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Perspectives on the MPhil in Public Policy: a view from the British Civil Service

Kate Owen, Head of Cross Government Business Engagement at the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office, gives her experience of the Cambridge MPP. She reflects on the skills it provided for her career in the British Civil Service.

In April 2013 I made what turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life: accepting a place on the first class of the Cambridge MPhil in Public Policy (MPP). I held offers from some of the world’s leading public policy programmes, but what attracted me to the Cambridge programme was the variety of subjects covered, the small class sizes and the opportunities on offer to a student at one of the world’s top universities.

The MPP gave me a diverse range of highly transferrable skills in areas such as public policy analysis, economics, philosophy, statistics and media. I joined the British Civil Service Fast Stream after the MPP, completing six month postings in a range of environments. For example, the MPP equipped me to work in the Department for Education on spending policy, the Department for Work and Pensions to advise the Secretary of State on labour market policy, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to run an inquiry into the FCO and human rights, and the Cabinet Office to run a Prime Minister chaired Cabinet Committee. The policy areas and tasks involved were different but the underlying skill sets required are very similar - the MPP unquestionably gave me these skills.

The MPP also broadened my network considerably. The small class sizes enable students to get to know each other well. I now have a large group of individuals around the world from my class (and those which followed) which I can call on when I’m grappling with a difficult issue. This has proved incredibly useful on countless occasions and is unparalleled in any other group I have known.

In my experience, graduates of the Cambridge MPP are not just high academic achievers, but have a strong commitment to public service and a genuine desire to support others in their journeys. Many alums all over the world (myself included) now host work placement students. We have been delighted to meet the latest members of the class and to support their next steps. The MPP has also given me the opportunity to encounter some of the world’s leading figures in public policy, including a dinner in November 2017 with Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand. 

Five years on from starting my MPP, I am confident it has served me well and will continue to do so in the future.