A new professional program at UBC will train students to address the pressing issues of the 21st century, including human rights, climate change, poverty, security and risk.
In advance of the official launch event on Sept. 9, Yves Tiberghien and Moura Quayle, co-directors of the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs (MPPGA), discuss the program’s strengths and timeliness, and highlight how it prepares students for the complexities of today’s world.
Why this program, and why now?
Tiberghien: The world is undergoing dramatic change. We are more aware of systemic risks, like the global financial crisis. Climate change is increasingly serious. The players that set the global agenda in the past – mostly governments of G7 countries – had a lock on many global policy questions. But the overall balance of power has shifted massively toward the so-called emerging powers. So we need co-operation across borders, with new partners such as China, India and Brazil.
These trends are accelerating, but it’s clear that past methods aren’t addressing the scale of today’s problems. The first generation of policy schools in Canada and the United States was designed to optimize bureaucratic processes, particularly within Western governments. Students learned about public administration in the U.S. or Canada, and that was their experience. A new generation added some understanding of economies and markets.
That is no longer enough. Domestic, global, economics, science, social issues, stakeholders, social engagement, communication – it’s all intertwined. You can’t be effective as a policy maker if you only understand how public policy works within government.
UBC has the expertise to match today’s global problems. There are at least a dozen units represented in our curriculum – an unprecedented and interdisciplinary coalition. We’re building on the strengths of UBC and offering an amazing degree to address today’s changing world.
How does the MPPGA prepare students for today’s world?
Quayle: This is a professional program – we want our graduates to be work-ready, and flexible and fluent in all sorts of situations, whether they involve government, business or not-for-profits.
Part of what sets the program apart is a focus on “pracademics” – the concept of learning by doing. This involves people actually “doing policy” as part of the program: analyzing, creating and implementing policy. The classroom is a professional setting, in which students are required to collaborate in much the same way as they would with future colleagues as part of a team.
We’re also developing a series of professional development workshops that will give our students the capacity to be really effective in the workplace. These cover everything from field research techniques to strategic design, which is a way of framing problems and generating solutions. In the second year of the program, students will work in teams with real-world, global clients.
Ultimately, we want to foster policy innovation – policy that’s real and on the ground. I want our students to have a change-the-world passion. The status quo isn’t good enough – we can do better.
What are the prospects for MPPGA graduates?
Tiberghien: As we planned our program, we found that there is a growing demand from many sectors for new kinds of graduates with a bundle of skills.
We’re preparing our students for very diverse jobs – some will work for international organizations, such as the OECD, the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank. Some may work for non-governmental organizations or domestic governments.
Some will work for businesses. Increasingly, business is more complex than it used to be. If you just learn marketing, finance, logistics and operations, and you project yourself into China or India, it’s not enough.
Our students will be prepared for senior management roles – as policy analysts, foreign policy strategists, directors of corporate policy and so on. The leadership skills they will cultivate in the program will help them succeed in positions of influence to put forward positive change wherever they may be in the world.
The Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs is led by UBC’s Institute of Asian Research, the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, and the Liu Institute for Global Issues. To learn more about the program, please visit mppga.ubc.ca.