The MPA Capstone

Enhancing skills, advancing careers


Aerial_Shot_2533_1366x1024_16-9_sRGBeWhat is the MPA Capstone?

The Capstone 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 is 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. 

How does it work?

During the second year of study, MPA students are assigned to groups of 3 to 6 members. Team members are strongly advised to dedicate around 1.5 to 2 days a week to the project between October and March, including some vacation time.

Each project is supervised by a member of the MPA academic staff, who provides advice and monitors progress. There are special training sessions to develop particular skills and analytical techniques for the Capstone. The project earns a collective grade and students are expected to manage the division and development of work amongst themselves.

Who are our most recent partners?

The MPA programme has collaborated with a diverse group of highly reputable organisations. Our most recent partners include:

  • private sector companies: Centre for Public Impact of the Boston Consulting Group and ARUP
  • international organisations: UNICEF, UNESCO, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, OECD, and Gates Foundation
  • international development consultancies: Oxford Policy Management
  • NGOs and foundations: Migration Policy Institute, Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation and Fatherhood Institute
  • public corporations: Bank of England
  • UK government agencies: Greater London Authority and DFID

Capstone projects 2020/21

Below is a selection of projects representing different organisations from this academic year. Find out what second year MPA students have been working on.

“Promoting an inclusive and diverse tech economy in the UK”, Amazon


This report assesses gender and ethnic diversity in the UK tech sector and develops the first-ever index to capture current diversity and inclusion across the sector. The technology sector is rapidly growing and a key industry for future economic growth in the UK. It has also long been criticized for its lack of diversity. This Tech Diversity Index measures women and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups’ representation, focusing on barriers to diversity in access, advancement, retention, equal earnings, and entrepreneurship. It draws on multiple data sources.

“Promoting inclusive growth in urban land development”, City of Cape Town Government


This project sought to identify the relevant conditions that policymakers should consider in land development to contribute to inclusive growth in the context of the City of Cape Town (CCT). This study supports high-level strategies that have been designed by the CCT Government to promote inclusive growth (2020 Inclusive Economic Growth Strategy) and improve the living conditions of human settlements throughout the city (2020 Human Settlement Strategy). This project is based on a desk review of literature.

“Delivering successful Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)”, Plan International


This project analysed successfully implemented CSE programmes and identified best practice approaches that could be adopted/adapted in other contexts. The provision of CSE for both boys and girls is key to promoting an understanding and awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights and to developing the ability to make free and informed decisions. Drawing on examples from across different geographic regions, the report identified difference dimensions of design and implementation that are crucial for success. The project is based on literature review and primary key informant interviews.

“Making social protection ‘Epi-Smart’”, World Food Programme


This project provides information and analysis to answer the question whether and how social protection can address outbreaks of major epidemics, such as HIV-AIDS, Ebola and Covid-19. The report develops an analytical framework for ‘epidemiologically smart’ or ‘epi-smart’ social protection that reflects a holistic continuum of care approach: prevention, testing, treatment, and adherence. This framework can be used for developing policy interventions to address epidemics in a holistic way. The project is based on literature review and primary key informant interviews.

“The equity needs of European start-ups and the impact of the business cycle”, European Investment Fund


This report estimates the average equity financing needs of young and innovative small-and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union. It presents empirical evidence on how the business cycle affects conditional average equity volumes using a cross-country panel of 25 countries for the period from 2009 to 2019. It develops a methodology that can be used to estimate the amounts of equity finance obtained by SMEs from private equity funds and their association with the business cycle. 

“Behavioural strategies to reduce food waste related carbon emissions in NHS hospitals”, NHS England and NHS Improvement


This report assesses how individual behaviours at the hospital level lead to food waste. In particular, the report maps the food pathway in an average NHS hospital and identifies the stakeholders and behaviours involved. It then analyses underlying factors of behaviours contributing to food waste and carbon emissions. The study identifies four interventions that can help address the root causes of food waste and can have positive spill-over effects within hospitals benefiting broader sustainability goals. The project is based on literature review and primary key informant interviews.

“Selecting projects for social impact in Colombia”, FINDETER


FINDETER is a national development bank in Colombia, focusing on infrastructure projects that promote sustainable growth and enhance the competitiveness of Colombia’s municipalities. This Capstone supported FINDETER in formulating a systematic and comprehensive approach for prioritising infrastructure projects eligible for funding. In particular, it developed a project prioritisation tool that can be used for assessing and ranking projects according to their relative social impact. It is based on the analysis of primary and secondary data.



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