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The Curriculum


The MPA programme is designed to provide students with rigorous inter-disciplinary training in economics and political science, complemented by a wide range of electives, to prepare them for professional careers related to public service. It brings together LSE's unrivalled expertise in the social sciences with individual and group working experience of public sector problems, policies and management.

Development Policy and Management

This course introduces students to current debates, strategies, policy recommendations, and political challenges in international development. The Michaelmas term features lectures from leading LSE experts on key subjects including poverty, climate change, industrial policy, conflict, demography, and the role of institutions, democracy, and geography in shaping development outcomes. The Lent term examines a subset of these topics in greater depth, with particular attention to the issues of democracy, poverty, and inequality. This second half of the course emphasises politics on the ground in developing countries. Who gets the policies they want, why, when, and how? Throughout, we will pay close attention to actors, interests, institutions, and power. Understanding the politics of policymaking is critical for development specialists and policy practitioners. Policies recommended by technical experts are not always politically feasible, and progress may require implementing second-best solutions. Moreover, approaches that work in one case may not work in another. Drawing on real-world examples from a range of policy domains including economic liberalisation, taxation, and decentralisation, we will discuss strategies for enacting pro-development reforms that might otherwise be politically infeasible.

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Economic Policy Analysis

The aim of this course is to reinforce the ability of students to use statistics and economics to evaluate policy questions. In many ways the course builds on the material covered in Quantitative Approaches and Policy Analysis (EC455) and Micro and Macroeconomics for Public Policy (EC440) and covers similar questions but at greater depth.

At the beginning of the first term the course covers the key techniques to evaluate policy in more detail than in EC455. After this review of key regression techniques, the course covers a wide range of current public policy issues. Each lecture typically gives a brief introduction to a policy issue and then considers one or two recent empirical papers on this question in detail and draws out policy implications.

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Micro and Macro Economics (for Public Policy)

An introductory graduate course providing an economics background suitable for high-level public policy-making. The emphasis is on acquiring sound models and methods suitable for appraising policy-making issues and applicable in a wide variety of contexts. The first term covers microeconomics and the second term covers macroeconomics.

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Development Economics

An introductory graduate course providing the necessary development economics skills for high level public policy making. The focus is on acquiring the necessary theoretical and empirical skills to engage in the rigorous analysis of public policies in developing countries. Topics at the forefront of development economics will be covered. These include political economy, trade liberalisation, growth, access to finance, technology adoption, education, health, infrastructure, property rights, land reform, gender, environment, mass media and political accountability. The emphasis will be on combining theory and data to evaluate the effectiveness of policies in these different areas.

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Quantitative Approaches and Policy Analysis

The course introduces students to the quantitative evaluation of public policies with the help of regression based evaluation methods, cost-benefit analysis and computable general equilibrium modelling. The first six weeks of the course introduce students to basic multiple regression analysis including hypothesis testing, modelling of non-linear relationships, and dummy variables. From week 7 of MT the course covers a number of regression based evaluation methods to assess the casual effectiveness of policy interventions. These include the use of randomised experiments, natural or quasi-experiments, panel data, difference-in-differences estimation, instrumental variables, matching and regression discontinuity designs. The final part of the course provides an overview over cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis and an introduction to the use of computable equilibrium models to assess policy interventions.

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Political Economy of Europe

This course tries to understand how the relation between state and economy in both Western Europe and Central and Eastern Europe has evolved over the post-war period. Key debates in this regard include the demise of real existing socialism, Keynesianism with an emphasis on fiscal intervention as well as the crisis of monetarism. We also examine how the operation of the EU as a whole, the Single Market and the monetary union in particular, interact with the political economy of European states inside and in the neighbourhood of the Community. The course aims to provide students with both an analytical understanding of and a systematic treatment of empirical issues related to the evolution of the European political economy.

Topics include: State and economy in European countries; Economic theory and policy in Europe; The political economy of European integration; EU membership as a reform in post-communist Europe and in mature Western welfare states; EU enlargement; Monetary union and its crisis; the evolution of the Single Market.

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Political Science and Public Policy

In this course we develop tools to analyse important political phenomena including elections, legislative bargaining, lobbying, bureaucracy, civil conflict, and international relations. We focus on game theory as a way of understanding strategic interactions among political actors. Students will learn basic 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.

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Organisations, Power and Leadership

This half-unit course provides an introduction to understanding power and leadership in organisations making or influencing public policies (such as government agencies, firms, professional bodies, NGOs, aid agencies etc). Topics include: Organisations - How bureaucracies are structured in terms of morphology, budget types, functions and missions; Organisational culture; Understanding competition for power in organisations. Power - Analysing organised power; Power and the decision process under majority rule; Power in executive contexts . Leadership - Conventional views of organisational and political leadership; Rational choice perspectives on leadership and policy change; Leaders, delegates and the power of appointment; How leaders can shape organisational change in government. One case study is discussed each week. The range of cases is drawn from economic, public management, international development, social policy and European policy contexts.

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Public Budgeting and Financial Management

The course examines contemporary issues in public budgeting and financial management, and how they interface with public management drawing on comparative experience in OECD countries and elsewhere.

Topics include: theories of budgeting; time horizons in budgeting; legal frameworks; fiscal rules; top-down budgeting; legislative budgeting; fiscal decentralisation; performance budgeting; budget transparency; budget reform; special issues in developing countries; accounting and auditing in the public sector; parliamentary scrutiny of audit findings.

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Public Management: Strategy, Innovation and Delivery

The course develops the perspectives, knowledge, and intellectual skill required for rational discourse about intelligent practical action in the core public sector. In Michaelmas Term, the course focuses on the design of organisational strategies in public sector contexts. This general issue is subdivided into the design of organisational strategies for start-up, realignment, and success-sustaining transitions. In Lent Term, the course delves specifically into scholarship and teaching cases about the design and operation of practices whose logic is to perform three functions instrumental to sustained organisational achievement: strategy development, developing innovative capabilities, and delivery (encompassing both production and management control). Overall, the course provides a foundation for further coursework about management in the public sector as well as the ability to engage constructively and critically in the development of public management practice.

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Welfare Analysis and Measurement

This course provides an introduction to the analysis and measurement of the welfare of individuals and societies, examining concepts, measurement and data, as well as providing illustrations. The aims are to provide an understanding of the main tools used to measure and monitor individuals and social welfare, and to develop skills for assessing academic research and official statistics (as produced by national or international agencies) and for undertaking one's own analysis. The first half of the course focuses on monetary measures of economic wellbeing notably income, and on the experience of OECD countries (especially the UK, EU, and USA), but the aim is also to place these in the context of developments based on other approaches and in other countries including middle- and low-income nations. The topics covered include measurement of inequality, poverty, and mobility; setting poverty thresholds and equivalence scales; data sources and their quality; empirical illustrations considering assessments of trends within countries, cross-national differences, and global poverty and inequality. The second half of the course broadens the perspective to consider a range of non-monetary, multidimensional, and subjective measures of welfare for individuals and societies. Examples include occupational and socio-economic status (SES), anthropometric measures, the Human Development Index and related indices of development, and measures of happiness and life satisfaction.

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MPA students may choose to write a dissertation (of no more than 10,000 words) on a topic of their choice to be agreed with their supervisor.

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Policy Paper

MPA students can choose to write an individually-authored MPA Policy Paper on a topic developed in consultation with their MPA supervisor. Each paper analyses a concrete policy problem in a specific setting and proposes an evidence-based solution or course of amelioration. Papers cannot exceed 6,000 words and should be clearly and directly written, suitable for consideration by policy-makers.

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The MPA Capstone project is a compulsory second-year course where groups of MPA students complete a consulting project for a client organisation. For more information and to see a list of former client organisations, click here|.

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Option Courses

In some cases, MPA students may choose to study a course from outside of the MPA degree. A full list of approved MPA Option Courses can be found here|.

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