Master of Public Administration MPA


Fact file

MPA Public Administration
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
2.2(Lower 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent)
Other requirements
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
January and September
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This course focuses on critical issues and key developments relating to public management, such as leadership, strategy, performance management and human resource management.
Read full overview

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is an internationally recognised qualification providing the competencies and knowledge necessary for public service managers to manage creatively in challenging policy environments. It is suitable for new graduates and those with managerial and/or public sector work experience.

The focus of the programme is on critical issues and key developments relating to public management, such as leadership, strategy, performance management and human resource management. With the current developments in countries around the world, this is one of the most exciting times to be studying anything to do with the public sector, governance and government, and the delivery of services to meet people's needs.

The aim of all of our programmes is to provide students with the skills, knowledge and tools to make sense of the world of public policy and management, so that they can analyse situation and problems, and use this to improve its practice. The course is designed to blend both practitioner an academic perspectives on public management, and the wide range of modules draws on examples from different countries around the world.

The programme is aimed at both those who want to pursue a career in the public sector and those who want to further their career in the public sector. The course focuses on critical issues and key developments relating to public management (eg. leadership, strategy, performance management and human resource management).

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds. Some students come straight from their first degree onto the masters without much work experience, and others currently work in a public sector organisation (NHS, local authorities, education sector, police) and take the course on a part-time basis. About half of our students are from the UK, and the other half from abroad. At the moment we have 14 or 15 different nationalities amongst our students.

The variety of our student body adds a hugely beneficial and interesting dimension to the teaching through the exchange of experience of different practices and underlying assumptions on which these practices are built. The dialogue around these differences plays a substantial role in the learning environment. As admission into University programmes is conditional on a good level of English, the discussions are accessible and of interest to all students.

Key facts

  • International curricula focusing on key public sector developments in the UK, the EU, the US and other countries
  • Research-informed curricula reflecting the expertise of staff in the fields of public management, policy analysis and social policy
  • Flexible programme of study to facilitate part-time study
  • Nottingham is a student-friendly, cosmopolitan and vibrant city with many cultural, social and leisure attractions, with good transport links, and with easy access to the countryside and London
  • Friendly and supportive learning environment set in a very scenic campus

Course details

The course is designed to blend both practitioner and academic perspectives on public management, and the wide range of modules draws on examples from different countries around the world. 

Modules are normally taught by a mix of lectures, group-work, and class discussion. Most modules are taught weekly over one semester; a few modules are taught over three consecutive days. Part-time students need to come into the University for about 30 days per academic year. 

Taught modules are normally assessed by a 3,000 to 5,000-word essay (or equivalent). The 15,000 word dissertation is a key component of the masters degree as it gives students the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of their choice under the supervision of a leading public or social policy analyst. 

Students are required to submit an assessed dissertation proposal in advance of starting their dissertation. Support for producing the dissertation is provided by a research methods module, the dissertation and by one-to-one supervision. Past dissertation topics include:

  • Managing people in the public sector - recruitment and staff training
  • Impact of privatisation in the NHS on quality of care
  • Effectiveness of outsourcing in the NHS
  • Public procurement and corruption in Philippines
  • Central and local government interaction in budgetary process in Kazakhstan
  • Electoral systems/democracy Hong Kong and Taiwan
  • China's monitoring system to deal with corruption of civil servants

We also offer a Public Administration Postgraduate Diploma - students pursue the same programme of study as masters students, but do not undertake a dissertation. Diploma students can transfer to the masters course if they perform satisfactorily in the first semester (if full-time) or in the first academic year (if part-time).



Core modules

Dissertation in Public Administration

There is no taught element beyond supervision. Students will be allocated a suitable supervisor taking into account their interests and professional experience and will have to produce a dissertation of 15,000 words.

This module aims to:

  • develop student's abilities to complete a piece of original research and produce a research report
Leadership, Strategy and Performance in the Public Sector

This module will examine the role of leadership in the public sector. It will discuss different concepts of:

  • leadership
  • organisational culture and change
  • performance in the public sector
  • the use of knowledge and information in organisation learning
  • performance improvement in public sector organisations
  • the use of strategy in the public sector

Students will study different models and approaches to these concepts, how they are affected by and interact with the policy environment, and how they influence each other.

This module aims to:

  • equip students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to be able to critically evaluate the use of various approaches to leadership, performance, organisational learning and strategic management in a public sector context
  • facilitate an understanding of the difficulties of leading change in public sector organisations, and appreciate the need for multi-agency delivery of strategy
  • examine specific professional contexts and allow students to draw on their own experience to illustrate and analyse issues of leadership, organisational learning, strategy and performance
Managing People

This module will examine the concepts, models and practices of managing people in the public sector. It will study the development and approaches of how staff are managed in the public sector in a range of countries (eg UK and other European countries). The module will also investigate how public sector staff are recruited, rewarded etc and how their performance is measured.

This module aims to:

  • equip students with theoretical and empirical knowledge of how staff are managed in public sector organisations
Policy Analysis: Concepts and Theories

This module provides an applied, critical and informed understanding of policy-making and policy analysis in government.

It examines key concepts, models and theories of policy-making and policy analysis, and illustrates them by examining policy-making in Britain and other countries.

This module aims to:

  • reflect critically upon the meanings of public policy
  • understand the interplay of key actors in the processes of making public policy
  • evaluate public policy
  • assess key concepts of policy analysis
  • examine competing theories of public policy in modelling the policy process
Public Management and Governance

This module will cover models of management and governance in the public sector. 

It will critically examine comparative and historic trends in managerial practices and theory and contextually relevant ideas about management and governance in the public sector, including specific professional contexts.

This will include critically exploring specific debates about the alleged move from public administration to new public management and new public governance, from hierarchical to networked and marketised forms of organisation, and those involving communities in the design and delivery of public services.

This module aims to:

  • equip students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to analyse varieties of governance and management practices in the public sphere
  • examine a number of key management issues in public sector organisations
  • examine specific professional contexts, and allow students to draw on their own professional experience to illustrate multi-professional approaches to governance and management
Public Sector Financial Management

The module will study the application of modern financial management techniques in the public sector at governmental, sectoral, organisational and unit levels. It will look at:

  • budgetary cycles
  • financial and budget controls
  • cash and accrual (resource) accounting
  • management of working capital
  • capital budgets and programmes
  • project appraisal
  • cost benefit and cost effectiveness analysis
  • audit of public organisations

The module will also look at both theoretical and practical methods, as well common developments in government policies.

This module aims to:

  • equip participants with an understanding of public sector financial management concepts, analysis and data, including historic and comparative analyses
Research Methods and Research Management

This module provides a general introduction to a range of key issues in the design and conduct of social research, plus guidance on writing both a dissertation proposal and a dissertation. 

The module combines more formal taught sessions with practical exercises, some of which are group based.

By the end of the module students will be equipped with the methodological and practical skills to carry out independent research using a variety of research designs and methods.

This module aims to:

  • explore some of the major issues (epistemological, practical and ethical) involved with undertaking social research
  • develop an appreciation of the factors to be considered in designing a piece of research
  • examine the pros and cons of key research methods used in social research
  • enhance skills in devising and managing pieces of research
  • outline the major issues associated with undertaking postgraduate dissertation research in the social sciences

Optional modules

Students have to choose a further 20 credits of elective modules, from an approved list.

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



UK/EU students

The Graduate School website has information on funding sources. The school also has information on funding.

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Applications for 2016 entry scholarships will open in late 2015. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



Graduates of the MPA have successfully pursued careers in the public and voluntary sectors as managers and policy analysts. The MPA is rapidly becoming a standard global qualification for public servants.

Undertaking postgraduate work fosters many vital skills and may give you a head start in the job market. Studying at this level allows you to develop qualities of self-discipline and self-motivation that are essential to employment in a wide range of different fields.

A postgraduate degree from an institution such as The University of Nottingham shows potential employers that you are an intelligent, hard-working individual who is bright and flexible enough to undertake any form of specific career training.

I found the course very useful because the topics were relevant to my career interests. This has definitely given my CV more clout. It has broaden my knowledge and helped me improve transferable skills such as communication skills gained through writing essays and presentations.

Jennifer Beturin

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 95% of postgraduates in the School of Sociology and Social Policy who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £21,692 with the highest being £30,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU postgraduates, 2013/14.

Career prospects and employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential.

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.

Career planning and development

We have developed and are developing close links with the National School of Government and other public sector bodies to provide internship opportunities to MPA and MPP students. The School of Sociology and Social Policy is developing close links with Nottingham Citizens. We will inform you of these internship and other opportunities throughout the course.

The Careers Group of the University of London provides much information on internships and careers in government and politics in its Looking for Jobs and Internships in Politics guide.

The Graduate School also provides internship and placement opportunities, as well as providing a range of opportunities for postgraduate students to develop their skills and enhance their employability. View details of these opportunities.

The University and the University's Students' Union also run a variety of student volunteering schemes.

The UK government, via the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), has established a Graduate Talent Pool, designed to offer internships to graduates. 

The Guardian provides an alert email service for graduate jobs in the UK public sector.



School of Sociology and Social Policy
The University of Nottingham
University Park
Get in touch
+44 (0)115 846 7551  


Social Science videos

Social Science videos




The Enquiry Centre

The University of Nottingham
King's Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

t: +44 (0) 115 951 5559
f: +44 (0) 115 951 5812
w: Frequently asked questions
Make an enquiry