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Why not to attend University of Toronto's School of Public Policy and Governance for your Master of Public Policy
seriousjane1990 posted a topic in Government Affairsthe working title for this article, before I ran out of steam and insights, was "how incompetence and greed have spawned yet another fruitless policy degree" I am a recent graduate of UofT’s School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG), and I am unemployed. I cannot tell you how public policy is formulated (I do know it is generally a governmental response to something), or how to write it (charts are important but who knows how to make those). I could not pick the best public policy document out of a stack and tell you it was the most feasible (I would probably choose the one with the most charts, and jargon). For the two-year all-in price tag of $35,000 (the most expensive public policy program in the country), here is what I can tell you: income inequality is rising in Canada, Canadians are having less children, immigrants are great for the economy, many public policies reflect the interests of certain groups, “program evaluation” is a field which exists although no one understands it, an opportunity cost refers to the savings realized by not doing something, the Ontario Public Service is one of the largest and best employers in the country, and I think that about covers it. In other words, I would equate the SPPG MPP education to regularly following articles in the Globe and Mail. The program suffers from a myriad of issues which are mainly due to choices made by SPPG administration and the University of Toronto, and few of which are due to the larger challenges plaguing higher education in Western Nations. Most significantly, SPPG itself is not its own department within UofT, which from my understanding, significantly curtails its autonomy and authority in deciding how it is run. When the program doubled its cohort in size from 40 to 80 students at only a few years since its inception, despite its obvious growing pains and shaky foothold within the Ontario public policy landscape, that was probably a decision made out of greed at higher levels of UofT’s administration. The Munk School of Global Affairs incidentally suffered the same fate. This is the first way in which greed has negatively impacted students of the program. The second way in which greed has affected the program, is through the decision to have it structured as a two year offering, rather than one (such as the $9,000 program at Ryerson which boasts higher graduate placement rates, or the $7,000 program at Queens which acts as a feeder program to the federal as well as provincial government). While a two year professional program could certainly be designed to benefit students, through more in-depth training of skills actively sought by employers (including actual quantitative analysis, project management, and report-writing) SPPG uses its two years as a cash-cow of billings for professors from other faculties, which peddle lukewarm and at times clearly out-of-touch mandatory courses including: “Ethics in the Public Sector”, “Legal Analysis in Public Policy”, “Comparative Public Policy”, “The Social-Context of Policy-Making”, and finally the disturbingly impractical “Capstone” final course. The third way in which greed has affected the program, is through its annual appointment of high-level public sector “fellows” such as former Premier Dalton McGuinty, Ontario Public Service head Peter Wallace, and Liberal MP Bob Rae. SPPG finances the sponsoring of these individuals, which may make the occasional speech at program events, or teach the odd session, on the backs of its students. The program’s tuition rises yearly by around $1000, another appointment is made, the school attracts attention and higher enrolment due to the fellowship appointment, and the actual cohort receives zero benefit. The pristine, empty offices of the fellows (which all reside on the top floor of the Canadiana building) are surely a sting to the program’s actual professors as well, which reside in the basement, four floors down. And for those who might think that fellows bring with them a network of connections to which students can access, or short-cuts to employment, let me assure you no such benefit exists at all. Dalton was all smiles at the orientation and kick-off to the fall 2015 orientation of the program, but come May 2016, he was nowhere to be seen. Speaking of the program’s professors, SPPG’s non-departmental status has had much more insidious effects on its cohort than its current bloated size (future students: prepare for “seminar” courses with 20+ students in boardrooms which require you to take seats against the edge of the room, or lecture courses in UC which require you to ask professors if they would refrain from writing at the bottom of the whiteboard, since it is challenging to see from 10+ rows back). The most negative effect of SPPG’s current status has been on its faculty recruitment. Most of the professors at the school have no experience in government whatsoever. As such, the MPP degree is more accurately described as an extension of an undergraduate degree in political science, rather than the “professional degree” which it touts to be. For evidence of this, look no further than the program’s recent appointment of its new director, Peter Loewen, an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. The University claims Loewen was selected after an international recruitment campaign, but having read his exclusively academic credentials, and complete lack of public sector or policy development experience, such claims due a poor job at covering the fact that the organization of UofT has found a nice nesting spot for one of its own – to the detriment of MPP students. The recruitment of Peter Loewen is reflective of another dysfunctional trend at the program, faculty departures. The two year period 2014-2016 saw the departure of the founding director Mark Stabile (unfortunately founding administrator Anita Srinivasan did not follow suit), former Mowat Centre director Matthew Mendelsohn (one of the only professors at the school with actual public policy experience), etc. Loewen’s first official act himself as new Director of SPPG speaks volumes about the kind of policy school SPPG is, for it was to take sabbatical at Princeton University. Turning to curriculum, perhaps the greatest failure of the program is its lack of professional development, or teaching of hard skills. To this end, the program offers one 3-hour workshop on writing a briefing note, and a few optional introductory type courses on Excel and data-visualization software Tableau. Upon graduating, you will not have a portfolio of professional work that any public or private sector employer will be impressed by during an interview. You will have a handful of academic papers with proper citations. If in the event I have not persuaded you to not attend SPPG. Maybe because the glowing call of “University of Toronto” is enough to overshadow the money you’ll save, and real employer-sought skills you will learn elsewhere – I will end with some final remarks on how to best navigate the program, based on observation and my own experience: Your job first and foremost, should be to network. There are no awards or employment opportunities for getting high marks on assignments. · All of the professional development events organized by the school are useless, in that their ratio of employer to SPPG student averages around 1:10. Strike out on your own, start by talking to professors and affiliated · The vast majority of graduates who find employment after graduating from the program are hired back on to their internship units from the previous summer.
Hello, Any other applicant(s) to the U of T MPP programme for fall 2016. I'm an international applicant, my status now shows 'under review'. Anyone know when they start making offers? I also applied to Carleton's MPPA and UBC's MPPGA.