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Training future Civil Service leaders

Source: PSE June/July 15

Dr Daniel Sturm, associate professor of economics at LSE, and Chris Wormald, head of the Civil Service Policy Profession and permanent secretary at the Department for Education, discussed the development of a new Executive Master of Public Policy (EMPP) degree to train future leaders of the Civil Service.

The Civil Service has chosen to partner with LSE to develop a customised degree that will equip civil servants aspiring to reach the top of the profession with the cutting-edge tools required to deliver effective policy. 

The new Civil Service and LSE Executive Master of Public Policy (EMPP) programme, expected to launch in December 2015, is the first academically accredited qualification for future leaders in the Civil Service. 

EMPP builds on the foundations of LSE’s existing world-class public policy training. For instance, its full-time Master of Public Administration (MPA) has been offered for over a decade and attracts about 100 students a year, and the Executive MPA (EMPA) for working professionals, launched in 2013, attracts about 40 students per year. 

The MPA, EMPA and EMPP are offered through LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs and delivered by the Department of Economics and the Department of Government in collaboration with leading scholars from across LSE. 

Speaking to PSE, Dr Daniel Sturm, associate professor of economics at LSE, who is part of the team developing the EMPP with the Civil Service, said: “We are one of the leading universities in the world in the social science field and we’re going to partner with the Civil Service to deliver something that I think an in-house operation would never be able to do in the same form. 

“There is a lot of understanding and desire within the Civil Service to co-operate more closely with academia. This programme, as we get off the ground in the coming months, will be a fantastic opportunity for really close cooperation to try to exploit the synergies between what academics and policymakers do.”

The EMPP isn’t like traditional short training courses, which members of the Civil Service will have experienced in the past. “It is going to be a 19-month journey where the students are going to go through a very structured programme, where each module builds on the others and they see how it all comes together over time.” 

The programme is a pilot and will run for three cohorts, each taking two years to achieve graduation, at which point the value of these and other outputs will be subject to evaluation by the UK Civil Service. 

PSE was told that about 30-35 civil servants are expected to be enrolled in the first cohort of students, with the application process taking place over the summer. 

The EMPP curriculum emphasises a core set of skills in economics, policy evaluation and political science, and shows how these can be applied to analyse policies in a broad range of settings. 

Dr Sturm added that the structure of the programme has four components. There are the core courses, which include the following modules: Political Science and Public Policy; Empirical Methods for Public Policy; and Economic Policy Analysis. There is also a series of policy and practice workshops, which run from Friday to Sunday, that apply the analytical tools that are taught in the week-long modules of the EMPP to specific policy areas of particular relevance to the UK Civil Service. 

The third element is a set of option courses, which currently include: Global Market Economics; Regulatory Analysis; Fiscal Governance and Budgeting; and Development Economics. 

“Civil servants will only have to take one of these courses,” said Dr Sturm. “The final element is that there is a capstone project, which is something we have been running for 10 years, and is one of the most popular aspects of the full-time MPA.” 

Capstones are group projects undertaken by a small group of students (usually three to five people) for a department within the Civil Service on a public policy challenge. Each project is supervised by a member of EMPP staff, who provides advice and monitors progress. The project is completed as part of the second year. 

Assessment methods will range from online examinations through to essay-based assignments. 

Chris Wormald, head of the Civil Service Policy Profession and permanent secretary at the Department for Education, said: “Civil servants working in policy development have long been responsible for providing a professional service to ministers – advising on public policy decisions and ensuring the effective implementation of those decisions. 

“But we have not, until now, had a specific professional qualification recognising the skills and knowledge needed for our work. Working with LSE we will now create a rigorous, academically accredited qualification for those aspiring to reach the top of our profession.”

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