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Home>Study at York>Postgraduate>Courses>International Development (Online) (MPA)

Overview Globally recognised qualification in public services management with a focus on international development


2 years part-time

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

This course is ideal for early- and mid-career professionals working in international development. During your studies you'll develop the skills and knowledge you need to work in large organisations and to lead development projects in complex and uncertain situations. You will learn to examine and influence the policy process across multiple layers of governance and analyse the varying approaches used in different countries.

By choosing this part-time online course you will be able to combine your study with your career and family. You'll also be studying with one of the top universities in the world, with teaching and support from experienced academics and practitioners. Our Department is ranked 25th in the world and 4th in the UK (QS World Rankings 2016). All our courses are run directly by us, so you can always count on coherent and strong support from your academic tutors, personal supervisor and a dedicated support team.

You'll study alongside peers working in similar organisations around the world. You'll be able to actively engage with them and share your ideas, learning and experience as you progress through the course. You'll also be in a position to immediately apply your learning and insight to your work and your organisation.

The opportunity to study this course has been life changing for me, at least professionally, and has also impacted positively on my organisation.
Edwin, Uganda

Course content What you’ll study


Our MPA in International Development will enhance your capacity to influence and lead the development agenda at a national, regional or international level. You'll develop your capacity for critical analysis of the complex problems that you tackle in your work. You'll also develop your skills as a manager or leader in your field.

During Year 1 you'll explore the foundations of development theory, policy and practice. In Year 2 you'll combine studying further core content with a choice of topics to match your interests or area of work.

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, with support from a dedicated dissertation supervisor.

Towards the end of the course you'll 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. See our brochure for details. 


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

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

Year 1: foundation

In the first year you'll study 80 credits with these modules:

  • Social and Political Issues in Development (20 credits)
  • Governance and Public Administration (20 credits)
  • Policy Analysis and Process (20 credits)
  • Reflective Practice for Professional Development - Part One (10 credits)
  • Digital Government: Policy and Practice (10 credits)

Year 2: specialisation and dissertation

In your second year you'll study a combination of taught modules and work on your dissertation. You will start the year studying this module:

  • Leading and Managing Organisational Change (20 credits)

You'll then have a choice of studying one of the following modules:

  • Globalisation and Social Policy (20 credits)
  • Project Management (20 credits)
  • Public Service Reform: Economic and Political Perspectives (20 credits)

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

  • Reflective Practice for Professional Development - Part Two (10 credits)
  • Dissertation Workshop (10 credits)
  • Dissertation (40 credits)

Description of modules.

These modules will run during 2016-18. Modules may change in later years in light of student feedback and ongoing research.


As you progress your assignments will help you apply theory to practice. You'll be able to combine academic work with case studies or examples relevant to your work.

Building on these experiences, your dissertation will be an individual project that explores a topic of your choice under guidance from a dissertation supervisor.

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 designated dissertation supervisor you'll work on finding the appropriate scope and focus for your project, and develop a workable structure. You'll also receive feedback on draft chapters and guidance on conducting your literature review and 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
  • 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?
  • The enabling and constraining factors that influence knowledge sharing in public organisations.
My current position has really been the highlight of my career, and the educational background my masters degree provided me with was exactly what I needed to be successful in this position.
Rachel, Canada

Teaching and assessment How you’ll be taught and assessed

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 readings and tasks. You can decide when you work on these weekly tasks, as all the 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 weekly 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.

You will be supported by:

  • A module tutor who will facilitate the weekly 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.


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'll complete an assignment. Normally this will be a 3,000 word assessment. For the 10 credit modules you will work on a journal (or another practice exercise) or will complete a dissertation plan.

It's cool how the technology really personalises the learning. I feel very connected to a class and that I am not alone. I really value the participation in unit discussions; it keeps our minds thinking about the material we have learnt, and allows us to put it into our own context. Also I find myself always looking forward to the feedback of others, so it really keeps students engaged.
Hedy, USA

Careers Where you’ll go from here

This course is ideal if you have some experience of working in international development and seek professional development to work towards your career goals. It's also ideal if you're working in the social or public sector and would like to work in international development. A key strength of the course lies in allowing you to develop your skills while continuing to gain experience in a relevant professional field.

Career opportunities

Our current students and alumni work in roles in: 

  • Local and national governments and their departments
  • International organisations and donor agencies
  • Other publicly funded organisations in areas such as education and healthcare
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities.

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

Transferable skills

  • Policy analysis
  • Leadership skills
  • Designing, leading and managing change
  • Project management
  • Public services management
  • Decision-making
  • Influencing and managing networks and partnerships
  • Reflective practice for ongoing professional development.

Entry requirements How to get here

Course entry

You should have at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification. If you don't have experience of undergraduate study we may consider your application if you have a suitable professional background.

You should also 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 ensure you have:

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


When you apply you'll need to write a personal statement, answering all the questions on this template and acknowledging the Requirements of Study.

International options

The international equivalents of UK qualifications are shown on our country-specific pages. You can also contact the international team for guidance.

English language

If your native language is not English you will need to show evidence of your English language ability. Some exceptions apply, but the standard accepted qualifications are listed below:

  • IELTS: 6.5, with no less than 5.5 in each component
  • Pearson (PTE): 61, with no less than 51 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 176, with no less than 162 in each component
  • TOEFL: 87, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking and 17 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Merit in all components

Fees and funding​​

For 2017/18 entry the fees for the first year are:

  • Part-time, distance learning (2 years): £5,700 (year 1 fee)
    Higher band fee. Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
  • Part-time, distance learning (2 years): £4,735 (year 1 fee)
    This lower band fee applies to student based in developing countries, employers sponsoring more than one student per cohort, City of York Council employees and Ministry of Defence personnel. Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
  • Find out more about fees and sources of funding.

Commonwealth Scholarships

Five Commonwealth Scholarships are available to students from Commonwealth countries, refugees, and British protected persons.

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions

Dr Sally Brooks

Dr Sally Brooks

Next steps

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