Masters in Public Administration: theory into practice

MPA The University of Ulster’s established course has been updated to cover the latest trends in devolution.

The successful Masters in Public Administration (MPA) offered by the University of Ulster’s School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy has recently been revised to update its content in light of the changes resulting from devolution in Northern Ireland. The new curriculum reflects many of the Professional Skills for Government; leadership and core skills with a focus on theoretically informed practice. A significant feature in the programme is a new module entitled Applied Government which is co-taught by academic staff and senior civil servants across a range of departments in the Northern Ireland Civil Service. Given the applied nature of the MPA, which targets staff in the voluntary/community and public sectors, such a development has been very well received.

The new module was recently delivered by visiting Professor Denis McMahon (OFMDFM), Peter May (Department of Justice), Ian Maye (Department of the Environment), Dave Wall (Department for Social Development), John McGrath (Department of Education), and Sean Holland (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety). These are senior civil servants who were able to bring a wealth of practical experience to the student audience. Topics covered on the programme included: the devolution of justice; the evolution of, and recent developments in, the voluntary and community sector; changes in education planning and provision; strategic policy-making in health and social care; local government and the Review of Public Administration; and an overarching framework of sharing power.

Academics teaching on the programme have international reputations in their respective research fields. Professor Andrew Erridge has written extensively on public procurement; Ruth Fee is an expert in European procurement law. Dr Cathy Gormley-Heenan is well-known for her work on political leadership. Professor Colin Knox has worked extensively on devolution in Northern Ireland. Dr Gordon Marnoch is a leading researcher on performance measurement in the public sector and Professor George Tridimas is highly respected for his research on public sector economics and finance. In short, university staff delivering the programme offer research-informed teaching in an applied way of direct relevance to the students’ work environment. Many of the staff have completed commissioned research for government departments, local authorities and NGOs and hence are involved in topical issues with which students grapple.

Modules on the MPA can be taken as free-standing four-day courses from which successful participants can gain credit point accumulation towards the MPA degree or simply for professional development purposes. Either way, students benefit from formal and informal interactions with participants from a range of public and NGO organisations resulting in a much wider view of the policy environment in which they operate.

We are proud to say that graduates of the programme include current and former Permanent Secretaries in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and chief executives of local councils and voluntary and community sector organisations. The MPA has also been delivered (separately) for international public officials in places as far afield as Kazakhstan, China and Bangladesh.

Would you like to find out more?

The Course Director, Professor Andrew Erridge, would be pleased to help you. Andrew can be contacted at:


t: +44 (0)28 9036 6597 or via the School Office on +44 (0)28 9036 6378


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