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Course Directory > Postgraduate (taught) > MPA International Development - MPA/ID
(Harvard University)
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Course Type: Postgraduate (taught)
Training Provider: Harvard University
School/Institute/Dept./Centre: Kennedy School of Government (KSG)

The Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) is designed to prepare the next generation of leaders in international development.  It is an economics-centered, multi-disciplinary program, combining rigorous training in analytical and quantitative methods with an emphasis on policy and practice.

Each academic year, a class of about 65 students enrolls in this selective program.  Geared to the future development practitioner rather than the future scholar or teacher, the MPA/ID is taught with intense rigor and quality.  Both U.S. and international candidates are considered for admission.  Applicants must demonstrate competence in economics and quantitative analysis and the potential for leadership in international development.  Although the MPA/ID program occasionally accepts applicants directly from undergraduate colleges and universities, most admitted candidates have between three and five years of work experience in government, central and regional banks, international development institutions, non-governmental organizations, or private businesses.

By creating this program, the Kennedy School has established a new career path towards leadership positions in international development.  Existing programs emphasize either high-level technical training (as in master's and PhD programs in economics) or professional training (as in master's programs in international affairs or public administration).  The MPA/ID combines the two approaches.

Our students graduate with the analytical and technical skills that one expects of economics PhD students, as well as deep immersion in the problems and institutional realities of developing countries that excellence in this field requires.

Required coursework:
The first year as well as a portion of the second year is dedicated to courses especially designed for this program, which introduce students to the main economic, quantitative, political, and managerial tools needed by analysts and leaders in the area of development.  The rigorous core of required courses includes:

  • Advanced Microeconomic Analysis I & II
  • Advanced Macroeconomics for the Open Economy I & II
  • Advanced Quantitative Methods I: Statistics
  • Advanced Quantitative Methods II: Econometrics
  • Economic Development: Theory, Policy and Evidence
  • Legal and Political Institutions in Development
  • Policies, Programs and Practice: Managing the Development Process
  • Good Governance and Democratization
  • Case Workshop in International Development I & II

Elective Coursework:
The goal of the second year of the MPA/ID is to broaden the students' knowledge in the field and to deepen their understanding of a major area of development practice.  In this year students are given wide latitude to choose electives.  Students develop the ability to apply the theoretical and empirical tools learned in their first-year core courses to a policy track which they have chosen based on their professional and career interests.  The three policy tracks are:

1. National and international economic policies
2. Private sector development and its regulation
3. Sector policies and programs, including:
    - Sustainable development: environmental policy, natural resource management, and infrastructure
    - Social policy: poverty, health, education, and community development
    - Global governance, conflict, and human rights
    - Science and technology

Additional electives may be chosen from the broad array of courses available at the Kennedy School, which vary from year to year, but typically include microfinance, the informal sector, gender issues, conflict resolution, the role of NGOs, social organizations, sustainable development and the management of local natural resources, capital market reform, central banking, and international security.

Summer Internship:
In order to gain professional experience, students will spend the summer between their first and second years working on a development project, usually in a developing or transitional economy country, with a resident advisor, as part of an experienced team.  Students may arrange their own internships or select from project descriptions from participating agencies.

Final Project: the SYPA
All students must complete the Second Year Policy Analysis (SYPA), which is an integral part of the MPA/ID program.  Designed to serve as the student's final "thesis," the SYPA offers students the opportunity to apply the skills acquired during the program and integrate their learning from the core courses while investigating a policy problem of their choosing.  The SYPA is intended to provide a conceptualization and analysis of a policy problem, recommendations for action, and an assessment of the implementation of those recommendations.  For many students, it is also an opportunity to extend and deepen the work undertaken during the summer internship.  The definition of the research agenda, collection of data, quantitative and qualitative analysis, development of conclusions, and writing of the final paper will be supervised by the student’s SYPA advisor and the SYPA instructor.

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Course Details

Entry Requirements:
Applicants from all over the world with academic qualifications from any country are eligible to apply. The only formal requirements include a bachelor\'s degree and completion of four university courses: microeconomics, macroeconomics, calculus, and multivariate calculus. Professional experience is not an absolute requirement, but we encourage applicants to apply after they have a minimum of 2 to 3 years of professional experience. When evaluating an application, the Admissions Committee looks for:

• Strong academic record, including good grades in economics and mathematics courses.
• Required prerequisite courses, including at least one college level course in each Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, and two college level courses in Calculus, including Multivariate Calculus. Linear Algebra is desirable, but not required.
• Demonstrated commitment to the field of international development and compelling evidence of professional potential in the field. While work experience is not an absolute requirement, development work often serves to demonstrate this commitment. Although the Admissions Committee occasionally accepts applicants directly from their undergraduate studies, most admitted candidates have between three and five years of professional experience, preferably in a development-related field.
• Strong recommendations from academic and professional recommenders who know you well and can comment on the qualities needed for this program.
• Competitive GRE or GMAT quantitative section score. In general, candidates who score in the top 80th percentile and above on the GRE or GMAT quantitative section are most competitive for admission.
• For applicants whose native language is not English, evidence of fluency in English as demonstrated by a minimum TOEFL score. A minimum score of 600 (paper-based test), 250 (computer-based test), or 100 (internet-based test) is required.

Please note that simply meeting the criteria above does not guarantee admission. The MPA/ID Program receives many more applications from candidates than can be admitted. All aspects of each application are carefully considered, and offers of admission are made to the strongest candidates.

Course Duration:
21 months (including summer internship) Full-time study in residence only

Language(s) of Instruction:
  • English

Mode of Study:
  • residential

Thematic Focus:
  • Development Administration
  • Development Economics
  • Development Finance
  • Development Management
  • Development Policy
  • Development Studies
  • Environmental Issues
  • Governance
  • Participatory Approaches
  • Poverty Analysis
  • Project Planning
  • Rural Development
  • Social Policy and Development
  • Urban Studies and Planning

  • USA

Town(s) or City(ies):
Cambridge, MA

Course fees:
Please see website.

Scholarships & Awards:
KSG itself offers limited funding. Please see the website for details.

Further Funding Information:

Course's Webpage:

Kennedy School of Government (KSG)
Training Provider: Harvard University
Contact Telephone: +1 617 495 2133
Courses: 1
The institution known today as the John F. Kennedy School of Government traces its roots back to 1936, when the Graduate School of Public Administration was established at Harvard through a $2 million gift from Lucius N. Littauer (AB 1878). At the time it was the largest single gift from an individual donor ever given to the university. With faculty drawn from the economics and government departments, the new school welcomed its first students in 1937, launching a one-year Littauer Fellowship program, which later grew to become the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration Program (MC/MPA).

Two decades later, the program grew to include the Mason Fellows — comprised of emerging leaders from developing countries. By the mid-1960s, faculty began to develop a public policy curriculum based more in economics and analytic studies than on the management principles of traditional public administration. This grew into the two-year Master in Public Policy Program (MPP), which accepted its first students in 1969. 

About the same time, Harvard University sought to establish a memorial to the late President John F. Kennedy. Under the leadership of faculty, the Institute of Politics (IOP) was established by friends and Kennedy family members to serve as a bridge between the academic study of government and the real world of politics.

Harvard’s Graduate School of Public Administration was renamed in honor of President Kennedy in 1966, but it wasn’t until 1978 when, under the leadership of Dean Graham Allison, the Kennedy School settled into its current home. The Master in Public Administration (MPA) program, the Master in Public Policy (MPP) program, and the IOP were brought together under one roof in the newly constructed Littauer Center, marking a new era in public service education at Harvard and in the United States. 

In the 1990s, Kennedy School faculty working on the problems of developing countries around the world began to realize that their field required a new kind of professional training. To be successful, development professionals had to combine expertise in economic analysis with a multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems, drawing on political science, management, sociology, history, and other disciplines, as well as professional skills. In response, the School in 1999 launched a new degree program, the Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID), specially designed to train the next generation of leaders in this growing field.  

In 2003, the Kennedy School Forum — which has hosted countless famous and influential figures from all walks of public life — was renamed the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.

Today the Kennedy School has evolved into one of the world’s most eminent social science research institutions – housing 15 research centers and institutes and more than a dozen executive education and degree programs – with worldwide reach and influence. More than 27,000 Kennedy School alumni reside in 137 countries and serve in a wide range of positions in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

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