Worldwide, governments and societies today are confronted with big challenges like climate change, rapid technological innovations, and economic crises, that raise all kinds of new organizational, policy, and ethical issues. These challenges pose both opportunities and constraints for a multitude of public, non-profit, and private actors. For example, a sudden influx of refugees causes anxiety among citizens and high costs for shelter, but can boost knowledge and economic growth in the long run. Social media and advanced data sharing technologies enable citizens to organize themselves, but also come with potential risks of privacy invasion. The financial crisis has laid bare the fragility of the global economy, but also the important role that governments still play in regulating markets. Such challenges have political, administrative, financial, and policy aspects that need to be handled within a governance perspective. In the midst of all the turmoil, we expect governments to be transparent, effective, and efficient problem solvers. The main question that we ask in the Master of Public Administration is therefore:
How can we address humankind’s most pressing problems from the perspective of governance?
The Master of Public Administration focuses on the management, steering, and coordination of political, administrative, economic, and social actors, as well as the formal and informal regimes and policy processes within which they act towards addressing collective social problems at regional, national, and international levels. A defining hallmark of the master is that governance is studied and taught from a multi-level perspective. This means that there is no single level of governance at which societal challenges can be addressed best. For example, the Ebola disease started as a local governance problem of a few countries but transformed itself rapidly into a global problem due to the disease’s spread by means of modern transportation. Boat refugees, to take another example, who flee their homelands because of local famine or civil wars poses a major challenge for the European Union.
These examples show that for educating future public policy professionals, in order to be able to address these problems in an adequate ways, a holistic rather than a single-level approach is needed. Hence, the various tracks within the Master of Public Administration span the intricacies of multi-level governance by a multitude of public and private actors, all the way to the management of organizations and the behaviour of individual public managers. Check out the track descriptions of the specialisations for more information:
“After finishing, we are real experts on government”
“When I started my studies, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I found the courses on the government and how public administration works and fits together the most interesting. That goes some way to explaining my choice of Public Administration: you learn what really goes on within government and how organisations function. The master’s focuses on learning the theories on management and policy-making, and how to apply them in practice. Another good reason for doing this master’s is that it has good job prospects as the skills you learn here make you an attractive candidate both in the business sector and the public sector. The fact that many students from different backgrounds take a pre-master’s in order to be able to embark on this programme says a lot about the quality of the programme, in my view.
The master’s is taught entirely in The Hague, close to all the main government institutions and NGOs. As you’re one of a small group where everyone is focused intensively on the subject material, it’s very important to take part in the lectures. The work pressure is quite a lot higher than in the bachelor’s; we are mainly conducting research projects and writing papers, rather than doing exams. About half the students are international, and they come from all over the place. You learn a lot in such a varied community, particularly about different forms of government administration.
As a member of the board of B.I.L., the Public Administration study association, I am involved in organising all kinds of extra events. Of course, there are parties, but there are also study trips to Brussels to visit the European Parliament, or lectures by alumni or inspirational speakers from government or the business sector. We do that because it’s important that students start to build contacts with the world outside academia. Although my options are still open, I’d really like to work for a Ministry or a municipal council, dealing with environmental issues, for example.
Graduates of this master’s are experts on the government and know how to find their way around this complex world. You have to be able to do that to make sure the public administration system works effectively. I would recommend this master’s to students who want to know more about current issues in government and policy making. If you have solid background knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm, this could be the programme for you!”
“How can we address humankind’s most pressing problems from the perspective of governance?”
Although these and many other challenges differ in many ways, they all share a common underlying dimension, namely public governance: to address them in a meaningful way we need knowledge about political, administrative and societal actors and processes.
In the Master we concentrate on the management, steering, and coordination of political, administrative, economic, and social actors and the formal and informal regimes and policy processes within which they act towards addressing collective social problems at regional, national, and international levels.
In our Master we will teach you that societal challenges are multi-level governance problems. For example, the Ebola disease started as a local governance problem of a few countries but transformed itself rapidly into a global problem due to the disease’s spread by means of modern transportation. We will also teach you that such societal challenges require a multi-disciplinary perspective. It requires the knowledge of economic, political, organizational, management and legal studies to gain a better understanding of them.
And, finally, we also will show you that societal challenges are transboundary problems. That is, they involve both the public and the private sector.
This is what we aim for then: educating future academics with the state-of-the-art scientific knowledge and professional skills that are capable of addressing our most important challenges. We educate people who know that governments alone can no longer steer societies on their own but need partners to do the job. Thus, we educate knowledge entrepreneurs, capable of working within (semi) public as well as private organizations towards solving our pressing social and economic problems.