Further your career in public sector management, guided by leading academics and practitioners.
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) at Ulster is the ideal programme for anyone working in a managerial or governance role in the public, voluntary or community sectors, who is keen to reach the next step in their career.
Designed to improve quality across the public services, this innovative course will enhance your leadership skills and effectiveness, ensuring you stand out in a competitive labour market.
Internationally-recognised, high quality research shapes our teaching. Throughout the programme, you will benefit from the extensive expertise of the academic team, as well as significant input from leading practitioners from across the civil service and public services.
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About this course
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Whether you want to further your learning or advance your career, the MPA is a flexible programme designed to work with your life.
Normally completed over two years, the course comprises nine modules and a project, delivered on a block-release basis. You also have the option to exit after four or eight modules with a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma in Public Administration.
Students come from a variety of roles and organisations across the public, voluntary and community sectors. This diversity adds to the learning experience. You will study alongside like-minded professionals and gain an invaluable insight into different organisations, while also developing your network.
Modules cover a broad range of topics relevant to public sector management and governance, and will help you hone your leadership and management skills.
You will develop a critical awareness and understanding of policy, management and organisations and explore the impact of various forces on organisations including political uncertainty, economic constraints, demands for greater efficiency and effectiveness and an increasing focus on outcome
You will also learn how to analyse and evaluate key public policies that impact on your organisation.
Career opportunities are excellent and graduates of the MPA currently work across a wide range of organisations in health, housing, education, local government, government agencies, civil services departments, police, non-departmental public bodies and many voluntary and community sector organisations.
Modules are taught over four day blocks spread over the academic year.
- September 2019
Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.
Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.
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Public Administration and Governance
This module is designed to examine the activities of public servants and structures of government within a changing administrative landscape which has witnessed the decline in the traditional forms of bureaucracy and seen the emergence of a differentiated polity influenced by developments in the private sector. The relevance of traditional principles of public administration - public accountability, equity and legality, are being challenged by the adoption of management tools and techniques described broadly as Public Management. This module considers the impact of modernisation within and across the various tiers of government.
The Research Methods module has a direct link to the students' preparation for their Master's research project. The module considers the key research strategies and designs in the field pf public administration and then examines various quantitative and qualitative research methods. Central to the module is practical skills acquisition using data analysis software packages to interrogate primary data sets in the public administration. The module concludes with an examination of ethical issues which must be considered in advance of embarking on primary research in the project.
Contemporary Issues in Public Policy
This module provides the mechanism to draw together theoretical materials studied during the Postgraduate Certificate stage of the programme and apply these to real-world issues. Hence, topical issues such as: Delivering Social Change; reforms in primary and post-primary education; the implementation of the Review of Public Administration; local government reorganisation; and, community planning, will provide opportunities for a discussion of contemporary issues facing the public sector in Northern Ireland and beyond. Given the composition of the student body (public sector officials), the module offers an opportunity for them to link theory and practice.
Delivering Services with NGOs
This module is focused on the field of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and will examine the relationship between public bodies and the NGO sector and the potential for improved public services as a result of contracting out services to organisations within the sector. Are NGOs a better source of welfare services than the public or the private sector' Can NGOs be trusted to deliver key welfare services' Do they add value in terms of quality of services delivered' These are examples of questions which the module will address.
Explains what is meant by evaluation in relation to public services. Examines the basis for evidence based policy. Develops a critical awareness of the varying quality of evaluation studies. Gives students the skills needed to design and commission evaluations of public policy programmes.
Policy analysis is concerned with how issues and problems come to be defined and constructed and how they are placed on the political and policy agenda of governments. But it is also the study of how, why and to what effect governments pursue particular courses of action and inaction or "what governments do, why they do it, and what difference it makes". It is an approach to public policy that aims to integrate and contextualise models and research from various disciplines.
This module examines the major issue of strategically managing and leading the organisation in a changing environment. It develops generic issues in strategic management and provides the opportunity for critical appraisal of a range of theories on strategic management and leadership and to apply these theories to real life organisations in the public sector. Assessment is through a number of pieces of course work.
Issues in Health & Social Care
Teaches students to examine key factors impacting on the delivery of health services. The significance of demographic, technological and social trends. Health services finance and resource management issues. The structure of health and social services in Northern Ireland. Managing doctors and other professionals. Performance management. Using evidence for policy and management. Innovation in health services. The future of regulation and competition.
This module has a pre-requisite of the Research Methods module. The project module aims to give course members an opportunity to apply the concepts, methods and techniques that have been studied in the taught elements of the course to a real-world situation in their own environment. A specific organisational problem is identified, analysed and an action plan for implementation developed.
Applied Government: From Policy to Delivery
The module will demonstrate, through real world case studies, how to achieve good government in `messy' situations where authority is shared across individuals and organisations and where the context, mandate or original policy aims of an issue change over time. It will describe large scale challenges from the perspective of Ministers, public servants and other stakeholders. It will demonstrate how `coalitions of the willing' are established in these situations and how various tools of government can be brought to bear at different points to achieve real progress and deliver results on the ground.
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
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Normally a UK second class honours degree, or better, in any discipline or the equivalent of this for international students. Additionally, applicants should normally have gained at least 3 years’ relevant work experience in a supervisory or managerial position.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Teaching and learning assessment
Teaching support for each module is delivered in four-day blocks. The primary face-to-face mechanism for teaching and learning in most modules are interactive lectures, which facilitate the sharing of knowledge and information with students. Lectures are interactive as this befits the class of in-service public sector practitioners whose opinions and experiences are sought on the application of knowledge in their own organisations and the wider public sector. Lectures are therefore to be seen as a mix of formal teaching, seminar work where students are asked to work in groups on a task related to the module content, case studies and problem solving exercises. All modules are supported by on-line resources, which usually take the form of notes and reading.
Course work assignments are an essential part of the teaching and learning strategy; they take a variety of forms and are used to encourage students to read the literature underpinning lectures, integrate and apply knowledge and show that they have reflected upon and improved their own professional practice.
Careers & opportunities
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Our graduates are already immersed in their professional lives but this qualification should enhance the prospects for further career progression.
All members of the MPA teaching team are nationally or internationally recognized experts in their field as demonstrated by their publications, award of research grants and participation in academic networks. The teaching team are all actively engaged with government, local authorities, NGOs, the NHS and other major public service bodies. This takes the form of consultancy work, commissioned research and membership of advisory groups.In addition to work focused on the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, teaching staff have recently been engaged with research or policy advice in relation to public services in Ghana, Turkey, Israel and Kazakhstan.
Fees and funding
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Fees (total cost)
Important notice - fees information
Fees illustrated are based on 19/20 entry and are subject to an annual increase. Correct at the time of publishing. Terms and conditions apply. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Visit our Fees pages for full details of fees
- Northern Ireland & EU:
Additional mandatory costs
Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.
We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.
There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.
Please contact the course team for more information.
Course Director: Dr Karl O'Connor
Admissions Contact: Kerry Moran
For more information visit
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This was a fascinating and intellectually stimulating course, which provided an excellent insight into both the theory and practice of public service. I benefitted significantly from access to the experience and expertise of lecturers and particularly the wide array of guest speakers. My ability to perform my job effectively has been enhanced by the knowledge and skills gained from my studies and I have also significantly increased my understanding of how, and why, wider government works as it does.
Patrick Savage, course participant, DARD.
The content of the course really resonated with me as an experienced policy lead in the NICS. It led me to think about why we do things and how, and indeed how we could do them better. The taught academic material was both interesting and thought provoking, and the lecturers were excellent and very accessible. We also had the benefit of hearing about the experiences of some really fantastic senior staff who participated in the course as visiting speakers from different spheres of the public sector, who willingly shared their knowledge and experience, warts and all, with us. I would highly recommend this course to colleagues.
Course participant, Grade 7, DHSSPS