Master of in Research and Public Policy

Programme coordinator:

Dr. Denis Musinguzi


This is collaborative programme of 16 African universities from 9 countries on Capacity Building for Better Governance and Social Policy Research. The collaboration is aimed at contributing to stronger evidence based research on public policy that can have a positive impact on pro-poor development policies in Africa. It is noted that strong graduate programmes on public administration and public management are less focusing on public policy and none focusing on capacity building for research on/and public policy. This deficiency prompted to development of a programme that addresses the gap.  In view of this, the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) working with African universities initiated the design and implementation of the MRPP a specialized programme that combines research with the graduate teaching of public policy to generate graduates capable of first rate social science research, teaching and or utilizing research evidence as policy practitioners.

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Programme goal statement

The vision underpinning the MRPP is the value of strengthening the production of social science researchers so that they may contribute to public policy development in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was felt that a programme that provides for the development of competencies in research and public policy would generate a cadre of professionals able to work in a wide variety of settings including but not limited to government bodies, think tanks, civil society organisations, regional and international organisations, media and universities. MRPP graduates should be able to produce social science research that can contribute to public policy and good governance, and also be able to utilise research evidence in public policy development.

Eligibility criteria

The MRPP aims to attract a rich diversity of qualified students from undergraduates as well as early and mid-professionals seeking to build on their expertise. Uniform minimum eligibility criteria and a rigorous selection process will ensure that the students admitted into the programme are motivated, capable of coping with the demands of the programme and developing the required competencies. It will also help ensure that all MRPP universities are accepting students of similar quality.

To be considered a candidate for admission all applicants in all universities must meet the following minimum eligibility criteria:

  • Masters degree, or,

  • An Upper Second class Bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent GPA), or higher; or,

  • A Bachelor’s degree of a lower second class, and at least 2 years of work experience in a research or policy field, or a postgraduate diploma.

Graduate pathways

The MRPP programme architecture has been deliberately designed to enable graduates to develop competencies in one or other of the two career pathways as illustrated below. Interaction among students involved in both pathways will provide a richer learning experience for all. Many of the needed competencies for both pathways are identical. The programme architecture allows for each student to customise their learning experience through their choice of courses, field experience and thesis.

Although a student may pursue a middle “path”, their choices will eventually lean towards either the “research” or “policy” pathway.

  • A “research” pathway for students who are primarily interested in doing policy relevant research who may aspire to undertake advanced scholarship, teach in African universities and/or work in research in think tanks and other types of research organisations.

  • A “policy practice” pathway for students primarily interested in using research as policy practitioners who aspire to influence, inform or shape public policy, through work in national and sub-national government bodies, think tanks, advocacy organisations, media, private sector, regional or international organisations.

Expected learning outcomes

The design of the MRPP process started with Steering Committee agreement that the above competencies would involve each student demonstrating acquisition of:

  • Knowledge — specific things that a graduate should be able to demonstrate an understanding of but not necessarily have performed (e.g. the research courses will expose students to many different methodological approaches to social science research, but students may end up only using some methodologies in their respective group work or thesis);

  • Skills — specific techniques, capabilities and attributes that students should be able to demonstrate that they have actually performed by the end of the programme (e.g. collecting and analysing data related to a key public policy issue); and,

  • Experience — things that all students must have directly participated in prior to the end of the programme such as workshops, field experience, group projects (e.g. designing and executing consultation on a key public policy issue).


MRPP 301 Qualitative Research Methods for Public Policy

This course grounds students in qualitative methodology and methods for public policy. It falls into three parts. In the first part, students are introduced to key issues in methodological choice and research design. In the second part, students are introduced to, and gain practice in, some of the foundational methods of qualitative research. In the third part, they are taught about data coding and data analysis.

MRPP 302 Quantitative Research Methods for Public Policy

Effective formulation and implementation of public policy is significantly dependent on the quality of information, yet the proper use of statistics along with words makes communicating information much easier, faster and accurate than when words are used alone. This requires that public policy scholars and practitioners acquaint themselves with quantitative methods of collecting, analyzing and using data. This course is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the design, conduct, and data interpretation and reporting on research for public policy using statistics or numbers. It explores the philosophical foundations of quantitative research and their relevance for public policy; quantitative research approaches and designs that can be applied in policy studies; methods in survey research; data analysis and interpretation; critical reading of statistics; writing a research proposal; and reporting quantitative research findings for use in public policy formulation and implementation.

MRPP 303 Public Policy Development and Analysis

This is a core course for the programme. It is designed to equip students with the conceptual tools, knowledge, skills and competencies as well as empirical materials needed by policy practitioners and researchers in public policy areas. The course focuses on the key conceptual, theoretical and practical underpinnings of public policy development and analysis. It addresses the nature of public policy, its context, machinery, techniques and tools for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policy. Using a problems-oriented and a multidisciplinary synthesis approach, the course bridges the gap between theory and practice in public policy development and analysis.

MRPP 304 Governance and Politics Of Public Policy

Policy outcomes in Africa are fundamentally shaped by the landscape of governance and accountability. This course identifies the formal and informal institutions that populate that landscape, and explores how they interact to enable, constrain, or undermine modern policy-making. After an opening session in which students learn about the origins of African governance institutions and the ideas that animate them, the course is divided into two sections: formal and informal institutions. In the section on formal institutions, we map out the most salient formal organs like the executive, bureaucracy, military, civil society etc. In the section on informal institutions we examine phenomena like personal rule, clientelist networks, ethnic, religious, and generational movements. Each week the emphasis is on understanding the evolution of these institutions in country and comparative context, on grasping their implications for public policy, of analysing their different effects, and on understanding their relation to other institutions.

MRPP 305 Social Science Foundations of Public Policy

This course gives an overview of the major social science approaches used in the conduct of theory, research and real-world public policy. Social science is an umbrella term that refers to the plurality of disciplines that study society. They include anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, education, political science, political economy, public administration/public management, gender analysis, and, in some contexts, history, geography and law. These cannot be satisfactorily covered in one semester. To strike an acceptable balance between breadth and depth, this course will cover anthropology, sociology, gender analysis, political science, political economy, public administration/management and geography. These disciplines which, in important ways, inform governmental decisions and public resource allocations will be explored. The aim is to outline, for non-social scientists, the key disciplinary approaches that will enable both policy scientists and policy practitioners to contextualize the work they do.

MRPP 306 Economics for Public Policy

The course is meant to expose students to basic principles of economics. It introduces students to the economic issues that impinge on public policy. It is meant to provide students with economic principles and tools needed for policy analysis. It covers economic analytical tools that will help them to understand real world economic issues and problems that they can use to analyse the economic setting. It is meant to help students to understand tools used by economists to analyse the economy, and how they respond to economic issues. It also introduces students to how economists tackle public policy based on their way of thinking. In particular, it focuses on the economic issues that have been at the core of public policy debate in Africa. The course is organised in two components i.e. Micro-Economics and Macro Economics.

MRPP 307 Ethics in Research and Public Policy

This course will explore the range of ethical issues and choices that confront policy developers and researchers in order to develop skills in recognizing and resolving them. The course will begin with a discussion of the theories and conceptual frameworks related to ethics, values and morality, and how they apply to research and policy development. It will include a comparative review of the core principles, policies, legislative frameworks and international standards governing issues such as: confidentiality; protection of privacy; transparency and accountability; research with human subjects; external influence; and, anti-corruption frameworks.

The course will then focus on moral reasoning, designed to expose students to a wide variety of the moral conundrums that public officials and researchers confront. The analytical and case material we discuss should enable students to formulate well-reasoned, theoretically and empirically-based viewpoints on difficult and controversial research, public-policy and public management issues.

The course will review the academic literature on values and ethics in public service and research, examine some recent examples of apparent ethical lapses, and consider ways of dealing with ethical and value-based conflicts.

MRPP 308 Research, Policy and Public Interface

This course provides the opportunity for students in both pathways to be exposed to issues of research commissioning, design, development, and communication for public policy. It will focus on the interface between the research and policy communities and the wider public. Students will be exposed to leaders in these diverse communities, and there will be a strong emphasis on skills development.

MRPP 309 Gender, Social Diversity, Equity and Public Policy

One of the major challenges confronting public policy in modern times is how to overcome overt and subtle discrimination in the art of governance, economic growth and development. Among the several pathways to the realisation of this goal, the pursuit of tolerance of social diversity and the eradication of exploitation of one group by others remains a major focus. Understanding the political and civil rights of different social classes, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights provide the basis for the course on Gender,Social Diversity, Equity and Public Policy.

MRPP 310 Leadership and Public Policy

Public Policy making is deficient in many respects due to poor leadership skills and insufficient understanding of what is required for its successful implementation. This makes it important to expose students to the various successful strategies and frameworks employed by leaders in developing policies for its efficient management. This course is aimed at developing leadership skills towards the management of public policy. It is also aimed at promoting public policy that is fostered by enlightened and compassionate public leadership. The primary objective is to develop visionary leaders who can drive the policy innovation process and translate good ideas into concrete action. In addition, the course aims at developing students’ capacity to learn practical problem-solving skills and techniques drawing on concepts and frameworks from interdisciplinary areas; and how they can be applied to specialized areas including social policy, education, health, etc.

MRPP 311 Thesis Seminar

This course provides an opportunity for students in all pathways to present an outline of their research in progress and to receive feedback from instructors and peers.

At the end of the course students will have:

  • Received feedback on their thesis work in progress;

  • Practiced presenting a summary of their work in progress; AND,

  • Prepared quality theses.

MRPP 312 Advanced Qualitative Methods for Public Policy

This course consolidates training in the foundational qualitative methods taught in F1, and extends this training by providing knowledge and practice of additional qualitative methods, some of which are more specialised or more advanced. We believe that when taken in combination with F1, this course will expose students to a wider menu of qualitative research methods than can be found on existing qualitative methods courses in most universities. Nevertheless, as in F1, the main difference between this course and traditional qualitative research methods courses is not necessarily to be found in the menu of methods taught, but in the length of time devoted to practicum, and the focus in those practicum of applying research methods to public policy issues.The aim is to produce students who can really practice the methods they have been taught in class, and apply those methods to improving public policy.

MRPP 313 Advanced Quantitative Research Methods for Public Policy

Public policy research tends to involve studying a population that has great variability, yet the entire population cannot participate in the study. The immediate challenge that researchers face is how to accurately draw generalizations on the basis of limited samples. Thus, the degree of variability in a population significantly compromises the accuracy of any possible generalization; which raises the question of how to draw inferences about parameters from statistics. This course focuses on the use of inferential statistics to compare variables and make reasonable generalizations about populations on the basis of sample characteristics. Building on the contents of Quantitative Research Methods for Public Policy, the course covers the choice of appropriate method of data analysis; sampling distributions and hypothesis testing; correlation; regression analysis; statistical power; one-way and factorial analysis of variance; repeated-measures analysis of variance; chi-square test for analysis of frequency data; nonparametric and distribution-free statistical tests; and multilevel modelling.

MRPP 314 Applied Policy Analysis

This is a concentration course in the programme. Students taking this course will have taken Public Policy Analysis course which is one of the core courses for the programme. This course aims at enabling students to plan and execute policy analysis in the real world. Using a problems-oriented and a multidisciplinary synthesis approach, this course intends to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the public policy analysis function. In this course the students will use the theoretical and conceptual knowledge to perform policy analysis in real life situations. They will address practically public policy problems within their countries and communities by using their analytical skills and policy tools to identify or define solutions to public policy issues and problems. The students will work through practical exercises and cases dealing with various components in the policy cycle.

MRPP 315 Contemporary Issues in Public Policy

This course’s main goal is to examine contemporary issues of public policy and then explore the challenges that impact on the policy process. The course’s fundamental concern is that policy problems change over time and therefore it is critical to understand the dynamics of change in Public Policy. To this end, the objective of this course is to do in-depth analysis of current, real policy problems in a variety of different domains and then identify commonalities and differences in the analytical and developmental processes necessary to determine the range of possible policy interventions and their inter-dependence. As a result each contemporary issue will be selected and discussed as a cross-cutting issue against the dilemma of understanding public policy. Lastly, the course anticipates demonstrating the internalisation of knowledge by bridging the gap between theory and practice.

MRPP 316 Political Economy and Public Policy

This course builds on the foundational courses of Governance and Public Policy, Economics for Public Policy, and Foundational Social Science Approaches for Public Policy, in order to explore a specialised field of social science research – political economy – in some depth. Public policy design and implementation, whether it concerns economic growth, health, education, public security, or any other area of public interest, inevitably implies the mobilisation and utilisation of economic resources, including knowledge, manpower, and capital. Political economy approaches in general contend that the success or failure of public policies depends on political struggles, or the ability to neutralise political struggles, around these resources. However, there are a variety of different schools of political economy, each with its own view on which are the most salient types of actor, struggle and resources. In this course we will examine Marxist, neo-Weberian, and New Institutional approaches to political economy, acquiring expertise in their main analytical tools, and gaining an appreciation for their strengths and weaknesses in analysing different areas of public policy.

MRPP 317 Global Context of Public Policy

This course seeks to provide students with a critical understanding of the global context within which public policy is formulated, developed and implemented. Students will be exposed to the ideas of globalisation, the key state and non-state actors, and the political contests over the definition of “global” public policies. Why do some global policy issues (such as “terrorism” or HIV/AIDS) rapidly become “global” public policy problems while others (such as global income inequality) simply move in slow-motion? At the end of each topic, an attempt will be made to draw the implications of global public policy for policymaking in Africa.