The Capstone project is a compulsory course undertaken by all second year MPA students. This one unit course is a key part of the MPA core curriculum and it is designed to ensure that students have an intensive and closely supervised experience of working in a group on a real-world public policy project. The Capstone groups tackle socially relevant and topical policy issues and the contribution of MPA students has been highly valued by the Capstone clients.
The project is a team effort to carry out analysis and research in order to address a practical policy issue relevant to the client organisation. It allows students to extend their capabilities and apply what they have learnt in the MPA core courses in a professional manner.
During their second year of study, MPA students are assigned to groups (usually consisting of 3 to 6 members) and team members are expected to devote around 1.5 to 2 days a week to the project between October and February, including some vacation time.
Each project is supervised by a member of the MPA staff, who provides advice and monitors progress. But the project earns a collective grade and students are expected to manage the division and development of work amongst themselves.
The MPA Capstones provides an excellent opportunity to:
Learn and improve organisational skills required for successful planning and implementation of public policy projects.
Strengthen policy analysis skills through the involvement in a variety of activities, such as reviewing policy literature, designing a methodological framework, gathering data, developing evaluation indicators, carrying out the analysis, and drawing policy recommendations.
Sharpen policy report writing skills. Policy report is different from academic paper in that it requires application of analysis and research for solving a practical problem. Students learn how to effectively frame a policy problem and make strong and compelling arguments, whilst tailoring the presentation to a specific policy audience.
Improve group working skills. Group working is an area that potential employers are increasingly focusing on during recruitment. Students are given guidance and professional development support during the Capstone to help them focus positively and proactively on group working and also to enable them to deal promptly, effectively and appropriately with any issues that arise.