A summary of course content from the 2020–21 MPP curriculum follows, for illustrative purposes.
Induction and Policy Challenge I
Your introduction to life at the Blavatnik School – your intellectual home not only for the next year but for the rest of your lives. Induction has three goals:
- become familiar with your fellow students, members of faculty, the School, its staff and its facilities; and also with your College, the University and the City of Oxford;
- become familiar with the intellectual environment at the Blavatnik School, which is driven by the spirit of inquiry and debate in the pursuit of truth and excellence; and
- become familiar with the values of the Blavatnik School community; respect, integrity and learning from diversity.
This intensive module commences during the first two weeks of the MPP. During this period, you will be engaged in a series of case study discussions and team-building exercises and a rigorous policy exercise. The case studies will set the stage for the ambitions of Blavatnik School graduates by exploring how leading public service figures define, analyse, and address major public policy challenges. The team-building exercise is an experiential problem-solving challenge designed to help you build skills such as active listening, empathy, information sharing, and critical analytical thinking. The policy exercise explores what it means to achieve a 'world better governed'.
You will be assigned an academic supervisor who provides one-to-one advice on curricular aspects of the MPP. The University, the students' colleges and the Blavatnik School also aspire to provide a supportive environment for student wellbeing throughout the year.
One of the consistent responses from senior government practitioners is that they want policymakers who are not just skilled across a range of professional competencies, but also have a humane outlook and a moral compass. Foundations challenges you to think deeply to explore your own basic moral and political outlook, and reflect formally on the moral values and goals that do, and should, apply in public policy. You will be introduced to philosophical concepts and ethical dilemmas facing governments around the world.
Economics for public policy
Public policy leaders frequently interact with professional economists. This course aims to prepare MPP graduates to be critical consumers of economic thinking. You will explore economists’ focus on markets, consider the challenges of financing policy via taxation, focus on design and how to choose between competing project designs, and examine the political obstacles that can hinder implementation, together with solutions suggested by the economic literature on institutions.
The Politics of Policymaking
Policymaking is a fundamentally political process. The Politics of Policymaking will help prepare you to be a successful agent for change across diverse institutional contexts by learning how to ‘think politically'. You will consider how actors and institutions shape outcomes in domestic and international politics. Understanding and navigating these dynamics is essential for the advocacy for, design of, and implementation of successful policies. You will learn how to think politically, so as to be able get things done and effect meaningful change in policy and in government.
Law and Public Policy
Law provides a framework within which public policy is developed, shaped and implemented. In the Law and Public Policy module you will explore the key ideas which underpin how legal systems work, and how law both constrains and can be used as a tool in the policy process.
Evidence in Public Policy
How do policymakers know whether their policies meet their intended objectives? Can they improve the way policies are implemented? Given limited government budgets, these questions are increasingly at the heart of public policy. The aim of the Evidence in Public Policy module is to provide you with an understanding of how policymakers gather, assess and use evidence in practice.
Policy challenge II
Policy Challenge II is an opportunity to bring together all the learnings from the MPP to address contemporary policy dilemmas in a simulation-type setting. It requires you to go beyond determining what theoretically ‘optimal’ policy should look like to developing deliverable policy for the real world. Additionally, you will experience the dynamics of multilateral negotiations, interest group politics, and the interface between domestic and international politics.
Options 1 and 2
In Trinity term you will select two option modules, allowing you to specialise on issues of particular interest. The option modules cover a range of contemporary policy issues and the selection may differ from year to year. Previous years have seen modules on Africa, big data, the challenges of democratisation, climate change, economic development, education policy, governing in a digital age, international economic relations of governments, international migration, legal and illegal politics, police and policing, political communication, social policy, sustainable nutrition, urban challenges in developing countries, and taxing business.
The summer project usually takes the form of a minimum six-week work placement with an organisation engaged in some aspect of policy work, such as a government department, a policy unit of a private sector organisation, a not-for-profit organisation or a research institute; alternatively you might secure a placement which allows you to reflect on a policy challenge under the advice of an academic at Oxford either as a piece of independent desk-based research or as part of a faculty-led project. The summer project enables you to bring together the core skills and learning acquired during the MPP course and apply these to real-life problems. You are encouraged to research and secure a placement with an appropriate organisation on your own or apply for one of a limited number of placements curated by the School. In all cases, once a placement with a host organisation has been secured and approved, you must agree a programme of work that will be of mutual use and interest. The summer project is an intense experience that students find an exciting and rewarding part of the course. Please note, some scholarships or loans may have certain requirements regarding the location or nature of your summer project.
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Applied Policy modules
In addition to term-long core modules you will also choose four intensive Applied Policy modules. These enable you to apply your theoretical learning, build module-specific sets of skills and knowledge, and understand the important fundamental principles involved in decision-making by different groups of stakeholders. Previous Applied Policy modules have included: communications, private finance, public budgeting, and negotiations. The selection may differ from year to year.
Professional Skills Programme
To complement the MPP and its learning outcomes, the School offers a range of professional skills sessions designed to help you acquire, develop and enhance practical and transferable skills necessary for a successful career in public policy. You are encouraged to reflect upon your own professional experiences and to identify skills that you wish to acquire, develop or enhance during your time on the course. You are also strongly encouraged to draw upon the extensive range of experiences within the student cohort and share your own. By way of illustration, the opportunities for MPP students in the 2019-20 cohort included: the UK Public Policy Seminar Series – learning first-hand from practising ministers and senior civil servants; one-to-one meetings with senior professionals from a range of organisations to discuss career options; one-to-one training in verbal communication and presentation skills from an award-winning public speaking executive coach; and engaging with distinguished and diverse external speakers.
Once you have successfully completed the MPP, you will be invited to return to Oxford in the autumn to take part in the School’s end-of-course event and to graduate in person with your College. We will also invite you to join the Blavatnik School Alumni community and continue to participate in the School’s intellectual life after you graduate.