Public Policy and Management (MSc)


Study for a prestigious MSc in Public Policy and Management by distance learning

Successful civil servants, NGO workers, politicians and their advisers all need to have a wide range of skills and knowledge to equip them to meet the constantly changing challenges of public policy and management. This includes the evolving dynamic between public agencies and the private and voluntary sectors.

The MSc Public Policy and Management will equip you to manage programmes and advise on policy in a variety of settings. Because you are free to choose eight modules in any combination, you can select a path that is best suited to your specialism, skills and objectives. You also have the option to study research methods and write a dissertation under expert supervision, based on your interests or on issues in your place of work.

Programme aims

This programme will provide you with an understanding of the principles and methods of modern public policy and management, and will enable you to make financial decisions and policy choices in the financing and management of infrastructure and services in the public sector

Programme summary

  You study Study period Cost (2017-18)
MSc 8 modules 2-5 years £10,080
Individual Professional Awards You can take up to three individual modules from this distance learning programme. Each module lasts eight weeks and you are registered for two years. The fee per individual module is £1,260.


The programme has been developed by academics at the Centre for Financial and Management Studies (CeFiMS), a postgraduate research and teaching department within SOAS, University of London. Staff at CeFiMS have international reputations and are involved in researching their subjects at the very limits of current knowledge.

Career progression

As a graduate of this programme you will be well prepared for high positions in government, public service, international organisations and NGOs. Politicians, both national and local, in various countries are already studying with the programme.

Comprehensive study materials and support

You will be given all of the learning materials that you need to complete each course. These will typically include:

  • The Study Guide, a core text specially written for the course. This takes the form of a looseleaf binder containing eight ‘course units’. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching of the course, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings.
  • Textbooks and collections of key journal articles and book extracts.
  • Online and multimedia tools. You will have access to the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the course using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the course Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library. In addition, some course material will also include video lectures on DVD, CDs of case studies, and econometric software.

Your time commitment

This will depend partly on choices you make, but most students take three years to complete an MSc. The study calendar consists of five sessions per year. Each session is devoted to a specific module and lasts eight weeks (with the exception of the first session which runs for 10 weeks). During each session you will need to allocate between 15-20 hours per week to complete the programme.

Summary of key dates

Public Policy and Management
CeFiMS event Study session 1 Study session 2 Study session 3 Study session 4 Study session 5
Application deadline 11 September 2017 27 November 2017 29 January 2018 02 April 2018 28 May 2018
Enrolment deadline 25 September 2017 11 December 2017 12 February 2018 16 April 2018 11 June 2018
Start date 06 November 2017 22 January 2018 26 March 2018 28 May 2018 23 July 2018
Examinations September/October 2018



Structure and Syllabus

MSc: 8 modules.

Choose eight modules from those listed below. There is the option to write a 10,000 word dissertation, subject to satisfactory completion of the Research methods module.

Eight modules from the following

Public policy and management: perspectives and issues

You will be introduced to the main principles and techniques of public policy and management. The course examines the scope and functions of government in a critical and comparative way, ideal types of management and policy transfer, and introduces policy evaluation.

Unit 1: The State, Public Policy and Management
Unit 2: Understanding the State
Unit 3: Ideal Types
Unit 4: Policy Analysis and Evaluation
Unit 5: Policy and Management Dilemmas I
Unit 6: Policy and Management Dilemmas 2
Unit 7: Policy Transfer
Unit 8: The Future of the State?

Decentralisation and local governance

You will study the fiscal and policy relationships between local and sub-national government. The course explores democracy and public participation in the policy process, local poverty reduction and local economic development.

Unit 1: Decentralisation: What and Why?
Unit 2: Fiscal Decentralisation
Unit 3: Cases in Fiscal Decentralisation
Unit 4: Administrative Decentralisation
Unit 5: Decentralisation and Participation
Unit 6: Assessing Decentralisation in Practice
Unit 7: Local Economic Development
Unit 8: Decentralisation and Poverty

Environment and social impact assessment

This module will give you a theoretical and applied background to Environmental and Social Impact Analysis - a requirement for a wide range of investment projects in both the public and private sectors. The module also introduces tools that are used to support ESIA, ways of improving the effectiveness of ESIA, and other techniques, used to investigate the environmental and social implications of projects and other initiatives.

Human resource management and development

You will study the management of people in public organisations as well as models of human resource management and development. Other topics studies include job analysis, career management, recruitment and selection, performance management and appraisal, training and development and rewards management.

Unit 1: Human Resource Management: Introduction
Unit 2: Resourcing
Unit 3: Performance
Unit: 4 Development
Unit 5: Employee Relations
Unit 6: Pay
Unit 7: Cross-Functional Issues
Unit 8: Human Resource Strategy and Management

Managing organisational change (half course)
Privatisation and public-private partnerships

This course looks at a variety of innovations for producing public services. These range from privatisation to partnerships with private and voluntary organisations. The course will enable you to undertake the analyse necessary to make the best choice of method, and to begin the process of implementation.

Unit 1: Introduction to Privatisation in the OECD Countries
Unit 2: Scale and Methods of Privatisation in Africa, Latin America and Asia
Unit 3: Impact of Privatisation
Unit 4: Case Studies in Privatisation
Unit 5: Outsourcing, Contracting and Competition
Unit 6: Case Studies in Procurement
Unit 7: Public-Private Partnerships
Unit 8: Public-Private Partnerships: Cases and Conclusions

Project appraisal

This is a course about financial and economic appraisal of projects. The project is a very specific element of the public policy and management mix. It normally consists of an investment, that is the creation of an asset which will generate benefits, financial and non-financial over a period of more than one year. This is not universally applicable as a working definition, as ‘project’ is often used to describe a set of discrete activities that do not always involve a capital investment, to achieve some specific goals. In this course, however, we will be dealing with capital investments.

Unit 1 Investment Appraisal Techniques I
Unit 2 Investment Appraisal Techniques II
Unit 3 Social Cost-Benefit Analysis
Unit 4 Valuation Methodologies in Social Cost-Benefit Analysis
Unit 5 Sector Analysis and Case Studies in SCBA
Unit 6 Risk and Uncertainty Analysis
Unit 7 Distributional Issues and Social Cost-Benefit Analysis
Unit 8 Critique and Reflection

Public Financial Management: Audit and compliance

You will learn the uses and methods of audit, as a tool to ensure compliance and as part of governments' efforts to improve performance. You will learn about both internal and external audit and about the role and functions of supreme audit institutions.

Unit 1 Public Sector Auditing
Unit 2 External Audit and Reporting
Unit 3 Internal Audit and Control
Unit 4 Risk Assessment and a Systems-Based Approach
Unit 5 Forensic Accounting
Unit 6 Value-for-Money and Performance Reviews
Unit 7 Contract Audit
Unit 8 Other Approaches to Audit

Public financial management: planning and performance

In this course you will be introduced to the methods and issues of public financial management. You will examine subjects, including cost management, budgeting, expenditure control techniques, accounting for public spending and performance budgeting.

Unit 1: The Context of Financial Management
Unit 2: Budget Coverage, Classification and Structure
Unit 3: Costs
Unit 4: Accounting and Budgeting – National Level
Unit 5: Accounting and Budgeting – Sub-national Level
Unit 6: Budget Execution
Unit 7: Financial Management and Performance
Unit 8: Budgeting and Democracy

Public financial management: revenue

This course addresses the theory and practice of public finance with special reference to how governments raise revenues. It is concerned with taxation, borrowing and aid. There are economic principles that bear on the issues of financing public expenditure and these are covered in the course. If you have not studied economics before there is an Appendix that covers the relevant microeconomics concepts that underlie taxation theory. At the same time the course recognises that decisions on taxation, borrowing and aid are not taken solely with reference to economics but also to politics.

Unit 1: Tax Issues in Context
Unit 2: Taxation Incidence and Optimal Taxation
Unit 3: Policy Objectives and Taxation
Unit 4: Tax Policy Issues in Developing and Transition Countries (I)
Unit 5: Tax Policy Issues in Developing and Transition Countries (II)
Unit 6: Local Revenues in Developing and Transition Countries
Unit 7: Deficits and Debts
Unit 8: Foreign Aid and Debt Relief

Public Policy & Management: Development Assistance

The purpose of this module can summarised by the questions that students will be asked to think about and analyse in their study of this topic.

  • Has aid increased the rate of economic growth in the aid recipient countries?
  • Does aid change government policies?
  • Does aid have a detrimental effect on governments’ accountibility to their citizens?
  • Do donor conditions have an effect on the quality of governance in recipient countries?
  • Does the aid industry distort the labour market in recipient countries and adversely affect government capacity?
  • Do donors need recipient governments more that governments need donors?
  • Does food aid adversely affect food production?
  • Does aid promote corruption?

Unit 1: A Brief History of Development Assistance
Unit 2: Development Assistance and Economic Development
Unit 3: Humanitarian Assistance
Unit 4: Making Poverty History
Unit 5: The Aid Agencies
Unit 6: Funding and Resource Allocation
Unit 7: Implementation: Aid Modalities, Conditionality and Aid Effectiveness
Unit 8: Reflections on Development Assistance

Public policy and strategy

You will cover the policy process, from problem definition and measurement, option appraisal and assessment, to implementation and evaluation, using case studies from a variety of different settings. While it follows the ‘rational’ model, it also assesses critically how and where such a model does and does not apply, and covers approaches to ‘strategic’ management techniques in the public sector.

Unit 1: The Policy Analysis Model and Alternatives
Unit 2: Stakeholders, Data Collection and Analysis
Unit 3: Implementation: Policy Instruments and Service Provision
Unit 4: Allocating Resources and Assigning Responsibilities
Unit 5: Performance Management and Monitoring
Unit 6: Policy Evaluation
Unit 7: Strategic Planning and Policy
Unit 8: Policy Networks and Policy Transfer: Policy in a Globalised World

The International Monetary Fund and economic policy

The module examines the changing roles of the IMF, the nature of economic policies it encourages countries to pursue, and some of the effects these policies have on the economic environment of business, on the financial sector, and on social conditions. The module gives a simple introduction to the basic IMF economic policy framework, 'financial programming'. Using different types of countries, including transition economies and developing countries as case studies, it enables you to study issues such as the role of capital controls and the problems of highly indebted countries.

Unit 1: Macroeconomic Stabilisation and the Role of the International Monetary Fund
Unit 2: The IMF’s Approach to Stabilisation
Unit 3: Alternative Approaches to Stabilisation
Unit 4: Stabilisation and the Financial Sector
Unit 5: Stabilisation Policy and the Financial Sector: Institutional Responses to Recent Crises
Unit 6: Stabilisation and the Financial Sector: Some Challenges and Controversies
Unit 7: Stabilisation and Low-income Countries
Unit 8: Challenges for Low-income Countries

Public financial management: Financial reporting (IPSAS)

Financial reporting standards vary by country. These two modules, which are offered as alternatives, cover the financial accounting and reporting standards used in the public sector, as prescribed by the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board OR the standards prevalent in the private sector and some public jurisdictions, as laid down in the International Financial Reporting Standards. You should choose one module according to which set of standards are in operation where you work, or intend to work.

Research methods C353

This module concentrates on helping you develop a rigorous understanding of the key principles and practice of research that are needed to get a research project up and running.

Unit 1: The Nature of Research
Unit 2: Planning and Designing Research
Unit 3: Reviewing the Literature and Making Methodological Choices
Unit 4: Data
Unit 5A: Interviews, Focus Groups and Surveys
Unit 5B: Introduction to Data Analysis I
Unit 6A: Fieldwork and Observation
Unit 6B: Introduction to Data Analysis II
Unit 7: Validity and Reliability
Unit 8: Writing and Presenting Research

Dissertation C354 (prerequisite C353 Research methods)

The dissertation is a supervised piece of research on a topic that we will agree with you. The length will be 10,000 words. Before we can consider a proposal to submit a dissertation we will need to review your academic performance so far. Completing the Research Methods module is a prerequisite for undertaking the dissertation.

The dissertation does not run over a single session. Instead students enrol on the dissertation by the enrolment deadline for Session 2 (24 November 2014) and have until 1 October 2015 to complete their research, write up their results and submit their final thesis.


You will explore the potential of information systems in the public sector. This will be undertaken through a critical examination of the role of information in public sector organisations, of different models of information planning and management, and of the appropriateness of different information systems and technologies.

Unit 1: An Introduction to Information Systems in Public Sector Organisations
Unit 2: Information and Communication Technologies in the Knowledge Era
Unit 3: Knowledge and Decision Making
Unit 4: People and Information in Organisations
Unit 5: Types of Information Systems
Unit 6: Planning Information Systems
Unit 7: Information Systems Development
Unit 8: eGovernment Strategy

Study materials

How you study

Without leaving your job or home you can study, write and submit assignments, receive expert guidance from your CeFiMS tutor and advice from the student support team. In addition to printed study materials, the Virtual Learning Environment allows you to work with course materials, send queries to tutors and submit assignments via the Internet.

When you take a CeFiMS distance learning course you will be sent everything you need to complete your studies. A typical set of course learning materials would include:

  • The Study Guide, a core text specially written for the course. This takes the form of a looseleaf binder containing eight ‘course units’. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching of the course, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings.
  • Textbooks and collections of key journal articles and book extracts.
  • Online and multimedia tools. You will have access to the VLE, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the course using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the course Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library. In addition, some courses materials will also include video lectures on DVD, CDs of case studies, and econometric software.

Online Learning Environment

Created by CeFiMS to provide additional resources and support, the VLE allows you to:

  • access study materials that complement printed texts
  • submit assignments
  • communicate with tutors
  • contact support staff regarding administrative queries
  • access online resources provided by the University of London Library including full-text journal databases of JSTOR and EBSCO.

Note: Students who are eligible to use the VLE are automatically contacted by CeFiMS staff and given information about how to access the system for their course.



Fees may be paid in one of two ways:

Either, pay the total fee on registration by making a single payment for all the module fees;
Or, if you prefer to spread out your payments, pay the fee for each module you want to take in the first year, and then in subsequent years pay the fee for each new module you take.
Fees are subject to annual review. The 2017-18 fees take effect from 1 August 2017.
Fee per module£ 1,260
Total MSc£ 10,080
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Disclaimer: the currency conversion tool is provided to you for convenience only and does not constitute an endorsement or approval by the University of London; the exchange rates are provided dynamically via a third-party source, consequently, the University of London International Programmes is not responsible for their accuracy.

Other costs

In addition to the fees payable to the University, you should also budget for:
  • The fee charged to your local examination centre to cover its costs - this fee will vary.
  • Customs duties/taxes where these are payable on educational materials, including educational USB stick/CDs. We recommend that you check the status of imported educational materials with your country’s customs authorities.


If you are a UK or EU national and you have lived in England for three years, you could be eligible to apply for a Postgraduate Loan.


Fees are subject to annual revision and typically may be increased by up to 5% per annum. For a full list fees that may be applicable, please see the fee schedule.


With the exception of the Dissertation, all modules are assessed by one three-hour unseen written examination and two assignments of 2,500 words each. The Dissertation (available as an option for MSc programmes only) is assessed by the submission of a written dissertation of not more than 10,000 words, excluding the bibliography and appendices.

The grade awarded on each individual module will be based on the mark obtained in the written examination and on the combined mark for the assignments. The examination mark and the combined mark of the assignments will be weighted on the scale 70:30. If you fail a written examination at the first sitting, you will be allowed one further attempt after which your registration will cease.

Exams, both overseas and in the UK, take place once a year in September/October. They are normally held in a student's country of residence, using the existing system of overseas examinations authorities which the University of London operates for all its External students. Exams for students in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland are normally held in London.


Academic Requirements

In order to be considered for registration applicants must have:

(a) a Bachelor's degree in social science discipline, or other appropriate discipline, from a UK university or other institution acceptable to the University, or an equivalent international qualification (qualifications in other subjects will be assessed on their merits)

(b) previous education and experience without a UK Bachelor's degree, or international equivalent, which satisfies the University as a qualification on the same level as a UK Bachelor's degree approved under (a) for this purpose, and which has included suitable preliminary training.

Computer Requirements

You must have regular access to a computer (or mobile device*) with an internet connection to use the University of London International Programmes website and the Student Portal. These are where your programme’s study resources are located. Through the Student Portal you can register as a student, enter exams and use your programme’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE provides you with electronic learning materials, access to the University of London Online Library, networking opportunities, and other resources.

To get the most from your studies, your computer should have at least the following minimum specification: 

  • a web browser (the latest version of Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer). This must accept cookies and have JavaScript enabled
  • screen resolution of 1024 x 768 or greater
  • sufficient bandwidth to download documents of at least 2 MB

and the following applications installed:

  • a word processor that reads Microsoft Word format (.doc)
  • Adobe, or other pdf reader.

For some modules you will require a CD drive and DVD player.

* Full mobile access is not available for all programmes.

Language Requirements

For all of our modules you are required to have a high level of English language ability in reading and writing and in study skills.

If your first degree was not taught in English, you will need to provide evidence of language ability as tested by the British Council or another registered body. This is equivalent to a score of 7.0 overall in the IELTS test, or 7.0 in both reading and writing.

Academic leaders

Academic leadership - CeFiMS

Lead College

The Centre for Financial & Management Studies (CeFiMS) is a postgraduate research and teaching department at SOAS, University of London.

Our programmes give students a strong academic foundation to their professional skills. Other students study for a degree with us because of their love of learning and their desire to widen their understanding of the world. The programmes are available in a range of flexible options, so you can choose the speed, depth and even the location of your postgraduate study.

As one of our graduates, you will become part of an exclusive network of alumni based in leading private and public sector organisations throughout the world.

Academic staff

In total, more than eighty academics act as online tutors. In addition, there is a dedicated team of student advisers. For more information, please visit the CeFiMS website [external link].

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