Postgraduate study

Public Policy

Awards: MPP

Placements/internships

Programme website: Public Policy

Our Master of Public Policy (MPP) programme is designed for graduates looking for an advanced professional qualification to provide a launch pad for careers in the public sector, nonprofit sector or international policy community.

The MPP is a theory-based empirically informed and practice-oriented. It aims to:

  • develop analytical and conceptual skills to enable critical evaluation of major policy issues, policy processes, policy implementation and policy linkages
  • examine in detail the political, economic and social context of policy-making at the local, regional, state and international levels
  • develop an in-depth knowledge of specific policy issues
  • provide a thorough training in analytical methods and approaches (qualitative and quantitative) used for policy development and implementation
  • develop an understanding of practical and ethical issues in policy-making
  • enhance knowledge and professional skills for public sector careers
  • provide professional experience through the work placement component

The programme benefits greatly from being located in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city and seat of government allowing ready access and collaboration with central and local government, parliament, as well as a range of public service and non-profit organisations.

Core courses in first semester give you a grounding in politics, economics and policy analysis; these inform a fourth, a case-based investigation of a specific policy domain. Optional courses (one in first semester and two in the second semester), chosen from across a wide range of graduate courses offered by the School of Social and Political Science, provide specialist understanding of different issues, topics and contexts. The programme culminates in a placement-based dissertation of 8-10 weeks in a policy organisation.

You will be taught using a variety of innovative teaching methods with a focus on providing a strong practice-oriented element to provide you with the skills necessary for a career in the public sector. Classes typically last up to three hours and include academic presentations, student-led discussion and practitioner contributions.

The types of assessment used will include:

  • writing short policy briefs of memos
  • problem-solving tasks
  • individual and group presentations
  • writing analytical reports
  • self and peer assessment
  • developing skills portfolios
  • other varied oral and writing tasks

This programme offers an opportunity to undertake a work placement (approximately 8-10 weeks) with a policy organisation. Students undertaking a placement are required to produce a professional analytical report, based on their placement, which explores an existing public policy problem faced by a real-life public or non-profit sector organisation and your recommendations for a strategy to address it.

Placements are not guaranteed and are dependent on overall academic performance as well as the availability of suitable placements. Students who do not undertake a placement will complete a research report in which they will engage with a policy problem, collecting data, and presenting policy recommendations.

By the end of the programme, you will have gained skills in the following areas:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Policy-making processes, including policy development and implementation.
  • Multi-level governance, policy interests, actors and power.
  • Domestic, European and International Policy Arenas.
  • Public Economics and Market Failure.
  • Analytical Methods for Policy.
  • Policy learning and transfer.
  • Theories of policy-making.

Intellectual skills

  • Analytical: involving the ability to analyse and critically evaluate major public policy issues, including their historical evolution; their social, political, economic, cultural and ethical dimensions and implications; and their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Methodological: involving the ability to appreciate a variety of methods and approaches available in the analysis of policy, to choose when particular approaches are relevant, and to employ them effectively.
  • Interdisciplinary competence: involving the ability to develop complex arguments using material from different related fields (e.g. politics, social policy, public management, economics, law, geosciences, public health).

Professional/subject-specific/practical skills

  • Ability to critically evaluate factors shaping the policy-making process.
  • Skills in applying theories and insights from scholarly research to practical issues.
  • Ability to write analytical reports regarding policy issues and problems.
  • Practical skills and professional experience gained through the placement.
  • Ability to form a research-driven goal (of an essay, report, presentation), identify methods necessary for a given project, and to complete a project on time.

Transferable skills

  • General analytical: ability to critically evaluate policies and arguments, and to analyse policy documents and datasets.
  • Organisational: ability to complete a project, setting up analytical and research goals, identifying necessary means and ways to completion.
  • Interpersonal: leadership, delegation and team-work or group-work (presentations, joint policy reports, discussions in class).
  • Communications: ability to prepare and present reports, papers and briefs to a mixed audience of academics and practitioners using powerpoint etc.
  • Methodological: ability to evaluate and apply different qualitative and quantitative analytical methods.
  • Reflective: ability to reflect on self-development, progress and skills.

The MPP is a recognised professional qualification. The combination of academic excellence and practical experience ensure that MPP graduates are well placed for careers in public policy, government, think tanks, consulting firms, NGOs, party politics, and advocacy/lobbying organisations, among others.

The transferable skills you will gain from the programme, and the experience and networking opportunities from the placement, will give you a competitive edge in the employment market whatever your eventual career.

The University’s Academy of Government also offers an Executive Programme in Public Policy, aimed at mid-career professionals from the public sector, international organisations, business and civil society organisations, on a flexible, credit-accumulation basis:

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

We actively encourage applications from all academic backgrounds, though we expect applicants to demonstrate an informed commitment to the study of public policy.

Because we receive a high number of applications and the number of places on the programme is limited, selection for the MPP is unusually competitive. Successful applicants usually meet more than minimum requirements, and most have some experience of working in a political or policy-related environment.

Further information on the application process is available on

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module)
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 61 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than three years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Find out more about our language requirements:

A non-refundable application fee of £50 must be paid immediately after you submit your application. Your application will not be processed until we have received your application fee.

Applicants receiving an offer of admission will be asked to pay a tuition fee deposit of £1,000 within 28 days to secure their place on the programme. * Tuition fee deposit policy

Find out more about tuition fees and studying costs:

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD

Further information

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD