MYPs debate in House of Commons Chamber

A new Master’s Programme in Public Policy, launching today by the University of Cambridge, will equip policy makers of tomorrow with the tools to make informed and effective decisions.

Policy makers can’t be experts in all areas but we aim to equip them with the broad range of skills needed to understand the types of evidence there is and the questions to ask.

David Howarth, Director of the MPP

Whether it’s setting the agenda on renewable energy, considering mass vaccination programmes, cutting cybercrime or determining alcohol pricing policy, governments face challenges that require measured approaches based on rigorous analysis of the evidence. Now, a new practice-oriented Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) launched by the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge aims to encourage long-term thinking and better strategic planning among policy professionals.

The course, which launches today (29 November) at an event at the Institute for Government in London and will take its first students in October 2013, draws on teaching from across the University as well as from professionals in the policy world.

Director of the MPP, David Howarth, a Reader in the Department of Land Economy and a former Member of Parliament, explained how the course aims to help policy making: “It’s important to make sure that enough people in the political system respect evidence and rational argument. The course presents a series of policy problems from a set of disparate disciplines – historical, scientific, political, economic, ethical, technological, legal and managerial. Policy makers can’t be experts in all areas but we aim to equip them with the broad range of skills needed to understand the types of evidence there is and the questions to ask.”

During the one-year course, students will learn about the nature of evidence through a series of substantive case studies. They will also participate in simulations and experience first hand how complex messages are negotiated and communicated under intense pressure. Such skills are essential to equip policy makers with the tools to promote urgently needed new thinking on national, European and global challenges.

A further important aspect of the course, explained Howarth, is to encourage policy-related research across the University: “The Master’s is the first major output of the Cambridge Public Policy initiative, which has been set up to promote and support public policy research and teaching at the University. The course provides a focus to build capacity at the University to respond to opportunities in policy research and analysis.”

The Cambridge Public Policy Initiative and the development of the new Master’s have been generously supported by sponsorship from The Constitution Society, Jubilee Financial Products and YouGov, as well as individual donations. Further sponsorship opportunities are available to support, among other things, dedicated scholarships and work-placement programmes, as Dr Miranda Gomperts, Head of Cambridge Public Policy Programmes Development and one of the key organisers of the MPP, explained: “We hope to attract students from a broad range of areas – civil service, politics, voluntary organisations, NGOs, science and technology – and it’s essential that we can attract the very best students irrespective of their financial circumstances through the provision of scholarships. In the past 24 hours we have secured funding for six bursaries. Our challenge is now to raise funding for all students attending the course who need it."

The course complements the work of other policy centres such as the Centre of Governance and Human Rights and the Centre for Rising Powers, both hosted in the Department of Politics and International Studies, and the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP). CSaP was launched in 2009 as a networking organisation, with a mission of building links between government and academia characterised by mutual trust, respect and understanding. Its flagship Policy Fellowship Programme provides the opportunity for decision makers from government and industry to forge useful and lasting links with researchers.

The Master’s has received widespread support among current policy makers and advocates of effective policy making, such as Rt Hon Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, who said: “The new Master’s in Public Policy is a welcome and important innovation, which should improve the skills of future public service leaders and raise the quality of their policy making.”

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, added: “The Master’s course in Public Policy, with its particular focus on Europe, offers an exciting opportunity to pool Cambridge’s expertise across a range of sciences, engineering, the humanities and social sciences, and contribute to improved policy making in Britain and the EU.”

Applications for the Master’s in Public Policy are now open. More information about the Programme can be found at

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