How to Evaluate Public Administration and Policy School

Choosing a public administration and policy school or program can be a difficult and time-consuming choice. At first you will need to make many decisions: whether you wish to pursue a degree, diploma or certificate; study on a full-time or part-time basis; what majors and areas of specialization interest you; how important special features such as co-op, international exchange and so forth are to your decision; and the importance of cost, location and other similar factors. Once you have decided on these, you will still need to undertake a significant exploration and consultation to focus your interests and choice of a public administration and policy school or program.

Here is a step-by-step process to help you evaluate each school or program:

  • Visit the school's or program's website. Most public administration and policy schools and departments provide detailed information about their programs - i.e., which degrees/diplomas/certificates are offered, amount of tuition and fees, admission requirements and intake times, student demographics, faculty qualifications, industry experience and research accomplishments, and more! Often the school's website will provide a "Q&A" or FAQ page which will answer the most common questions about it and its programs.


  • Visit the school. Many universities and colleges have "open days" where high school students are invited to tour the campus for a day. Campus visits allow you to learn things about the institution and its programs that might not be obvious from the school's or department's marketing materials, such as facilities, campus lay-out, transportation and how it feels to be on campus. If the university or college is in your home-town or nearby, you can always take an informal tour on your own and visit the admissions or departmental office to ask questions. Even if the university or college nearest you is not the one you are considering, an information-gathering visit can help you get a sense of what you are comparing your other choices to.


  • Speak with an academic advisor. Advisors have a thorough knowledge of the curriculum and study programs that can lend a perspective to your decisions, and sometimes lead you in new directions.


  • Research other sources of information. There is a wealth of things that you can do here:


    • If you know past graduates of the university, college, school or program, talk with them about their experiences while a student.


    • Search the Internet for information on awards and achievements bestowed on specific institutions and their programs -- competitions won, faculty honours, research grants, etc.


    • Do a library search for publications relating to the university, college or program. Public administration and policy schools and departments may publish academic journals or conference proceedings: these can be good indicators and examples of the school's or department's focus and quality.


    • Confirm which organizations have recruited graduates in the past and talk with their human resources departments to determine their satisfaction with the institution's graduates and programs, whether they continue to recruit from the university or college, and whether they value it over others on a regular basis.


    • Consult Facebook and other social networking sites that may provide testimonials and other student comments on specific public administration and public policy programs and the universities, colleges and schools that offer them.

    Then match these facts and figures against the public administration and policy schools and programs you are evaluating.

    Check out CampusStarter's database of Canadian Public Administration and Policy Schools and Programs