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MPA Public Administration (online)

Internationally recognised qualification in public services management by distance learning

Year of entry: 2021 (September)


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

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The Masters of Public Administration is an internationally recognised qualification acting as the public service equivalent of an MBA.

Public service managers face an increasing pace of change, combined with pressures to deliver more with less, navigate a complex policy context and enhance performance while sustaining public service values. Designed for professionals in public and non-profit organisations and providing strong and comprehensive support, this online Masters programme will equip you to meet these challenges.

You will study three aspects of public administration:

  • The policy process, within which public services are developed.
  • The organisational and human context through which public services are delivered.
  • The wider social, economic and political environment that shapes public service demands and constraints.

You will learn how to analyse complex public management problems, lead change effectively, and develop your ability to manage through networks and partnerships. You will be able to shape and deliver the public services of the future, and move into more strategic roles in a wide range of organisations.

Over the course of the programme you will grow as a competent and reflective practitioner, both in your current role, and in preparation for more demanding roles in the future. 

The design of the course and the support provided mean that you will be able to balance the requirements of your studies with your work and other responsibilities.  

Juggling study commitments while working full time was not easy, but it was so worth it. All staff ensured that studying remotely online was as straightforward as possible, all readings were accessible and the course format made it simple to know what you needed to use and when. I came from a private sector background, hoping to gain knowledge and experience of the public sector.
Harriet, MPA Public Administration (online)

Global reputation

Our department is ranked 10th in the world and 4th in the UK (QS World Rankings by Subject 2020)

Global learning community

Our online mode of study means you will be working alongside your peers working in similar organisations around the world

Course content

Our MPA will develop you as a professional public service manager. You'll develop your skills in analysis, decision-making and accountability. You will deepen your understanding of the ethos, culture, opportunities and constraints that govern public service delivery. You will develop your ability to lead and manage people through successful strategic and organisational change. You'll learn how to influence policy decisions to shape future service delivery and enhance your organisation's learning and performance.

As you progress through this two year course you will apply your learning in the workplace. We'll encourage your development as a reflective practitioner throughout this process.

Towards the end of the course you will start to prepare for your dissertation which will allow you to explore an area of particular interest.

You can also study for a shorter period of time and graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma.


To graduate with an MPA degree, you will need to take 140 credits of taught modules and complete a dissertation worth 40 credits.

You will study these modules to a schedule. This will allow you to participate online with academics and fellow students from around the world.

Year one: foundation

In the first year you'll complete 80 credits of study:

Year two: specialisation and dissertation

In your second year you will study a combination of taught modules and work on your dissertation. You will start the year by studying one core module: 

You will then choose one of the following modules:

You will also need to complete a dissertation, as well as modules designed to develop your professional and research skills:

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


Throughout your studies your assignments will help you to apply theory to practice and to combine academic work with case studies or examples relevant to your work.

One of your taught modules, the Dissertation Workshop, will help you prepare for your dissertation. You'll learn how to plan and schedule your independent literature-based research project. With the help of your dissertation supervisor you will work on finding the appropriate scope and focus for your project, and develop a workable structure. You will also receive feedback on draft chapters and guidance on conducting your literature review and any further research.

Your dissertation is worth 40 credits and will be 12,000 words long.

Previous dissertation titles have included:

  • The role of culture in organisational learning: an evaluation of the culture change programme in [specified] organisation
  • To what extent can the Local Authority Trading Company model of service delivery overcome unintended consequences associated with traditional private sector outsourcing?
  • Is good governance achievable in fragile states? The role of civil society organisations in promoting good governance in South Sudan
  • Planning for stability or learning to innovate? A critical evaluation of strategic planning within [specified] council
  • Has engagement with communities in Ghana had a positive effect on the health of the targeted population?
  • How successful has public and patient stakeholder engagement been under New Public Management reforms for the UK National Health Service?
  • The enabling and constraining factors that influence knowledge sharing in public organisations

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Identify, analyse and formulate responses to current challenges in public management, drawing on a critical understanding of continuities, change and reform in the delivery of public and non-profit services
  • Critically analyse and influence policy processes, drawing on an advanced understanding of the factors that shape policy decisions and that influence policy success or failure
  • Apply an in-depth understanding of approaches to strategy formulation and implementation, and critically evaluate the role these approaches play in clarifying and managing an organisation’s strategic direction
  • Lead and manage the implementation of change initiatives and projects, drawing on an advanced understanding of their role as an effective change agent, and of the factors that help and hinder performance improvement
  • Communicate, collaborate and continuously develop as public service managers and leaders in a digital networked world, drawing on their skills as reflective practitioners
  • Apply acquired specialised skills and in-depth knowledge in public management in order to independently research problems and identify solutions specific to their professional contexts
This programme should be mandatory for everyone in the civil service, as it gives you the skills needed to be a modern-day civil servant.
Anthony, MPA Public Administration (online)


Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2021/22

Study modeUK (home) / International and EU
Part-time, distance learning (2 years)
Higher band fee. This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
Part-time, distance learning (2 years)
This lower band fee applies to student based in developing countries, employers sponsoring more than one student per cohort, CIMA certified applicants, CIPFA members, City of York Council employees and Ministry of Defence personnel. Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

All reading materials are available via the course’s Virtual Learning Environment and the university’s extensive online Library.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

You will study online and can therefore study from wherever you are. It takes about 15 hours per week to complete all your reading and tasks. You can decide when you work on these weekly tasks, as all activities can be completed around your schedule.

The three main kinds of activity you will be asked to do are:

  • reading the module texts written by our academic team and selected core articles (journal articles, book chapters, case studies)
  • joining online discussions with fellow students and the module tutor
  • working on individual tasks such as written exercises to receive feedback from your tutor or to contribute to group work.

There is also an opportunity in each module to take part in an optional 'live' seminar session with the module tutor and fellow students, to explore the module content or prepare for the assignment.

You will be supported by:

  • a module tutor who will facilitate the online discussion and offer individual support
  • a personal supervisor who will provide ongoing academic and pastoral support. You can approach your supervisor with queries on study skills and your progress
  • a dedicated support team who will be able to help you with administrative or technical enquiries.

Our distinctive approach.

Assessment and feedback

You will take part in exercises and other tasks as you progress through each module. This will allow you to receive feedback on your progress and understanding.

At the end of each 20 credit module you will complete an assignment. Normally this will be a 3,000 word assessment. For the 10 credit modules you will work on a shorter written piece or journal, or will complete a dissertation plan.

I've liked the experience very much. I felt really supported by both teaching and non-academic staff. I really enjoyed it.
Valentina, MPA Public Administration (online)


Careers and skills

This course is ideal for people working in public and not-for-profit sectors as well as people working in for-profit organisations that deliver public services. It will enable you to develop the skills and understanding needed for management and leadership in complex public service environments.

Career opportunities

Our current students and alumni work in roles in: 

  • Local and national governments and their departments
  • International organisations and non-governmental organisations
  • Other publicly funded organisations such as education and healthcare providers
  • Charities and not-for-profit organisations.

Many of our alumni have progressed in their careers either during or after their studies.

Transferable skills

  • Leadership skills
  • Designing, leading and managing change
  • Strategic planning
  • Project management
  • Public services management
  • Decision-making
  • Influencing and managing networks and partnerships
  • Reflective practice for ongoing professional development.
Having completed the York MPA course I feel empowered, connected and more able to add value to my organisation’s direction of travel.
Ahmed, MPA Public Administration (online)


Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent
Other qualifications and experience If you don't have experience of undergraduate study we may consider your application if you have a suitable professional background
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

You should have professional experience in the public service field. This could be in roles in local or national government, or in non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations, the voluntary and charitable sector, and private sector roles which support or deliver public services.

You will also need to have:

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

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
PTE Academic 61, minimum 55 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 169 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all requirements
Duolingo 110, minimum 100 in all other components

For more information see our English language requirements.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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