Core Curriculum

students together at a table

The MPP's core curriculum consists of modules focusing on the areas Policy Analysis, Administration and Management, and Methods. These modules are mandatory.

Policy Analysis Modules (1st and 2nd semesters)

Building on the interdisciplinary approach of the Brandt School, these modules include an introduction to public policy as a discipline as well as methods and concepts from other disciplines, which are useful when analyzing public policy. This part of the core curriculum comprises three modules and lays the foundation for the upcoming semesters:

Introduction to Public Policy (1st semester)

Introduction to Public Policy is the entry point to the study of Public Policy at the Brandt School. This module introduces students to the "art and science" of policy analysis, the policy cycle and to (the history of) Public Policy as a discipline. It takes place in the first semester and consists of the lecture "Introduction to Public Policy", a tutorial devoted to learning the relevant academic tools and a module examination.

Introduction to Public Policy focuses on theory and methods of policy analysis and offers a general overview of the theoretical background, issues, actors and processes involved in the analysis, formulation and assessment of public policy. It also provides the basic analytical toolkit for both the subsequent curriculum as well as for further professional practice. The course reflects the distinctive approach to the study of public policy at the Brandt School and is based on a multi-disciplinary approach. In addition to selected texts that have defined the field, the course uses practical case studies devoted to a range of policy problems.

Economic Policy Analysis (1st semester)

This module takes place in the first semester. Depending on their previous knowledge of Economics, students choose one out of two lectures, "Economic Policy Analysis" or "Microeconomics I: Game Theory", and complete a module examination. 

Economic Policy Analysis
"Economic Policy Analysis" introduces micro- and macro-economic concepts and tools needed to analyze public policy problems and to evaluate policy alternatives and decisions. The scope of the course covers economic data analysis for decision-making, forecasting, demand analysis, pricing, and cost analysis; topics include market structure, cost and production, international trade and finance, national income determination, and monetary and fiscal policy. 

Microeconomics I: Game Theory
"Microeconomics I: Game Theory" introduces the basic concepts of non-cooperative game theory. Special emphasis is put on applications to political and social sciences. The course examines game theoretical models and economic theories of individual and collective decision-making. Students should have a basic background in mathematics and statistics.

Comparative and International Public Policy (2nd semester)

This module takes place in the second semester and consists of the seminar "Comparative and International Public Policy" and a module examination. The course equips students with an understanding of theoretical frameworks and methodologies in order (1) to analyze and compare public policies and politics across a variety of national and sub-national contexts and (2) to analyze and learn how to shape international and global policy processes.

Public Administration and Management Modules (1st to 3rd semester)

In this part of the core curriculum, students learn about the organization, mission and management of public institutions, from the classic conception of Public Administration to New Public Management and Entrepreneurial Government. Students also acquire an understanding of the normative dimension of political and public office and institutions and train their leadership competences to be qualified for ethicial leadership in the public sector. 

This part of the core curriculum offers a comprehensive introdution to public sector management, including the management of public finances. Students develop an understanding of the key issues of managing public service provision and of how to make sound policy decisions within the limits of financial budgets and offer public goods at low cost and high quality. 

Public Administration and Finance (1st semester)

This module takes place in the first semester and consists of a lecture and a module examination. It introduces students to Public Administration, from the classic conception of public administration (Max Weber) via organizational theory, organizational change and governance to New Public Management and entrepreneurial government. 

The contemporary management revolution in the public sector that is driven by political, economic, technological and cultural forces has led to a re-evaluation of the role of public administrators. The state has lost the monopoly for creating public value, globalization has exposed public value creation processes to new competitive pressures, and new collaborative technologies are enabling new “business” models and strategies. After framing the issue analytically, the course draws out their implications for the public manager. The course discusses contracting as a new form of managing public administration, develops a sensibility for the accountability issues involved, and proposes policy entrepreneurship as a guiding model to strategically manage public value creation processes in multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder policy networks. 

Part of the course is dedicated to the management of public finances. It introduces the basic principles of public finance and financial management in the public sector. Students will learn about analytical tools of financial planning, implementation and monitoring. This part of the course begins with an overview of the history and development of public finance. The role of the state and the theoretical justifications for state intervention will be discussed as well as public finance and public sector budgeting, always including the discussion of methodological, theoretical an empirical approaches. The main topics addressed are: welfare state economics, social insurance, public choice theory, public goods, externalities, taxation, (public) budgeting and cost-benefit analysis.

Management and Leadership (2nd semester)

Being able to  analyse complex situations is an indispensable task for future leaders but one must also develop the personal skills to implemenet solutions. This module combines management and personal skills which are necessary for leadership functions in the public sector. It takes place in the second semester and consists of a lecture and a module examination. 

The course delves into the theory and practice of public sector management, with a focus on strategic management. It introduces students to a variety of analytical techniques useful for policy implementation and managing organizational performance. 

Strategic management in public administration involves defining public value, mobilizing legitimacy and support for that value, and developing and deploying the operational capacity to deliver it. By the end of the course, students are able to diagnose an organization’s strategic position and develop a plan for improving its performance; they should also be able to understand the organizational factors likely to affect a given policy’s implementation and to adjust policy design to produce a better outcome.

Related to that, leadership is the ability to influence a group of people towards a goal. Students will improve their leadership capacities through practice, reflection and feedback.

Ethics in the Public Sector (3rd semester)

This module takes place in the third semester and consists of the seminar "Ethics in the Public Sector" and a module examination. The aim of public policy is to advance the public interest and produce public goods. Sometimes it is, however, not obvious what constitutes the public interest. This course discusses the ethical issues and moral dilemmas within the public sector, for example, regarding the production and consumption of public goods. It focuses on a set of modern attempts to answer these problems and questions. 

The course examines the normative dimension of government, administration and politics (individual freedom, collective decision-making and electoral systems, distributive justice, competitive distribution of goods) as well as of international politics (peace, war, poverty, inequality) and international distributive justice. Students learn to reflect political and public action with regards to ethical aspects. They examine normative requirements expeted of political and economic institutions and their representatives with respect to public and private goods, personal virtues, legality and legitimacy, finances and taxes. They are thus capacitated to represent public and societal interest.

Methods Modules (2nd and 3rd semesters)

In this part of the core curriculum, students learn about research design and research methods in order to be able to independently plan and carry out a research project in the framework of their Master thesis. The courses provide comprehensive introductions into quantitative empirical approaches to policy analysis and widely used qualitative or mixed-method approaches (e.g. surveys, interviews, Qualitative Comparative Analysis). 

Quantitative Methods (2nd semester)

This module takes place in the second semester and consists of a lecture "Quantitative Methods for Public Policy" and a module examination. It provides a comprehensive introduction into quantitative empirical approaches to policy analysis. The course shows how empirical research is carried out and how it can become the base of policy decisions and policy evaluation, and introduces the most widely used quantitative research methods and designs. It covers topics such as descriptive statistics, probabilities, inferential statistics, correlation and regression analysis. Students become aware of the potentials and limitations of quantitative methods and can critically evaluate statistics and quantitative studies and their results.

Advanced Methods (3rd semester)

Taking place in the third semester, this module consists of a lecture “Advanced Methods” and a module examination. Students consolidate their competencies in research design and research methods in order to be able to independently plan and carry out a research project in the framework of their Master thesis in the following semester. To that end, they will advance their methodological skills in quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods, as well as research design.


Students complete the MPP program by writing a Master thesis. They research and analyze a specific problem in public policy in depth. Aided by a colloquium and assisted by a supervisor, students conduct a study with a distinct practical orientation on a particular policy issue.

The usual length of the thesis is 25.000 words. The time frame for completion is five months.

Below you find some examples of topics of master’s theses submitted to the MPP Examinations Committee in the past.

Global Public Policy

  • The Human Rights Impacts of the Energy Transition in Africa
  • Climate Change Related Emotions and Pro-Environmental Actions
  • Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms and Policy Compliance
  • Attitudes Towards Renewable Energy in Non-OECD Countries
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor’s role as a geoeconomic rival to Belt and Road Initiative
  • European Neighbourhood Policy and Democratic Development in Eastern Partnership Countries
  • Exploring Variation in Carbon Pricing Regulations in Canada. A Comparative Case Study of Ontario and Quebec
  • Financing the Energy Transition. Determinants of Renewable Energy Investment in Developing Economies

Development and Socio-Economic Policy

  • Labour Market Integration of Refugees in Germany
  • Impact of Poverty and Inequality on Child Education in Developing Countries
  • The Potential of Assistive Technology in the Practice of Inclusive Education
  • Financial Savings Behavior. Examining the Role of Culture and Policy Implication
  • Microfinance: A Small Step or a Quantum Jump? Analysis and Findings from the Women-led Self-Help Groups
  • The Impact of Financial Liberalization on Economic Growth. A Fixed Effect and Generalized Method of Moment Analysis
  • Initiatives fostering technological Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: A way to boost innovation in Africa?
  • The Role of Family Planning in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Pakistan. Good Health, Wellbeing and Gender Equality

Conflict Studies and Management

  • Small Arms Control and the Continuity of Gender-based Violence
  • Mental Health and Armed Conflict in Colombia
  • Arts-Based Approaches to Transitional Justice
  • Diasporas and Intra-State Conflict: Examining the Influence of Host Countries. Kurdish Diaspora Activism During the European Migration Crisis
  • Hybrid Warfare in Ukraine. Applying Mearsheimer’s Offensive Neorealism to Explain the Case of Ukraine
  • The Impact of Transnational Organized Crime in Germany. A Study of the Italian Mafia and Clans of Middle Eastern Origin
  • Indigenous Communities and Land Rights. Conflict between state law and customary law in the Philippines?
  • On the Brink of Escalation. Framers-Herders Conflict in Nigeria

Non-Profit Management and Social Entrepreneurship

  • Identifying Patterns of Corruption in Public Procurement in Ecuador
  • Advocacy Strategies of Environmental NGOs
  • Human Rights and Culture. The Fight for the Girl Child against Female Genital Mutilation in Ghana
  • The Impact of Behavioural Aspects on Micro and Small Firms’ Performance in Developing Countries. An Analysis of Panel Data from Uganda
  • Institutional Complexity, Environmental Context and Social Entrepreneurship in Ghana. The Influence of Institutional Context on Social Entrepreneurship
  • Politisches Spitzenbeamtentum in den neuen Bundesländern: Ein abgeschlossener Transformationsprozess?
  • The Relation between Non-Governmental Organizations and Law Enforcement Agencies in the Combat against Wildlife Crimes and Corruption. The Case of the Natural Resource Conservation Network

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(Willy Brandt School of Public Policy)
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