resources and pressures for standardisation.

The roles of current students and alumni include:
*Assistant Chief Executive, Borough Council
*Strategic Development Officer, City Council
*Team Manager, Children's Services Team
*Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, UN
*Partnerships and Projects Advisor
*Service Delivery Manager, government department
*Corporate Officer for Performance and Improvement
*Volunteer Coordinator for a national charity
*Consultant, EU energy-related projects
*Audit Manager and Financial Analyst, Correctional Service
* Programme Specialist, UNICEF
* Finance Manager, NHS Trust

Themes and content

The programme addresses four broad themes:
*The delivery, management and improvement of public services.
*The links between service delivery and the policy process, including the means by which policy decisions are made and the influence on this process of service delivery on the ground.
*Strategic capability, including strategic planning, the management of public finances, leadership and organisational learning.
*The wider context of public service delivery: the implications of global governance and information age government.
Learn more about the course content: http://www.york.ac.uk/spsw/postgraduate/mpa/#tab-4

Online learning - how does it work?

Our approach to online learning is distinctive and may be different from your general perceptions about this mode of study.

These are not self-study programmes which leave you on your own. You will be part of an active learning community with regular contacts and activities.

While the e-based approach means that our programmes are very flexible - you can study at any time or location - they also involve a structured approach to learning. You will be asked to take part in some activities each week.

As well as interacting with fellow students you will also have regular and structured contact with a dedicated and friendly academic and administrative team at York.

Read more about our distinctive approach: http://www.york.ac.uk/spsw/postgraduate/mpa/#tab-6

Our calibre

In the latest national research evaluation exercise (REF 2014) our overall research performance was ranked third in the UK, with 54% of research activity rated as world leading. We were also ranked joint first in the UK for research impact.

The QS World University Rankings included a separate subject league table for Social Policy & Administration for the first time this year and our department was ranked 25th in the world.

The QS World University Rankings also ranked us 4th in the UK for social policy.

Talk to us

Our Virtual Open Days are the ideal way to find out more about postgraduate study at York. At the live event you can chat online with academic staff and current York postgraduate students as well as watch talks on finance and student life. Go to https://www.york.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/open-days/virtual-open-day/ to find out more.

Visit the Public Administration (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

A good second class undergraduate degree. Applicants without undergraduate-level academic experience may also be considered. Professional experience in the public service field. IELTS score of 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any element. A personal (home) computer with an internet connection (minimum 0.5MBPS). Sufficient study time: at least 15 hours per week including the capacity to take part regularly in the online weekly discussions.

Course Fees

Standard fee, 1st year: £5,700; Discounted fee: £4,735

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