MPP/MPA Curricular Types
Categorizing programs on courses required, subject-matter orientation and math-economics content
This page provides a proposed categorization of different curriculum types of MPP, MPA and similarly named degree programs. The categories are not intended to imply that one design is more or less valid than another. They are intended to respond to the questions that a curriculum designer charged developing a new MPP or MPA program might ask about the nature of the design choices, and which programs might serve as examples of particular curricular types.
The Curriculum Comparison Tables and the Program Ranking by Curricular Attributes illustrate that there are wide variations in attributes among MPP/MPA programs. The variations suggest that the three most crucial program design decisions are:
- The number of courses required for graduation, which is closely related to the normal time to completion.
- The subject-matter emphasis, which can be expressed in terms of the proportion of course work taken by the typical student in particular subjects.
- The extent to which the curricular subject matter requires familiarity with mathematics and economics, which can be expressed in terms of the proportion of courses taken by the typical student in quantitative methods and economic subjects.
We have used data from the 119 programs reviewed to date to create three categories for the magnitude of the course requirement and two categories for subject-matter emphasis, each of which has two categories for math-economics content. This produces a total of 12 potential curricular types for MPP/MPA programs. We have given them names based on well-known programs that meet the definitions of each type.
Those programs requiring 16 to 18 one-semester equivalent courses to graduate we call High Course Requirement; those requiring 13 to 15 we call Medium Course Requirement and those requiring 8 to 12 we call Low Course Requirement.
Regarding subject-matter emphasis, we proceed as follows. Those programs where typical students undertake 60% or more of their course work in what we call Policy-Oriented subjects (the pink subjects displayed at Subjects) we call Policy-Oriented. Those programs where typical students undertake more than 40% of their course work in what we call Management-Oriented subjects (the mauve subjects) we call Management-Oriented. We have designated two subjects (Policy and Management Analysis; Professional Practice) as 50-50, equally oriented to Policy and Management. It is worth noting that the PEACO calculations suggest that programs are well spread out along the continuum from highly Policy Oriented to highly Management Oriented. We have selected 60% as the dividing point, making just over half the programs Policy Oriented and just under half Management Oriented. It can be seen that there are very few MPP programs under 60% but there are many MPA programs over 60%.
Regarding mathematics-economics content, those programs where typical students undertake 20% or more of their course work in the four most economics- and mathematics-intensive subjects (Economic Analysis; Quantitative Methods; Macroeconomic Policy; Financial Markets) we call Higher Math-Economics Content and those where typical students undertake less than 20% of their course work in those subjects we call Lower Math-Economic Content.
Exhibit 1 below groups programs by curricular type. For the most populous type (High Course Requirement; Higher Math-Econ; Policy-Oriented) we have divided the programs into two groups: the Harvard-Toronto group, where the Policy-Oriented proportion ranges from 60% to 75%; and the Columbia-Princeton group where the Policy-Oriented proportion ranges from 75% to 90%. Within each group in Exhibit 1 programs are listed in the order of the proportion of courses in Policy-Oriented subjects taken by the typical student.