Public Policy MA


Fact file

MA Public Policy
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 policy, such as globalisation, Europeanisation, governance, and policy evaluation.
Read full overview

The focus of the programme is on critical issues and key developments relating to public policy, such as globalisation, Europeanisation, governance, and policy evaluation. 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 the programme 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 multidisciplinary and research-informed, and the wide range of modules draws on examples from different countries across the world.

The programme is designed to develop the key skills and competencies necessary for those working or wanting to work in public services and not for profit organisations. It enables students to contextualise, understand critically and analyse key developments within the public sector.

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 the University Programmes is conditional on a good level of English, the discussions are accessible and of interest to all students.

Student profile

Zhanar Gabdullina talks about studying the MA Public Policy and being an international student in Nottingham.

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 programme offers multi-disciplinary modules that cover policy making, policy analysis and evaluation, comparative public policy, public sector economics, governance and public management. 

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:

  • Aid donorship and poverty in Africa
  • Food policies in China
  • Public procurement and corruption in Philippines
  • Citizenship in Arab Gulf states
  • Improving education in India
  • Evaluating policies for returning students to settle in Hong Kong
  • Policy evaluation - supporting SMEs in Kazakhstan

There is also a Public Policy 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 Policy

Students have to produce a dissertation of 15,000 words on a topic of their choice. Students will be allocated a suitable supervisor, taking into account their interests and professional experience. 

This module aims to:

  • develop student's abilities to complete a piece of original research and produce a research report
Dynamics of International Social Policy

This module introduces students to comparative analyses of different welfare state models and approaches to social and public policy; institutions, issues and debates in international social and public policy; and methods of cross-country comparative analysis.

Topics include the origins and development of international social rights and standards; welfare state typologies; welfare in less developed countries; globalisation; international migration; international cooperation, policy learning and policy transfer; comparative research methodology.

Economics and Policy Analysis

The module will provide an introduction to the application of economic theories and concepts to policy analysis and provide an overview of public sector economics and of current issues in public sector economic analysis. Topics covered include:

  • taxation
  • public expenditure
  • competition and market failure/externalities
  • public good
  • public choice theory
  • discount rates and cost benefit analysis

Although focused on the UK, other countries will be examined as a way of further understanding the ongoing policy developments. The module is designed for 'non-mathematicians' and does not involve any econometric analyses. No prior knowledge of economics is required.

This module aims to:

  • introduce students to the economic theories and concepts that are applied in policy analysis
Globalisation, Europeanisation and Public Policy

This module provides an applied, critical and informed understanding of the concepts and processes of globalisation and Europeanisation, and the impact of globalisation and Europeanisation upon governance and public policy.

In particular, it examines the impacts of globalisation and Europeanisation upon the governance of and the making of public policy in Britain and other countries.

This module aims to:

  • reflect critically upon the meanings and practices of globalisation and Europeanisation
  • examine the causes and impacts of globalisation and Europeanisation upon governance and public policy
  • examine the processes and structures of governance, and their consequent implications for making public policy
Policy Analysis: Concept 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
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. 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 2017 entry scholarships will open in late 2016. 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.



The course provides either postgraduate study for those who have studied disciplines at undergraduate level which offer a good base for policy studies (politics, sociology, law, geography, finance, economics and pure science subjects) and now see their future in the broad policy community, or those who already work within the public or not for profit sectors and wish to enhance their career prospects.

Graduates of the MA Public Policy have successfully pursued careers in the public and voluntary sectors as public sector managers and policy analysts.

Conducting 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 have enjoyed my experience of the MA Public Policy and broadened my knowledge because it gave me the chance to critically analysis the process of policy implementation and delivery, while focusing on my field of interest, social policy. I was able to study welfare policy, understanding important concepts and theories underpinning many Contemporary policies. With the guidance of academic staff I produced a dissertation using primary and secondary data. The level of support was ideal for independent research analysis while ensuring conformance to the University's approved methods and guideline.

Danielle Watson

I enjoyed the structure of the MA course with a variety of lectures and group work. I explored new study areas such as economics and public finance, which complimented my undergraduate degree in Social Policy. I was able to make the most of my time when not at university by undertaking work experience in an NHS partnership Trust strategy and development unit. This enabled me to put my learning into practise. I am now working for the council, and hope that my academic and practical insights into public policy will enable me to progress further.

Laura Noonan

The MA in Public Policy program opened a new horizon for my intellectual as well as professional development. I received valuable lessons on Economics, Governance and Globalization from the school, together which helped me to come-up with a Dissertation on Food Inflation and Social Welfare that helped me to get a project with the World Bank's Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit. Our teachers are extremely helpful and approachable, which help the academic environment conducive for international students.

Anuja Kar

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.

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The University of Nottingham
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