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Are MPAs the new MBAs?

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For graduates looking for careers in the public sector, are MPAs the next big thing?

Last autumn LSE launched a dual Master's in Public Administration with the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, New York.

Aimed both at people with work experience and those coming from academic backgrounds, or those seeking to be involved in future policymaking, it attracted 240 applications for a total of 20 places at LSE, with four SIPA students completing their final year at LSE alongside them.

The LSE/Columbia MPA is the first UK MPA to offer an international dual element of teaching. Students can opt to undertake the full 21 month programme entirely at LSE or entirely at SIPA, or to take the dual degree programme by studying at both LSE and SIPA. Now other UK HE institutions are developing MPA ideas.

The average age is 27, with students bringing about four years of work experience to the course. The course has almost a 50-50 male and female split, with eight students coming from North America, four from Asia, three from South America, two from the UK, and the remainder from other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Students also have a diverse range of backgrounds. Around 36 per cent did their first degree in economics, 18 per cent in law, nine per cent in engineering. Other first study subjects include biology, psychology, modern languages and fine arts.

Felipe Florez-Duncan is a 25 year old MPA student from Peru. He graduated with an economics degree from the Universidad del Pacifico, Lima, in 2001, then worked in the telecoms industry in his home country for three years.

'I wanted to do an MPA rather than an MBA because I felt it offered a wider perspective, more free thinking, perhaps even a more altruistic approach to thinking about policy and business. At first I did look at MPAs in the US because there are so many more there than in Europe at present. But for personal reasons I wanted to study in Europe, so when I found the LSE one, that was it - the opportunity to study the course I wanted in London at a very good School.'

He enjoys the diverse perspective of his fellow students. 'There is a good mix of work experience, age and backgrounds. One student has spent much of his life working for the Indian government, for instance. That makes seminars very interesting, very interdisciplinary.'

He feels the MPA will stand him in good stead for his next career move. 'I'm probably looking for a role in regulation and policy making in the public sector, but a benefit of this programme has been its broad nature, opening me up to opportunities in economic and public policy I might not have considered previously. With being the first cohort of students, we know we are 'guinea pigs' to some extent but our suggestions are also being incorporated into the programme for the next year so others can gain from our experience.'

Professor Patrick Dunleavy, chair of LSE's Public Policy Group, within which the MPA is based, said: 'Policy making has become very complex - citizens find it hard to understand and so do governments.

'We believe this MPA offers professional expertise and techniques of analysis that use rigorous methods rooted in economics but also take account of international, political, social and cultural factors. There is a serious lack of such analytical capacity, both quantitative and qualitative, which this programme aims to fill by developing a trained community of policy analysts and evaluators.'

'This programme offers students unrivalled experience in two of the world's leading cities as well as expert teaching from the internationally renowned faculty of two premier educational institutions,' said SIPA dean Lisa Anderson.


Contact: Professor Patrick Dunleavey on 020 7955 7178
              Judith Higgin, LSE Press Office 020 7955 7582


  • Potential students are expected to work in central, regional and local government, and on such policy areas as finance, health or housing in the UK, the rest of Europe or in the US.
  • The dual MPA is one of the first tangible outcomes of an alliance between LSE and Columbia University. This alliance links the two universities in teaching, research, fund-raising and other related activities, and has already convened an environmental State of the Planet conference in May 2002 on the world summit themes around sustainable development.

Press cuttings

Financial Times
Big rise in public administration courses
The country is set for a big increase in the number of universities offering masters in public administration courses - the public sector equivalent of the MBA. Reference to the MPA course at LSE.

24 March 2004