The Master of Public Policy Program at UC Irvine is a two-year professional degree program. Students are required to complete 72 credits of graduate courses. In the first year, students will attend an introductory conference, participate in a workshop, and take seven core courses and two elective courses. In the summer after the first year, students will participate in a policy-relevant internship in an appropriate government, business, or non-profit setting. In the second year, students take three core courses and five elective courses. The core requirements of the program are listed below.

Core Courses:

Year One:

Year Two:


Course Descriptions:

Qualitative Methods and Public Policy
This course will provide students with the ability both to understand and evaluate policy information obtained through qualitative research methods and to employ these methods in their own research. The course will explore different methods of qualitative research and their use in illuminating and contributing to policy formulation, policy implementation, and policy effects. Among the methods to be investigated are the case study; ethnography, including participant observation; interviews, including structured and semi-structured interviews and focus groups; and discourse and image analysis. The course will explore the strengths and limitations of each of these methods as well as some of the debates pertaining to the use of each. It will also examine the epistemological bases for choosing various methods.

Statistical Methods for Public Policy
This course introduces students to methods of analyzing and interpreting experimental and survey data. It covers material about the way in which data are collected (experiments versus observational studies), analyzed, and interpreted. Statistical methods discussed include estimation and testing for two sample comparative studies, simple and multiple linear regression and correlation, analysis of variance, categorical data techniques and other approaches used in the analysis of policy-related issues and problems. The focus is on application of the techniques and interpretation of the results. The importance of checking the adequacy of assumptions for each technique is also emphasized.

Information and the Policy Process
Data serve many purposes including informing, justifying and legitimizing the policy process. Such information comes from a variety of sources, and is packaged in many different ways. Its circulation is channeled, facilitated and impeded through an assortment of mechanisms. This course critically evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of both the methods (qualitative and quantitative) and the data used in making public policy claims. It looks at the bases of certain widely accepted measures of poverty, growth, environmental quality and the like. It examines the sources of information including think tanks, policy analysis, and science, and how and where in the governing process information generated by various sources is received and used. It also considers how cultural norms affect the type of information generated across countries, political groups, and other social or jurisdictional boundaries. Finally, it uses the analytic and critical tools developed in this and prior methods courses to evaluate the state of current knowledge on particular public policy issues.

Microeconomics and Public Policy
Microeconomics for public policy analysis focuses on the impact – intended or not – that public policies have on the functioning of markets. This class introduces the fundamental principles of microeconomics that are required for applied policy analysis. How do consumers and producers make decisions on what to buy and on what and how much to produce? Under which conditions does the interaction between buyers and sellers in markets maximize economic surplus? When the market fails to maximize surplus, how can policy remedy such market failures? What is the effect of policies that aim to redistribute surplus? Is there a risk for policy failure? In tackling these issues, the microeconomic approach emphasizes the importance of incentives for explaining economic agents’ behavior: when designing public policy, it is imperative to consider how consumers and producers are likely to respond to it – neglecting to do so may undermine policy effectiveness. The applicability of the framework will be illustrated with examples from past and current policy, in fields such as health care, poverty, the environment, transportation, housing, and others. The class aims to provide students with an intuitive understanding of the microeconomic approach, and to familiarize them with concepts used in applied public policy analysis. While we emphasize concepts rather than technique, we will rely on formal reasoning using basic mathematics. Where necessary, techniques will be explained in the class, making it self-contained.

Policy Processes and Institutions of Governance
This course explores the institutions that influence the adoption, formulation, and implementation of policies and the ways that they influence adoption, formulation, and implementation. It aims to provide students with general concepts of governance including but not limited to government structures that legislate, adjudicate and execute laws using the U.S. federal government as a starting point. In addition to formal governmental institutions, the course will discuss the influence of businesses, NGOs and other entities on public policy and structures such as markets and networks. These concepts of governance will be examined by exploring specific policy issues in specific contexts (e.g., health care in China; poverty in urban United States, etc.). While this course aims to provide students with general concepts of governance that apply in many different contexts, students will be asked to choose a particular context and apply the concepts to that particular context. For instance, students will be instructed about the role of the judiciary and executive branches in public policy, and will thus be responsible for understanding the judiciary’s and executive’s roles in particular policy arenas.

Collaborative Governance and Public Management
This course examines the roles of various actors in working together to implement ideas that have become policies. Policies are generally implemented through formal organizations. Occasionally one organization has responsibility for implementation, but increasingly implementation involves partnerships between organizations at different levels of governance, between organizations in the public, private and not-for-profit (or NGO) sectors, and between organizations and the public. Implementation and public management increasingly involves managing these partnerships. This course examines these intra- and inter-organizational aspects of policy implementation. Specific topics that are likely to be discussed include public relations and managing the press, stakeholder and SWOT analyses, civic engagement and deliberative democracy, community asset models, and relational perspectives on governance. This course utilizes case materials from a variety of policy contexts.

Social Mobilization, Power and Justice
This course focuses on citizen participation and collective action inside and outside of government institutions in the contemporary policy process. Through lobbying, electoral participation, social movements, and other forms of advocacy, citizens set the agenda for policymakers; this course examines why and how. General preferences about government action are less important in making policy than mobilized action. We will examine the circumstances under which policy advocates can mobilize public support and the broad range of means they use to do so, looking at participation in every phase of the policy process. The course also examines the various responses of government actors to outside pressures. Finally, we will examine a variety of strategies and policies that governments can use to invite citizen participation and promote democratic policymaking.

The Economics of Government
The course will cover three aspects of public policy, building on the introductory core microeconomics course. First, it will examine the economic effects of major policies, such as Medicare, Social Security, welfare, taxation, and environmental regulation. Second, it will present economic principles that affect the success or failure of many policies. These principles include credibility, commitment, incentive mechanisms, adverse selection, decision-making under uncertainty, and risk aversion. Third, it will consider issues that arise with multiple jurisdictions. The topics covered are fiscal federalism (deciding which functions should be assigned to which level of government), yardstick competition (how the presence of competing districts affects performance in each), migration of residents to jurisdictions which provide their preferred level of services and taxes, and the race to the bottom (which can arise when jurisdictions seek to attract wealthy residents or to attract firms which create jobs).

Policy and Ethics
This course focuses on policy and ethics in three ways. First, we examine the challenge of identifying ethical principles that can guide us in formulating and assessing public policy. What makes policy good and just? Does it matter? How do we assess these? Second, we explore the public policy process from an ethical perspective. Here we are concerned with the behavior of actors inside and outside of government, the ways in which institutional arrangements promote or inhibit ethical choices, and the divergent values advocated by government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in policy debates. Third, we consider the ethics of the individual engaged in the public policy arena. In particular, we explore, for example, the meaning of professionalism, the appeal to personal conscience in public decision making, the problem of “dirty hands,” and the ethics of exit, loyalty and dissent in hierarchically-structured institutions. The course will include theoretical and case readings that emphasize the United States but also consider the global arena.

Capstone Research Project and Briefing
The program concludes with a capstone seminar led by participating faculty members. These faculty members will offer a selection of seminars related to current research on significant contemporary policy problems. The topic covered will be the faculty member's choice and will be an engaging, significant problem. Each seminar will be selected to allow students to research all aspects of the policy process, including policy definition, support mobilization, policy design, implementation and organizational management and entrepreneurship. The seminar will be 2 quarters in length. Students will work in teams, as they are most likely to do in practice. Students will present their collective product to a public forum of faculty, students, policymakers, and other interested parties.