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MPA Curriculum

Enhancing skills, advancing careers

The MPA curriculum provides an immersive learning experience in the skills required for the precise and insightful analysis of public policy and for the development of strong and effective public administration.

In the first year we equip you with foundational skills in empirical methods, political science and analysing economic policy. At the start of your second year you choose a specialisation known as a policy stream; each one has its own additional core curriculum. You have further curriculum choices in your second year according to your interests and abilities, complemented by the renowned Capstone project, a detailed investigation of a policy problem for a real client. 

MPA curriculum

Solving public policy problems is now more important than ever as global political fundamentals shift. The world is changing and the LSE MPA will help think through new and imaginative policy solutions.

Professor Tony Travers, Director of the Institute of Public Affairs

Year one

Each academic year consists of courses to the value of four units.

In the first year, all students take three core courses, worth three units, which provide them with rigorous knowledge and skills in empirical methods, political science and analysing economic policy. These provide a platform for students’ chosen specialisation in the second year of the programme. 

Students also choose option courses (electives) to the value of one unit. 

Pre-arrival

Prior to arrival at LSE, students are given access to an online course to learn different public policy theories and concepts. It also gives an overview of academic writing which is essential for LSE assignments. This online course provides knowledge and skills needed to maximise the prospects for success on the MPA. In addition, some students choose to take independent study prior to arrival to boost their quantitative skills.

Pre-sessional

All students begin the MPA with a compulsory two-week course in mathematics and statistics. This is known as the pre-sessional and takes place directly before the official start of LSE term time. Students progress directly into the first year curriculum at the end of this pre-sessional.

For those that have not studied these subjects for some time, the course provides a challenging but accessible introduction to some of the key skills and techniques required for the MPA degree. For those with a mathematical background, the course is a refresher in these skills. There is a diagnostic at the end of this pre-sessional course which allows students to design their own future learning needs in mathematics and statistics. 

Core courses

Political Science and Public Policy (GV478)

(1 unit)

Students will learn game theoretical concepts and apply them to a variety of political contexts; these tools should be useful both for explaining existing political outcomes and for designing interventions to achieve desired future outcomes.

Micro and Macro Economics for Public Policy (EC440)

(1 unit)

Students will learn macro- and micro- economic concepts, models and methods suitable for appraising policy, applicable in a wide variety of contexts.

Quantitative Approaches and Policy Analysis (EC455)

(1 unit)

Students will learn skills for the quantitative evaluation of public policies, with the help of regression based evaluation methods, cost-benefit analysis and computable general equilibrium modelling.

Option courses

(1 unit)

Students choose a fourth course in year one from a wide range of options available across LSE’s academic departments subject to availability.

Students’ choice can be based on their strengths and interests.

Year two

Each academic year consists of courses to the value of four units.

In the second year, all students take the compulsory Capstone project worth one unit. Students also choose one policy stream. Each policy stream has its own curriculum consisting of either one unit or two units of core courses. Second year students also take option courses. These can include a Dissertation or Policy Paper, or option courses from across LSE.

The Capstone project

(1 unit)

The Capstone project is a compulsory one unit course. Students will learn to carry out analysis and research as part of a group in order to address a practical policy issue or problem relevant to a real client organisation. Students again experience in a professional and responsible setting, applying what they have learned elsewhere in the programme. 

Policy streams

(1-2 units depending on chosen policy stream)

At the beginning of the second year, students choose a policy stream from a range of five, which allows them to specialise in a particular field. Each policy stream has its own core courses. 

The five MPA policy streams are:

Public and Economic Policy

Public Policy and Management

International Development

European Policy Making

Public and Social Policy

Option courses

Students choose between one unit and three units of courses from a wide range of options (subject to availability) provided by LSE’s academic departments. Note: EC410, EC418, EC419 and EC454 are available to second years only.

Alternatively, students may choose to write an MPA Policy Paper (6,000 words) or MPA Dissertation (10,000 words) as an option course, though neither is compulsory. Students choose based on their strengths and interests.

Curriculum examples

Student A

Year one

Compulsory courses
Micro and Macro Economics for Public Policy EU440 (1 unit)
Quantitative Approaches and Policy Analysis EC455 (1 unit)
Political Science and Public Policy GV478 (1 unit)

Option courses
2 x half-unit option courses (2 x 0.5 units)

Year two

Compulsory courses
MPA Capstone (1 unit)
Welfare Analysis and Measurement SA4X6 (1 unit)

Option courses
Political Economy of Development II DV449 (0.5 units)
Public Economics for Public Policy EC410 (0.5 units)
1 x full-unit option course (1 unit)

Student A chose to do two half-unit option courses to make up their fourth Year 1 course unit.

At the start of their second year, Student A decided to complete MPA Public and Social Policy as their policy stream so needed to take SA4X6 to fulfil their policy stream requirement. This left Student A with two further units to take in year two. Student A chose to take one full-unit option course and to take the half-unit courses DV449 and EC410. Although DV449 and EC410 belong to other policy streams, they will count as option courses for Student A.

 


 

Student B

Year one

Compulsory courses
Micro and Macro Economics for Public Policy EC440 (1 unit)
Quantitative Approaches and Policy Analysis EC455 (1 unit)
Political Science and Public Policy GV478 (1 unit)

Option courses
Political Economy of Development I DV448 (0.5 units)
Political Economy of Development II DV449 (0.5 units)

Year two

Compulsory courses
MPA Capstone (1 unit)
Development Economics EC454 (1 unit)

Option courses
MPA Policy Paper (0.5 units)
1 x full-unit course (1 unit)
1 x half-unit course (0.5 units)

Student B arrived at LSE knowing that they wanted to complete the MPA International Development policy stream. As EC454 is only available as a second year course, Student B chose to complete part of the policy stream requirements - DV448 and DV449 - in their first year. 

In year two, Student B took EC454 to complete the requirements for MPA International Development, chose to write an MPA Policy Paper and took one full-unit option course and one half-unit option course.