Rethinking public policy: How universities can help policymakers keep up with the times

Ricky Kanabar, Associate Professor of Social Policy, University of Bath, on forming the next generation of policy leaders with the ability to distil research and develop effective strategies to ensure policy achieves its intended outcomes
Residentials provide the opportunity to work with academics such as Prof Nick Pearce

The past few years have seen policymakers face unprecedented challenges, from the Covid-19 pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis. Politics has been turbulent and unpredictable. The global economy has been significantly disrupted, and geopolitical tensions continue to mount. The arrival of a new generation of artificial intelligence (AI) promises major social and economic transformation. To navigate these new times, the knowledge, skills, and capabilities needed by public policy professionals must change.

The next generation of policy leaders needs to understand how policy responses to such complex challenges are designed, implemented and evaluated. They must understand the forces driving change, be they economic, social, technological or, more likely, a combination of all three and, crucially, what this implies for society. Senior decision-makers must have the ability to distil research and develop effective strategies to ensure policy achieves its intended outcomes. 

How the University of Bath can develop your skills in Public Policy

When considering a career or already working in policy, it is imperative one has the skills to understand why particular decisions are made, especially when one is part of the policy process itself. This requires investment. The Master’s in Public Policy at The University of Bath offers individuals the opportunity to develop a thorough understanding of contemporary public policymaking and politics in the 21st century, how to evaluate conventional policy decisions and the space and freedom to research policy issues from a critical and academic perspective. By doing so, individuals not only develop their skillset but can refine and implement these skills in their day-to-day work.

To produce the next generation of policy leaders, The University of Bath offers an innovative part-time MSc in Public Policy (MPP) specifically designed for working professionals. This programme, open to students from a variety of academic backgrounds, brings together an international cohort of students through a combination of intensive residentials, supported by year-round remote teaching and support to create an enriching learning experience.

As globalisation renders public policy issues, more complex, collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches are more important than ever. The MSc Public Policy at Bath draws on the knowledge of leading academics from a variety of departments, including social and public policy, health, economics and politics, equipping students with practical, transferable, and relevant skills which are needed for a career in policymaking.

Learning from experts

The team of academics who lead the MPP programme draw upon their extensive first-hand experience of working at the highest levels of government, frequently engaging with policymakers, and placing a strong emphasis on demonstrating the importance of policy design, development, and evaluation.

Professor Nick Pearce is a former Head of the No. 10 Downing Street Policy Unit and special adviser in a number of government departments and brings the experience of policymaking at the highest levels of Whitehall to his teaching. During his career, he has also led a major UK think-tank, worked with government-backed ‘what works’ centres and served on numerous policy advisory bodies.

“It is great to be in a position where my diversity of experience can now inform teaching and learning on this MSc.”


Professor Nick Pearce, Director of The Institute for Policy Research

Professor Harry Rutter is another prominent academic delivering the course, bringing an extensive track record of policy engagement into his teaching. Among many other roles, he co-chaired a SAGE sub-group and attended the main SAGE during the COVID-19 pandemic; established and led the National Obesity Observatory; and was a senior policy advisor to Public Health England.

In addition to his roles in the UK, his work on complex systems approaches to public health research, policy, and practice has been highly influential with the World Health Organisation at both European and global levels.

Throughout the course, instructors place equal importance on both theory and practice, and assessments have been designed specifically to test students’ ability to apply their knowledge in a real-world context.

Moreover, the programme regularly invites guest lectures from senior decision-makers, leading public policy intellectuals, former Ministers, and Permanent Secretaries – drawing on the extensive networks and public events programmes of the Institute for Policy Research. Such events, which bring together graduate students and experts from across the university, provide individuals with an unprecedented opportunity to expand and shape their professional networks.

A tailored approach to distance learning

Freedom to shape the MPP to individuals’ own requirements is a core mission of the programme. In the final year of the programme, students are given the opportunity to investigate a policy issue directly related to their own field of work or alternatively a contemporary policy topic of interest. Alongside a dissertation, the programme offers an alternative option in the shape of a Public Policy Portfolio, allowing students to develop and apply public policy tools to a real-life scenario.

"I particularly liked the public policy portfolio option within the degree, which was really different from any other course I saw anywhere in the country. I knew I wanted to do something more applied, and this course was going to stretch me and test me in ways that would be relevant to the path that I'm on."

An opportunity to stand out from the crowd

The MPP programme at the University of Bath offers students an opportunity to invest in their careers and develop the knowledge, skills, and capabilities for successful and rewarding public policy careers, whether in the UK or beyond. The course structure is particularly suited to professionals who wish to balance their work with high-quality postgraduate training, enriching their current jobs while creating new opportunities for their career development.

Course details

  • Two years part-time, starting in September 2023
  • Taught through interactive online seminars and intensive residentials on campus
  • Application deadline: 31 July 2023

Find out more about the course and apply online at

About the author

Ricky Kanabar portrait

Dr Ricky Kanabar is Associate Professor of Social Policy at the University of Bath


HR Policy
Share this page