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MPP and MPA Programs

University of Wisconsin – Madison, Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Program Comparison Highlights

Institutional Structure: The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs is one of 21 colleges and schools at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Note on History. The school was founded in 1967 as the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration by Clara Penniman, the first woman to chair the university's political science department, making it one of the longest established institutions by type for the specific study of public policy. In 1983 it was separated from the department by an act of the Wisconsin Legislature, which established an Institute of Public Affairs named for Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. The Institute was upgraded to a School in 1999, and offers a relatively small class size from a competitive international admissions process. (At, accessed 18 May 2015.) 

Curriculum Design: With an 14-course degree, the Wisconsin La Follette Master of Public Affairs (MPA) has a midrange course requirement among the MPP/MPA programs. Our PEACO calculations below suggest that typical students take about 71% of their course work in policy-oriented subjects and 29% in management-oriented subjects. Typical students take about 23% of their course work in subjects with high math-economics content. This places the Wisconsin La Follette MPA in the "medium course requirement, policy-oriented, higher math-economics content" curricular type, along with such programs as the NYU MPA and the Syracuse MPA (see MPP/MPA Curricular Types). Among peers in its curricular type, the Wisconsin La Follette MPA has as a medium number of courses and a medium proportion of courses taught within the school. The competency gap analysis below suggests that a Wisconsin La Follette MPA student taking the required courses and a random selection of listed electives would, on average, graduate with approximately 20 course-weeks (one of the lowest of the programs reviewed to date) of shortfall in the core-competency subject matter identified in MPP/MPA Core Competencies, including shortfalls of 6 course-weeks in Leadership Skills and 3 course-weeks each in: Communication Skills; Ethics, Rights and Accountability; Evaluation and Performance Measurement; and Information and Technology Management.

Professional Program Features: The La Follette School lists its Career Development services at and its research and public service activities at

Program Summary


University: University of Wisconsin–Madison

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Degree: Master of Public Affairs (MPA)

Marketing Approach: "The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is a highly ranked program that offers domestic and international degrees in public management and policy analysis. Our strength derives from our core faculty and broader group of faculty affiliates who are part of the internationally renowned social science departments at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Our faculty have international reputations in their academic disciplines, and they have spent the greater part of their careers working on problems of public policy and governance. Our faculty also have close personal links to local, national, and international policymakers. La Follette prides itself in the continued practice of the Wisconsin Idea, a century-long commitment of the University of Wisconsin to extend its expertise beyond the campus borders to solve the problems of the world at large. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Wisconsin’s great social scientists were inventing and adapting the programs of Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, and Workers Compensation so the general society could benefit from the gains made possible by a rapidly changing free market. These social scientists worked closely with political leaders like Robert M. La Follette to help enact legislation that embodied the best social science research. Today, La Follette School faculty, alumni, students, and staff extend the practice of the Wisconsin Idea across the state and around the world through research and outreach best topics that include the design and management of social welfare programs, international currency and trade, analysis of the effects of welfare reform, determinants of health and health care reform, environmental regulation, public management and finance, Social Security, and science and technology." (At, accessed 21 May 2014.)

Degrees Awarded per Year: "This is the profile of the 2014 class: Size: 44 students" (at, accessed 18 May 2015)]

Academic Unit within University: The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs 

Related Academic Units and Degrees: The La Follette's graduate programs are listed, by graduate unit, at

Posted Tuition: $11,864 fees per year for MPA for residents, $25,192 for non-residents based on Spring 2015 fees at, accessed 18 May 2015. 

Concentration/Curriculum Overview: Through the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree program, young professionals and new college graduates learn the skills needed to transform an interest in public affairs into serious careers. The multidisciplinary faculty are nationally recognized experts in public policy analysis, public management and administration, and specialized policy fields that include social policy, public finance, urban planning, health management, and environmental policy. 

MPA Degree Requirements

Summary: The MPA degree program, usually completed in two years, is organized around a curriculum of 42 credits (14 one-semester courses) made up of six core courses and eight electives, which may include an internship. The core courses, taught by the La Follette School faculty, help students to build their knowledge of the policy process, acquire skills in microeconomic and statistical analysis, develop competence in public management and public policy analysis, and apply their knowledge and analytical tools to real-world problems. In addition to the required core courses, MPA students choose electives to develop specialized knowledge in policy fields that match their interests and career goals. The policy areas listed are: Policy Analysis; Public/Nonprofit Management and Administration; Public Finance and Budgeting; Health Policy and Management; Homeland Security and Defence; Energy and Environmental Policy; Social and Poverty Policy; Education Policy; City Management and Urban Policy (at, accessed 8 September 2015). 

Duration: 2 years (four terms of full-time study).

Academic Prerequisite: The University of Wisconsin - Madison Graduate School requires a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 in all previous academic programs. One official transcript is sent directly to the La Follette School of Public Affairs. More consideration is given to grades in prerequisite courses and those taken in the last two years of the student's undergraduate work. 

Number of One-Semester-Equivalent Courses Required for Completion: 14

Number of Required Courses: 6

Number of Electives Typically Taken (difference between above two entries): 8

Number of Electives Offered within Program: 38

Comprehensive Examination: No

Thesis Required: No

Internship Required: No, but option available

International Study Required: No

Co-curricular Activities Supportive to Degree

Professional Development and Career Support: Yes

Student-run Journal: No

Applied Projects: No

Pro Bono Consulting: No

Courses Offered: The full list of current La Follette courses is found at: (accessed 20 May 2015). In the Course Map below, required courses are indicated by (R).

Course Material Online: An extensive collection of syllabi is available online at (accessed 20 May 2015).

Instructional Distribution (PEACO Profile): The distribution of instruction offered, based on the course assignments to subjects in the Wisconsin Course Map below, weighted by estimated enrolment based on the number of elective sections offered and number of electives typically taken is displayed below. [See note on PEACO Algorithm.] 



Curricular Type Parameters

Number of Courses Required for Graduation


Math-Economics Subjects (EA, QM, Macro, Fin Markets)


Policy-Oriented Subjects


Management-Oriented Subjects


Enrolment-Adjusted Course Distribution

Analysis and Skill Subjects


  - Policy and Management Analysis


  - Economic Analysis



  - Quantitative  and Analytic Methods


  - Leadership and Communication Skills


Institutions and Context Subjects


  - Democratic Institutions and Policy Process


  - Ethics, Rights and Accountability


  - Socioeconomic, Political, and Global Contexts


Management Function Subjects


  - Public Financial Management


  - Evaluation and Performance Measurement


  - Other Management Functions


Policy Sector Subjects


  - Macroeconomic Policy


  - International Development


  - Health


  - Other Policy Sectors




Competency Gap Analysis (in Course-Weeks of Instruction)

Course-Weeks in Core Subjects taken by Typical Student


Surplus or Shortfall Relative to Core Competency Requirement

  - Policy and Management Analysis (CCR = 18 course-weeks)


  - Economic Analysis (CCR = 12)


  - Quantitative Methods (CCR = 12)


  - Analytic Methods (CCR = 6)


  - Leadership Skills (CCR = 9)


  - Communication Skills (CCR = 3 courses)


  - Democratic Institutions and Policy Process (CCR = 18)


  - Ethics, Rights and Accountability (CCR = 6 courses)


  - Socioeconomic and Political Context (CCR = 6)


  - Global Context (CCR = 3)


  - Public Financial Management (CCR = 6)


  - Evaluation and Performance Measurement (CCR = 6)


  - Human Resource Management (CCR = 3)


  - Information and Technology Management (CCR = 3)


  - Macroeconomic Policy (CCR = 6)


  - Environment and Sustainability (CCR = 3)


Subject-Matter Shortfall for Typical Student (Sum of Shortfalls)


Additional Parameters

Total Courses Listed


Courses Designated as Required (inc. Specialization Reqs)


Archetypal Public Affairs Subjects (P&MA, EA, QM, DI&PP)


Archetypal International Affairs Subjects (GC, ID, DS&FR)


Courses Required and Offered

Courses Required to Graduate


Required Courses


Elective Courses Taken by Typical Student


Elective Courses Listed


Enrolment Weight of Elective Course


Total Courses Listed


Source: At, and (accessed 21 May 2014).

Page Created By: Matthew Seddon on 21 May 2014 and last updated by Ian Clark on 7 September 2015. Updating and editing may consist of substantive and/or formatting changes. Unless otherwise noted, however, information regarding a program's structure, curricular offerings and PEACO score is based on the program as it was on the date of page creation. The content presented on this page, except for the assignments of courses to Atlas subjects, the Instructional Distribution analysis, and the Commentary is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases.

UW La Follette MPA Course Map
 C o u r s e s  O f f e r e d,  l i s t e d  b y  P u b l i c  P o l i c y  a n d  M a n a g e m e n t  S u b j e c t

Analysis and Skills

 Policy and Management Analysis

  PA 873: Introduction to Policy Analysis (R)
  PA 878: Introduction to Public Management (R)
  PA 885: Advanced Public Management

 Economic Analysis

  PA 820: Community Economic Analysis
  PA 880: Microeconomic Policy Analysis (R)

 Quantitative Methods

  PA 818: Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Public Policy Analysis (R)
  PA 819: Advanced Quantitative Methods for Public Policy

 Analytic Methods

  PA 881: Cost-Benefit Analysis
  PA 895: Performance Management
  PA 958: Seminar - Research in Public Affairs

 Leadership Skills

  PA 887: Non-Profit Leadership

 Communication Skills

Multiple Subjects

 Capstone Courses, Internships, Major Projects, Theses, etc.

  PA 799: Independent Reading
  PA 800: Professional Development Workshop
  PA 802: Public Affairs Seminar Series
  PA 827: Administrative Internship
  PA 869: Workshop in Public Affairs (R)

Institutions and Context

 Democratic Institutions and Policy Process

  PA 420: Administrative Law
  PA 874: The Policymaking Process (R)

 Social and Political Context

  PA 853: Public Policy Implications of Aging Societies
  PA 883: Politics of Poverty, Inequality and Social Policy

 Ethics, Rights and Accountability

  PA 857: Political Economy of Corruption and Good Governance

 Global Context

  PA 850: International Governance
  PA 855: Governing Work and Welfare in the European Union
  PA 859: Globalization, Technological Change, and Regulatory Harmonization
  PA 860: Workshop in International Public Affairs

Management Functions

 Public Financial Management

  PA 891: State and Local Government Finance
  PA 892: Public Budgeting

 Evaluation and Performance Measurement

  PA 871: Public Program Evaluation

 Human Resource Management

  PA 875: Public Personnel Administration

 Information Management and Technology

 Local Government Management

 Regulatory Policy and Management

 Nonprofit Management and Advocacy

  PA 974: Topics in Public Affairs: Influencing Political Systems for Social Change

Policy Sectors

 Macroeconomic Policy

  PA 854: Macroeconomic Policy and International Financial Regulation
  PA 890: Federal Budget and Tax Policy and Administration

 International Development

  PA 867: Government Finance in Developing Countries
  PA 974: Topics in Public Affairs: Social Protection in Latin America: Transformative Social Policy or Old Wine in a New Bottle?

 Public Finance and Social Policy

  PA 882: Social Welfare Policy and Management
  PA 888: Comparative and National Social Policy


  PA 548: Economics of Health Care
  PA 864: Health Policy and Policy Design


  PA 765: Issues in Educational Policy Analysis
  PA 830: School Finance and Resource Allocation

 Employment, Labour and Immigration

 Cities, Urban and Regional Development

 Environment and Sustainability

  PA 866: Global Environmental Governance

 Agriculture and Resources

 Science, Technology and Innovation

 Industry, Trade and Investment

  PA 856: Trade, Competition, and Governance in a Global Economy

 Energy, Transport and Infrastructure

  PA 809: Introduction to Energy Analysis and Policy
  PA 810: Energy Analysis Seminar

 Defence, Security and Foreign Relations

 Policing and Justice Administration

 Arts and Culture

 Financial Markets

 Other Policy Sectors

Important Notices
© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance