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Department of Political Science

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MSc Public Policy


About this programme

This programme aims to equip students with the theoretical tools and empirical evidence necessary for an in-depth understanding of policy-making in democracies, including the changing nature of governance and the theoretical, practical and ethical questions surrounding the future role of the state.

The course is also highly interdisciplinary and this provides students with the opportunity to address some of the key issues of contemporary governance.

Programme Summary
Structure
Further Information
Meet the students

Programme introduction

The MSc degree in Public Policy at UCL aims to contribute to the education of a new generation of public policy-makers and policy analysts, familiarising them with the necessary concepts, theories, methods and principles involved in the formulation and analysis of public policy. The course aims to equip students with the theoretical tools and empirical evidence necessary for an in-depth understanding of policy-making in democracies, including the changing nature of governance and the theoretical, practical and ethical questions surrounding the future role of the state. The course is also highly interdisciplinary and this provides students with the opportunity to address some of the key issues of contemporary governance. These include, for example, questions of the appropriate design of institutions, the management of contractual relationships, the design of regulatory mechanisms and economic approaches to policy evaluation.

Topics we cover in this course include, but are not limited to:

  • How executive, legislative and judicial actors combine to shape public policy
  • How bureaucratic agencies are designed and staffed and how they implement public policy
  • The role of business and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in influencing the policy making process
  • The role of economics in policy making, through concepts and tools such as market supply and demand, cost-benefit analysis and the use of incentive-based regulatory tools, such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems
  • How the government collaborates with the private sector to provide public services through public-private partnerships and private finance initiatives, among other methods
  • How business behavior is regulated by a variety of techniques, from government command-and-control to business self-regulation
  • How to examine political and social phenomena using tools of rigorous qualitative and quantitative research methods

Students also take two option modules and the potential choices cover a range of different substantive policy issues, including environmental and energy policy, health policy, public management, making policy work, and global policy making. Additionally, under the supervision of an SPP member of staff, students write a 10,000 word dissertation, which allows them to apply their substantive knowledge and research method skills to an independently crafted piece of research.  By the end of the course, students will have acquired knowledge of the policy making process, as well as tools of policy analysis and evaluation, and will understand the political, economic and social factors that drive policy formulation and implementation.  Students will also be able to do policy analysis and research independently.

In addition to receiving rigorous academic training, students are also exposed to the practical side of policy making. Individual modules frequently have guest speakers that hail from different government departments, NGOs, consultancies, think tanks or businesses. The SPP Seminar Series also offers a mix of both practitioner and academics who discuss their work. London’s status as a major hub of political, financial and policy making activity makes it ideal for excursions outside the university as well, as students have visited the UK Supreme Court and the Cabinet Office. This mix of academic and applied education prepares students well for careers in a variety of destinations. Recent graduates have found employment at Accenture, the Confederation of British Industry, Civil Service Faststream, the Institute of Government, the Institute for Public Policy Research, KPMG, OECD, the UK National Audit Office, and Serco Group, among other places.

UCL’s status as an excellent, global university means that there are a number of other departments and institutes that enable you to supplement your education. Within the Department of Political Science, we have the Policy and Practice Seminar Series, the Legal and Political Theory Seminar Series, plus regular events put on by the Constitution Unit.  Additionally, the UCL Global Governance Institute has its own regular seminar series as well.  Additionally, seminar series are offered by the Department of Economics, the Department of Laws, the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, the Institute for Sustainable Resources, the Energy Institute, and the European Institute, among others. Another group, UCL Public Policy, holds events which are a reflection of UCL’s commitment to research that engages and interacts with the broader policy-making community.

Next: Structure