A professional degree in public policy in India is a recent and a growing phenomenon but the western world has been offering professional courses in this area since the early 1950s. The demand for such courses in India has been rising steadily to match the growing need to engage qualified professionals to deal with issues related to governance, politics and social issues.
For far too long, we have had to rely on general management graduates but the growing economy and citizen accountability are forcing stakeholders to hire experts.
Let me offer a personal example. In 2010, when I graduated with a commerce degree, I was told that I have to work with a finance company. During my interview with a finance company, I was asked if I wanted to explore the issues related to the Indian education sector. However, when I wanted to dig deeper into the field of public policy, there was hardly any mentorship or professional course available.
I was told that such courses are best in a place like the U.S. Though I did my Master’s in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, it bothered me that India did not have an equivalent school that could combine the best of western frameworks with the Indian context.
Today, India has upped its game and we have over 10 schools offering some form of public policy education. Now the question is, how do you decide which school can cater to your needs and aspirations?
Choose a two-year full-time recognised Master’s course in public policy: Shorter and non-recognised courses often don’t provide the required depth to flourish in the sector.
One needs to have an option to do an internship, capstone project, skills shops as well as immersive trips in India and abroad to get a holistic understanding. Also, two years allows ample opportunities to network and build a solid community with your classmates.
Know the calibre and the experience of the people running the institution: A niche field such as public policy requires one to build networks and work with and through them. It is imperative to understand what networks the school will open during the two years.
Study the curriculum offered: Does the school teach western frameworks with an Indian context? Does it have industry-relevant and a futuristic curriculum? The curriculum must prepare the student for challenges he/she will face later. Does it teach subjects such as climate change, Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning, fundraising for non-profits, campaign management, communication for public policy, foreign policy... What are the specialisations being offered?
Do a cost-benefit analysis: Compare the cost of the degree at your top three choices against the quality offered here in two years. A degree at an Ivy League school can cost as much as ₹1.5 crores. If a school can offer quality education at around 1/10th of that, then it is reasonable.
Placements: Generally, the network and the kind of faculty you engage with over two years is a marker for placements. A solid board and an industry-linked faculty can make those vital introductions for a dream job.
Keep these pointers in mind and consider public policy education to pave way for a more developed and an inclusive India and world.
The writer is the co-founder of Kautilya School of Public Policy and the Founder of Citizens for Public Leadership.