3 universities empowering students to shape and implement tomorrow’s policies

policy education
Source: London School of Economics and Political Science

The last decade taught us that there are always new ways of thinking about tough issues — including unprecedented ones that brought the world to a halt. Consider the COVID-19 pandemic, where governments were tested on seemingly everything from healthcare responses and vaccine development to stimulus packages and how long to allow residents to walk their dogs. Similarly, the ongoing battle against climate change requires experts who can balance environmental sustainability with economic growth, crafting regulations that make full use of innovation while protecting the planet. 

The best universities are meeting this demand, offering programmes designed to empower the next generation of leaders in both public administration and public policy. Read on to discover three such institutions, each providing a unique approach to education to ensure their graduates step into the workforce with fresh insights and great added value. 

policy education

The School of Public Policy is home to several associations, professional development programmes, and activities that encourage learners to put knowledge into practice. Source: London School of Economics and Political Science

School of Public Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science

For more inclusive and vigorous understanding of the plans, laws and behaviours adopted by governments, join the School of Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political science. It’s a vibrant international community at one of the foremost social science universities in the world, great for anyone seeking the skills and ideas to transform people and societies. 

At LSE School of Public Policy, that starts with a solid foundation in political science, economics, and quantitative analysis and later gets you applying your new knowledge and skills to real-world global policy challenges. As you analyse, understand and resolve the challenges of contemporary governance, you’ll have the views of peers from over 50 countries and various backgrounds to help you find new ways of thinking about tough issues. Your professors bring decades of experience to further challenge you intellectually whilst guest speakers share insights from everything from climate litigation and capitalism to AI and Impact Investing. 

To be part of this diverse global community of policy change-makers, you can choose from eight programmes designed for early-stage career to executive level students. The two largest programmes are the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Master of Public Policy (MPP). 

For the former, early-career professionals spend the first year developing foundational skills in policy analysis through training in empirical methods, political science, and economic analysis. In their second year, students have the flexibility to build upon this new knowledge by exploring option courses and selecting specialisms in areas such as international development, social impact, inequality and poverty and international political economy. 

A key component of the MPA is the six-month Capstone Project where MPA students put their learnings into practice by collaborating with an external client to tackle real-world policy issues. Think promoting greater gender equality and inclusivity in the Central Bank of Mexico, reducing existing pressures on England’s frontline healthcare services, and empowering young people to lead in gender-responsive climate change adaptation approaches. Recent partners include Goldman Sachs, UNICEF, the Migration Policy Institute, and NHS England. 

The intensive nine-month Master of Public Policy (MPP) is a better choice for those further in their careers. It can deepen your understanding and analytical capabilities in public policy. Through a multidisciplinary approach encompassing economics, econometrics, political science, quantitative methods, public management, and philosophy, you’ll gain a nuanced understanding of the complexities of contemporary governance. This level of breadth ensures you graduate ready to spark change in public, private, international, or non-profit sectors. Apply now to shape the future of global policy. 

policy education

As many as 91.3% of Columbia’s MPA graduates are either employed or pursuing further study within six months of graduating. Source: Columbia University

School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) has spent over seven decades at the forefront of educating professionals who are dedicated to making a positive impact on the world. Whether they work in public, private, or nonprofit sectors, graduates can be found improving social services, advocating for human rights, strengthening markets, protecting the environment, and securing peace, both in their local communities and around the globe.

While the SIPA has a range of postgraduate programmes, its Master of Public Administration is a popular choice for those looking to gain qualitative and quantitative analytical skills, substantive policy knowledge, and professional expertise needed to tackle real-world challenges. 

The core curriculum takes a globally oriented and comparative approach to national policy-making, complemented by rigorous courses in economics, quantitative analysis, and management. However, students can choose from a diverse range of concentrations (majors) tailored to their interests and career goals: International Security Policy, International Finance and Economic Policy, Economic and Political Development, Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy, and Urban and Social Policy. Selected pathways within are STEM-designated, providing learners with an edge in technical and analytical skills.

No matter which route students choose, they all benefit from Columbia University’s unparalleled academic resources and SIPA’s extensive experiential learning opportunities. This includes the capstone workshop programme, where students work on real-world projects with organisations around the globe. These prepare students well, as seen in the many MPA graduates now working for the most prestigious agencies and firms in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. 

policy education

Apart from the MPA and MPP, the Goldman School also offers Master of Development Practice, a doctoral programme, and an undergradute minor. Source: University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley

The Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP) at the University of California, Berkeley aims to provide a transformational academic and cultural experience to students interested in careers in public leadership. Currently, it offers various degree programmes designed to cater to several stages of professional development. 

Designed for mid-career professionals, the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) programme explores policy analysis within the context of organisational leadership, ethics, innovation, economics, and strategic planning. The curriculum is driven by esteemed faculty and includes collaborative learning experiences, rapid-response assessments, and in-depth policy explorations. The programme culminates in a Capstone project, where students apply interdisciplinary tools to a real-world policy challenge for a client.

Meanwhile, the two-year, full-time, in-person, STEM-designated Master of Public Policy (MPP) emphasises the applied and quantitative dimensions of policy-making and implementation. Its curriculum equips students with the tools for effective leadership in government, advocacy, and the non-profit and private sectors. Key components include a core curriculum, a summer internship, a second-year policy analysis project, and electives from both GSPP and the broader UC Berkeley community. 

The programme also covers social science methodologies, economic analysis, political institutions, legal analysis, and communication skills. Hence, graduates emerge ready to address issues such as poverty, education, racial inequality, criminal justice, and climate change. 

In true Berkeley fashion, all lessons at Goldman School are delivered by top researchers in fields such as economics, political science, law, social psychology, and engineering. Through their connections and with their guidance, students undergo summer internships, and real-world policy analysis projects to apply theoretical knowledge to practical challenges throughout their studies.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International