MA Public Policy and Management (Online)


Policy words

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If you are starting a Masters programme from September 2016 you may be entitled to a government-backed loan of up to £10,000.

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Why is this course for me?

  • You work in the public sector or in a non-profit organisation, or you work in the for-profit sector in support of public policy or delivery.
  • You want to be able to influence how policy is made and how policy decisions are translated into effective outcomes on the ground.
  • You want to deepen your understanding of how policy-making and public management intersect, and to prepare yourself for more strategic roles.
  • You want to understand the current ‘big picture’ of reforms and challenges within public services, and to help your organisation operate better within this complex environment.
  • You want to continue working while you study, drawing on a range of module choices to suit your personal needs, and to be able to translate your learning directly into your work.
  • You want to study part-time and online whilst maintaining your full-time employment.

Hear from our alumni

The diversity of students, and the experience they brought, on my programme was priceless.  It was incredibly helpful that everyone had work experience.  This really grounded the conversations in reality.

Rachel Foley, Alumni profile‌‌

Alumna Alison Anderson talks about her experience of studying online, and how she applied her learning to her work.

The Programme Director

Picture of Enrico Reuter

"Studying on this programme will develop your capacity to contribute to effective policy-making and implementation and to manage in complex and rapidly-changing public service environments."

Enrico Reuter, Programme Director

Contact us

Rachel McAllister
Admissions Manager

The facts

Degree title

Masters in Public Policy and Management (MA)


2 years, part time, online.  Requires 15 study hours per week. 

Mode of Study



Written assignment at end of each module with a Dissertation to close the programme.  All assignments are submitted electronically.

Entry requirements

Professional experience in public service field, a good first degree (if no first degree is held work experience will be considered), IELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element).  Further details available on next tab.

Number of places

35 per year.  Next start date is September 2017.  Applications close on 23rd July 2017.  


For any enquiries please contact Rachel McAllister, Admissions Manager  Email:  Tel: +44  (0)1904 321273 

Open days

The next virtual open day will be in June 2017 and details will be available nearer the date.  In the meantime please contact us with any questions and we will respond within two working days.

Current Student Body

We have students working roles such as:

  • Policy and Improvement Officer, Local Authority
  • Assistant Programme Officer, UNICEF
  • Advisor for Policy, Health Authority
  • Senior Strategic Advisor, UN-Habitat
  • Communications Officer, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Project Director, Shelter International
  • Policy and Improvement Manager, Local Authority

Currently there are 88 students studying for the Public Policy and Management award.  They are aged from 22 to 57 years, 69% female and 31% male students.  There are representatives from 39 different countries creating a truly international learning community.

Fees and discounts

2 fee bands.  No application fee or other charges.  Discount available for students based in developing countries (see Fee Band Countries (PDF  , 33kb) for eligibility) 

  • Standard Masters Fee: £11,400
  • Discounted Masters Fee: £9,470

Low band fee also available for:

  • Employers sponsoring more than 1 student per cohort
  • CIMA certified applicants
  • CIPFA members
  • City of York Council employees
  • Ministry of Defence personnel

MOD Personnel - Please note that this programme is approved for ELCAS funding.  The MOD's Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme (ELC) is an initiative to promote lifelong learning amongst members of the Armed Forces. The ELC scheme provides financial support in the form of a single up-front payment in each of a maximum of three separate financial years.

Entry requirements

Academic background

A good second class (undergraduate) degree or equivalent qualification.  Applicants without undergraduate experience may also be considerd if they have sufficient professional background.

Professional experience

Experience is required in the public service field.  This includes roles in government at national and local level, non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations, the voluntary and charitable sector, and private sector roles which support or deliver public services.

English Language

If you are not from a majority English speaking country (as defined by the UK Home Office) you will need to show evidence that you meet the university English language requirements in accordance with the information on this page.  If you have any queries about your need for a language certificate please contact for advice.

Time to study

Students require at least 15 study hours each week to successfully manage the programme.  This includes reading and participation in group discussions, as well as time for any written exercises and private study.


A personal computer in your home with an internet connection (minimum 0.5mbps). An office software suite compatible with Word and Excel formats.



Course details

Themes and content

The programme will enable you to:

  • Make sense of and respond to current challenges in public management, drawing on an understanding of continuities, change and reform in the public and non-profit sectors.
  • Analyse and influence policy options and processes by applying the tools of policy analysis to real world examples and case studies.  
  • Assess and explain the complex layers of organisations, stakeholders and agents that form multi-level governance networks, in order to contribute to effective policy-making and public management.
  • Design, plan, implement and evaluate robust and multi-sectoral policies, projects and  programmes, drawing on an understanding of the role of evidence, institutions and ideas in shaping policy-making, and of how to lead and influence change within and across organisations.
  • Assess the complex social, political, and economic factors shaping the development of new digital technologies and their diffusion, and analyse their impact on public sector organisations.
  • Become an effective life-long learner and reflective practitioner.  This is a cross-cutting theme throughout the programme, emphasised through a combination of theoretical input and reflective exercises that anchor the learning process in the workplace.

Course structure

The programme is structured over the course of two years and a timetable can be downloaded here: September 2016 Timetable MA PPM (PDF  , 65kb)

Compulsory modules:

Public Management and Delivery (20 credits)

  • What trends and pressures are affecting public service organisations, why and with what consequences?
  • Why have market-based arrangements been introduced into public sector settings? 
  • How should public sector performance be measured?

Governance and Public Administration (20 credits)

  • What is 'governance'?
  • How do public institutions, society and markets interact in shaping public policies and services?
  • How has globalisation affected state governance in different parts of the world? 
  • What is the relationship between good governance, institutional capacity, accountability and public service delivery?

Policy Analysis and Process (20 credits)

  • How is policy made, who influences the policy agenda and what issues affect policy 'success' and 'failure'?
  • What can we learn from how different countries approach similar policy problems?

Reflective Practice for Professional Development - part one (10 credits)

This module begins with a two-week online discussion to introduce the concepts to be covered.  

  • What is 'reflective practice'?
  • How can applying skills in reflective practice improve the way in which you learn? 
  • How will this benefit your studeis on this programme?

Reflective Practice for Professional Development - part two (10 credits)

This module also begins with a two-week online discussion.  

  • How can the skills of reflective practice be applied in the workplace?
  • How do power, resistance and organisational culture impact on the learning that takes place in organisations?
  • How can developing insights about this improve your confidence in the workplace and your capacity to 'read' workplace situations?

Digital Government: Policy and Practice (10 credits)

  • What is the role of e-government in modernising public services?
  • What social, political and economic factors are shaping the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)?
  • What is their potential to transform public administration and democratic governance?

Dissertation proposal (10 credits)

The key aim is to enable students to reflect on the subject content covered in their core and option modules, and to apply this knowledge to the development of their dissertation proposal.

  • Planning for an independent literature based research project to manage and schedule appropriate stages of the research process
  • Identifying and delimiting an appropriate research topic
  • Developing a logical structure
  • Selecting, reviewing and critically engaging with relevant (theoretical) literature and sources
  • Building a coherent theoretical foundation for a Dissertation
  • Communicating the nature of their dissertation proposals to others
  • Identifying and addressing ethical issues in relation to research

Optional modules (all 20 credits)

You will have opportunity to take 2 optional modules, see timetable for availability:

Comparative Social Policy

  • What can be learnt from a comparative approach to studying social policy?
  • What are the issues involved in comparing welfare states?
  • How do economic, political, social and international factors shape social policy?

Globalisation and Social Policy

  • What is 'globalisation' and how is it affecting poverty alleviation, pensions, health and labour rights?
  • What is the impact of globalisation in Asia, Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe?

Leading and Managing Organisational Change

  • How and why does change occur in society, organisations and individuals?
  • How should change be managed in complex public sector organisations?
  • What skills and behaviours do organisational 'change agents' need?

Project Management

  • The role and importance of project management and programme management
  • Skills and techniques for project management
  • Project acquisition, scheduling, budgeting and control
  • Effective communications (client, supervisor, team)
  • Risk management
  • Team-building and the role of project leaders

Public Finance

  • Sources of public and private finance
  • The role of public, private and non-governmental bodies in the national economy and the provision of public services
  • Budgeting, financial management and control
  • Contemporary public finance issues, including PFI

Public Service Reform: Economic and Political Perspectives

  • How have the delivery and management of public services changed in the last decades?
  • What are the main economic and politic drivers of public service reform?
  • What current challenges do public services face in the context of globalisation, marketisation and austerity?

Social Policy: Evidence, Ideas and Institutions

  • Which role does evidence play in social policy making, and how does it interact with other factors of the policy process, such as organised interests, ideas and institutions?
  • What counts as 'evidence' in social policy, and how can and should evidence be used in the development and implementation of social policy?

Work, Welfare and Citizenship

  • Why are labour markets essential for social integration and citzenship?
  • How have employment conditions changed, and what kind of vulnerabilities and segmentations arise out of these changes?


A 12,000 word Dissertation to close the programme (40 credits)

How to apply


Applications are now open for entry to the 2017 programmes which begin in September 2017. Places on this programme are limited. We would encourage you to apply before the 23rd of July 2017.

When completing the application form you will need to write a Personal Statement, answering all the questions on this template and acknowledging the Requirements of Study.

Online MA Personal Statement (MS Word  , 27kb)

Apply now

Guidance notes

If you are organised with your paperwork and have already written a Personal Statement the application form should take about 30 minutes to complete.

Please note: you can save your application at any time and come back to it at a later date, or simply submit it as soon as it is complete.  Once you have submitted your form you can send any additional paperwork to 

Once your form is submitted you will receive an automated email from the university and then it will be forwarded to the department.  Once the form arrives in the department you will receive an email which will detail any additional documents which we might need before your application is forwarded to the Admissions Committee.  We may ask for a short piece of written work, or perhaps to arrange a Skype interview.  Subject to the prompt receipt of references and any additional documentation we aim to let all applicants know the outcome of their application within 1 month.

Application process advice

When registering for an applicant account please make a note of your username and password so that you will be able to login again later.  If your application is accepted you will need to access this site to accept your offer.

Please complete all home address details in full.  If you would like to use an alternative address for your course material parcel please use the Contact Address section.  Wherever possible use a physical address rather than a post office box - couriers find it difficult to deliver to post office boxes.

Please give as much detail as possible about your employment history on the application form.  A CV is not required unless you feel it gives additional information.

Referees should ideally be from your professional rather than academic life.  The Admissions Committee are looking to see how the programme fits with your career objectives.  You must provide the email address for your referee.  When you submit your application form your referees will then receive an automated email with all the instructions they need to write and submit their letter - it would be a good idea if you told them when to look out for this email as occasionally they can be diverted to Spam folders.  Please ask them to send their letters promptly.

If you do not come from a majority English speaking country (as defined by the UK Home Office) you will be required to undertake an English language proficiency test (as detailed on the Entry Requirements page).  If you use English on a day to day basis within your workplace please ask your referee to detail this as part of their reference letter and we may be able to waive the requirement for a test.  Full details of the universoty language requirements (and exemptions for distance learners can be found here).

If you have any queries about the application process please email and we will be happy to assist.


Online learning

Online learning - how does it work?

Our approach to online learning is distinctive and may be different from your general perceptions about this mode of study.

Key points

The key points about our approach are: 

I like the online studies because everyone contributes in the class discussions, something that usually doesn't happen in face to face classes because you will always have people who dominate discussions and others are quiet so from that perspective online study is great for me.

  • These are not self-study programmes which leave you on your own.  You will be part of an active learning community with regular contacts and activities.
  • While the e-based approach means that our programmes are very flexible - you can study at any time or location - they also involve a structured approach to learning.  You will be asked to take part in some activities each week.
  • A key part of this weekly study pattern is the regular discussion topic.  You can join in with this discussion at any time during the week to suit you: you never have to be online at the same time as other people.  You will join the discussion by posting your comments in a forum.  The forums are very simple to use.  They provide a reflective and supportive environment, providing all the benefits of studying as part of a community but without having to be in a physical classroom.
  • As well as interacting with fellow students you will also have regular and structured contact with a dedicated and friendly academic and administrative team at York.
  • The programme is situated within a Virtual Learning Environment.  This is a very user-friendly integrated website that provides access to study resources, discussion forums, the University of York Electronic Library and your University of York email account. 

Studying a 20 credit module : how it works

Each module is structured into nine weekly units, each of which addresses a theme (The first two modules last for ten weeks to enable additional study skills support).  Within each unit you will:

  • Read the module text.  
  • Read a number of articles or chapters and / or watch videos that support the unit.
  • Take part in some exercises designed to develop your learning, such as a group discussion, a written exercise or some research. The group discussions take place within a tutorial group of between 10 and 15 students. You join in by posting your comments on the topic, reading responses from your group and replying to them, guided by the module tutor.  You are encouraged to join in as early and often as possible during the week in order to get the full value of the discussions.  Participation in the activities is a requirement of studying the programme.
  • Overall, the reading that is set for each week is the equivalent of a lecture in a traditional course, while the discussions are the equivalent of a campus-based seminar (tutorial). 
  • Structured support is provided to prepare you for the end of module assignment.

Studying a 10 credit module : how it works

The ten credit modules are designed to develop some important transferable skills that will support your study and increase your ability to transfer your learning to the workplace. One of these modules will help you to prepare for the Dissertation, while the others deal with ‘Reflective Practice for Professional Development 1 and 2’ and ‘Digital Government: Policy and Practice’. These modules are designed around independent study, guided by the module tutor.

During these less intensive modules you will:

  • Study some introductory material under the guidance of the module tutor.
  • Work on some private study tasks designed to develop your learning.
  • Keep a reflective journal, supported by advice and feedback from the tutor. The journal will relate your learning to your workplace and will enable you to apply your learning immediately.
  • The main task in the Dissertation workshop will be to prepare a Dissertation plan, working through a step by step process.

Tutor support, with clear milestones, will be on hand throughout.  

Study resources

The programmes have been designed to provide you with the following, for each module that you study: 

  • Specially authored module material.
  • A core reading list that you can download directly from the university library.
  • Access to the University of York's Electronic Library from which you can select further material to follow up our interests and deepen understanding.  The library holds approximately 100 electronic journals that are relevant to the themes covered in this programme, offering thousands of articles.
  • Study skills advice.  This includes a dedicated guide to writing assignments, specifically for these studies.

The York Team

A key feature of this programme is the availability and quality of support that we offer - whether academic, administrative or technical.  You will be supported by:

  • The module tutor.  The tutor's role is to guide you during the module.  This includes facilitating the discussion forums, marking and providing feedback on any written exercises and offering individual support via email and Skype/telephone calls. Real-time support includes optional group Skype calls to help prepare for the Dissertation.
  • personal supervisor.  Your supervisor's role is to provide ongoing academic and pastoral support during all of your time on the programme.  Your supervisor is the person you would go to for advice about study skills technique, to review your progress in general, or to request a break in your studies.  Your supervisor will contact you regularly but you can also contact them at any time.
  • dedicated support team who deal with any administrative or technical enquiries.

All our staff, whether academic, pastoral, administrative or technical, will reply to queries within 2 working days at the latest, and usually much sooner. 

Our alumni


The Masters in Public Policy and Management (MA) was launched in 2003.  The chart below shows the awards that our current graduates have left with.

Public Policy and Management Graduates Chart

The flexibility of the programme is such that you can opt to leave with a Certificate if circumstances change and you are no longer able to commit to two years of study.  If you leave but find you have more free time in the future the university welcomes returning students (subject to certain time restrictions).

To read the thoughts of our former students please click here.