Course Outline

Innovative classroom teaching methods, combined with teaching staff with years of experience in real-world policy organisations ensure our students get the most out of their time in London. With a strong focus on experiential learning, you will be working with real-world policy clients drawn from public, private and civil sectors nationally and internationally. Our students will gain a strong interdisciplinary foundation working as part of a team on a practical problem brought by the policy client, starting in the first semester. The learning, experiences and networks you build will give you the foundation you need to be a future leader.

A core part of the programme will be a year-long project working with a real-world policy client such as the World Bank or the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, to generate analysis and policy advice on a problem important to them. Our graduates will gain experience working in multi-disciplinary teams, learning by doing as they experiment and try out new, innovative ways of working that can bring together policy, social and technical expertise. 

Download an overview of the MPA course (pdf)

The Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy sits within UCL’s Faculty of Engineering, whose motto is ‘Change the world’. The Department’s flagship educational programme, the MPA in Science or Engineering and Public Policy, gives students the understanding, insight and practical skills to ‘change the world’. It provides knowledge of informed approaches for tackling complex challenges, skills for how to enact them, and an attitude of critical reflexivity empowering them to ask why change the world?

Alongside the courses and project listed below, the programme will involve regular skills-training sessions in topics such as presenting complex information, writing for policy and the media, presentation and communication skills and project management.

Module List

Download the Term 1 course outline (pdf)

Introductory week: an immersive experience in complex decision making

Introduction to Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy: Understanding knowledge systems

This course provides an introduction to knowledge systems and their role in complex challenges. Through a combination of theoretical reflection and historical and contemporary case studies, students are introduced to the key conceptual and methodological tools needed to understand science, engineering and policy in a systems framework.

Organisations, Interdisciplinary Capacity and Change
This module bridges the Introductory course with the Adaptive Governance course by taking the preceding broad landscapes and offering methods to identify the key institutional actors within them; examining how they make use of scientific, technological, social and environmental resources to achieve political, economic and legal objectives, introducing the role of evidence and the operational challenges of interdisciplinary working.

Adaptive Governance – ‘How to change the world’: Methods and approaches for policy practitioners

This course introduces the foundations of public decision-making processes and the importance of adaptive policy-making. The course will cover policy analysis, managing complexity and uncertainty in decision-making, methods and procedures for pursing adaptive policymaking across different sectors, scales and societal contexts. Using case studies and applied practice, students will explore the mechanics of decision-making as well as contemplating the various consequences of action.

Integrated Assessment of Socio-Technocal Systems

Decision-makers on science, technology, engineering and public policy (STEaPP) face a huge challenge in bringing together the different types of knowledge necessary for making their decisions. Natural science (quantitative) knowledge has to be integrated with social science (quantitative and qualitative) knowledge, and this scientific knowledge needs to be further integrated with engineering and practitioners’ knowledge. Each type of knowledge has different limitations and types of uncertainty attached to it.

Case Studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy

This course, running across both terms, will give students an experience of tackling complex, multi-factor problems at the interface of science, engineering and public policy. The course will explore a series of policy case studies in which science and engineering play a key role, and will gain experience of complex decision-making, in conditions of uncertainty and limited evidence.

Students will learn to balance multiple priorities and competing interests and work with an inter-disciplinary team in an effective way. Students will develop understanding of a selection of real problems and the factors that shape them.

Download the Term 2 course outline (pdf)

Evidence, Institutions and Power – ‘Why change the world?’: Critical reflections on decision-making systems

This course encourages students to reflect on what rights and duties they have to change the world, think about whose world they are changing, and whose vision of the future is better. Students will examine the existing political institutions and modes of thinking that shape policy and discuss the value of alternative systems and approaches. They will also consider the nature and value of scientific and engineering evidence and discuss their appropriate roles and limitations in addressing policy challenges.

Advanced Analytic Methods: Tools and techniques in policy development

Building on Adapative policy making, this course introduces key methods for the development and evaluation of policy. Including topics such as risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis, scenario-planning, agent-based modeling, public participation and many others, students will develop skills in the methods essential to their group project and to their future careers.

Electives 1 & 2: An opportunity to specialise in a relevant topic or method from across UCL’s graduate programmes.

During the second term, students will have the opportunity to customise their degree by selecting their elective modules.

Students will be able to use this opportunity to choose modules from a range of electives in science, technology, engineering or public policy provided and offered by other UCL Departments. UCL STEaPP will also be offering a range of electives in various areas.

Download the Term 3 course outline (pdf)

Mobilising Change: Developing skills for leadership

To achieve impact in all aspects of policy design, advice and deployment, skills of leadership and personal effectiveness are essential. This course will lead students through an exploration of their leadership styles and skills and will build in them the courage to be an effective and reflective policy practitioner.

Group Project

In the first term students will begin a practical group project, which will run until the end of the summer term. This will be a real-world policy challenge with an external partner, requiring research, evidence-gathering, project-planning and specification of a practical solution. 

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