If you have any queries

Applicants should read the link below on "how to apply" carefully, as well as the information available on this web page and in the general postgraduate sections.  Queries should only be directed to the department if you have not been able to source the information online.  Please direct any queries to the postgraduate administrator, and not to the programme convener.

Application tip for Master's students:  Many applicants struggle to find the coursework PPA programme on the UCT application system.  Remember, the PPA Coursework Master's programme is an M Phil degree.  If you select the MA or MSocSci, you won't find the PPA specialisation!  Also, do not select the Master of Public Administration (MPA) if you are planning on doing the coursework Master's in PPA - the MPA degree is a pure research degree and has different entrance requirements.

Programme Objectives

Master’s Programmes in Public Policy and Administration (PPA) has two main objectives:

  • Firstly, the programme is designed to engender in its students the capacity to think objectively and analytically about the policy process;

  • Secondly, it aims to provide students with a theoretical and empirical understanding of comparative and South African public administration.

Furthermore, the programme aims to help students become more effective as policy makers, public servants, researchers or policy analysts. We are also interested in developing the next generation of public policy and administration scholars.

Students studying for MPhil over two years will explore, inter alia, the academic analysis of public policy, the role and limitations of professional policy analysis, changes in the character of public management and administration, and comparative public administration. In addition, students acquire skills in research methods, and develop knowledge of a specific aspect of policy making or public administration in contemporary South Africa in a chosen 'field of concentration'. After completing an Honours project that surveys academic literature and policy experience in an area, students who proceed to Master’s will have the opportunity to work on a minor dissertation in their designated field. The programme is also open at Master’s level to students with appropriate academic backgrounds.

Admission requirements

For admission to the MPhil programme, students must have successfully completed an Honours degree. Students should have a background in economics, public administration, politics, African Studies, law, gender studies, philosophy, the social sciences or related disciplines.

Please note that admission to our programme is highly competitive and not all applicants will be accepted.

Structure of the Masters degree


MASTER’S (192 Credits)



Public Policy or AEO


Public Management


Policy Evaluation & Implementation (or other appr subj)




Approx 12.5%

Approx 12.5%

Approx 12.5%

Approx 12.5%


 (AEO = approved elective option)

 Core Courses (CC)

Course Code Course Name Credits
POL5052F Public Policy  24
POL5049S Comparative Public Administration  24
POL5006F Public Management 24
POL5007S Policy Evaluation & Implementation  24


 Approved Elective Options (AEO)

Course Code Course Name Credits
AXL4203F/S* Public Culture in Africa 24
ECO4051F/S Development Economics 14
POL5049F/S Comparative Public Administration 24
POL4015F/S Local Government 24
POL5001F/S Comparative Politics 24
POL5007F/S Policy Evaluation and Implementation 24
POL5019F/S Public Sector Reform 24
POL5023F/S Political Behaviour and Research 24
POL5027F/S Public Administration Thought 24
POL5029F/S Political Ethics 24
POL5044F/S South African Politics 24
POL5046F/S Democratisation 24
SOC4010F/S Development Theories 12

*Note: depending on which semester these courses are offered in, the coursecode will be followed by an "F" or and "S", e.g. POL5007S

Subject to approval by the Convener, an elective offered by a cognate department may replace one or more of the above elective options (but not a programme core course).


Fields of Concentration

Research in the PPA programme (both for the Honours project and Master’s thesis) must be undertaken in the following fields:

  • Administrative corruption
  • Comparative public administration
  • Intergovernmental relations
  • Local government politics and administration
  • Macro-economic policy formulation in South Africa
  • Public administration theory
  • Public management
  • Public sector budgeting and budget reform
  • Public sector reform
  • Regulation
  • Utility regulation


Applied research

The PPA programme maintains an active portfolio of applied research which often creates opportunities for postgraduate students to participate through paid research assistantships.

Some of the applied research that we’ve undertaken in the past includes:

  • A study looking at the institutional arrangements in metropolitan local governments for promoting policy co-ordination in the water sector, in collaboration with the Urban Water Management Group (Engineering faculty) at UCT (2011-present)
  • Submission to the National Planning Commission on the institutions and governance chapter of the National Development Plan, in collaboration with the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, UCT Law Faculty (2011)
  • A study on performance management in the Department of Labour (2011-12)
  • A study reviewing policy co-ordination mechanisms in South Africa and internationally (2012)
  • A study on the institutional risks associated with financial misconduct/corruption in the public sector (2012 – present)
  • Research for a book chapter on politicisation in the public service


 What kind of work are former students doing?

 Former PPA postgraduates have gone on to work in a variety of settings, which include:

  • Private sector and non-profit research institutes focusing on governance and public sector management
  • University-based research institutes
  • Government agencies at both the national and provincial levels
  • Students have pursued further postgraduate education at other South African universities and universities abroad