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MA in Public Administration: Graduate Profile – Neil O'Brien.

MA in Public Administration graduate Neil O'Brien

Can you please introduce yourself; can you explain why you chose the MA in Public Administration?

I chose this course as I had previously studied Government and Political science in UCC. I wanted  to specialize a bit further. I have always seen a public sector career or something to do government policy as my career direction, so I saw the MA as a way  of specializing in a more technical way. In my undergraduate degree it was mainly theory based. I saw the MA as the real-life application of the concept of public administration. I thought it would be great from an employability perspective post-graduation.

 

Why did you decide to study at UL?

I had a lot of friends who studied here and they spoke very highly of the University, they did engineering. I've always heard great things about the University and the campus. UL’s reputation is more practical in terms of employability and gaining “real-world” experience in comparison to some other courses I researched.  It was the unique nature of the course really that was attractive to me. So, it was those two aspects I’d say.

 

How did you find out about the course?

I searched for courses that fit my interests and I found the MA really appealed to me, like I said earlier it was that practical way of looking at public policy and public administration and  also the broad and varied nature of the content of the course that attracted me too.  It’s not just Public Administration modules that you study, you also engage with Economics, Law, Organization Behavior and things like that. Coming from a broad course, I wanted to maintain that and not completely go down one avenue.

 

What experiences/opportunities has it presented you with? (e.g., academic facilities, workshops, academic support, guest speakers)

The department runs weekly seminars where different guest lecturers present on different topics, the seminars are open to all students studying postgraduate programmes within the area of Politics and Public Administration. They were really varied and covered topics like, women studies, politics, Northern Ireland and much more. It was really interesting and was a great way way of stepping out your own course work and gaining new knowledge and perspectives. As part of the MA programme, there is a lot of group work, a lot of group presentations, things like that. This reflects what employers look for also, which is a great. The lecturers on the course are so accessible, it’s not a simple case of set office hours, they are very supportive of their students. You feel really valued and they put effort into supporting you.

 You feel really valued and they put effort into supporting you.

 

Can you provide an insight into how the course is delivered and how you are assessed?

Like I said earlier it's very broad in terms of lots of the different module subjects which don’t just focus on one discipline. The assessments were varied  and included group work, group assignments, class presentations and end of year exams. One of our modules had a discussion board, you’d go through your weekly work and show your own contribution and then discuss this point of view with your classmates, which was really insightful. It’s not the simple case of sitting in an exam hall and sitting a 3-hour exam, it varies a lot. The broad nature of the assessments reflects the broad nature of the course and I have to say I found it very engaging.

The broad nature of the assessments reflects the broad nature of the course and I have to say I found it very engaging.

 

How have you found some of the modules?

It’s a challenge, as you must apply yourself to different areas. Like I said the support is there, there are tutorials, there are a lot of readings. There’s no presumed expert knowledge. The workload reflects the expected skill level. You’re not being thrown in the deep end. You find you can connect different learnings in terms of Economics and Law and apply them to the core Public Administration concepts you would have learned too. It is designed well in that sense.

 

What else (other than course learning outcomes) have you gained from the course?

In terms of collaboration, you are with a group of people who are working or trying to develop themselves professionally. You find that you develop skills in academic and professional collaboration. I have found that I have  met some great people on this course  and I do feel that after I complete this programme I will have a network of professional contacts. You also find that you gain an understanding of other people’s work and skills, which is really beneficial.

 

What about the  future? How has/will this course improve your future career prospects and outlook?

Another positive about the course is I applied for a job 2 weeks ago and last week I was offered the job. I do think the MA was a huge part in getting the job. After this year and doing the MA programme, it has confirmed that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, I found the area I want to stay in. I think having a specific public administration postgraduate degree in a competitive sector is definitely a huge help post-graduation.

 

Would you recommend the programme to others? / Any advice/tips for prospective students of the course?

The lecturers are so open to emails, you can contact the department directly. One of the big questions I had was what’s the mix of students? I was concerned with it being such a professional course would I would need professional experience, and they got back to me very quickly and said it was a mix of professional students and those coming from Undergraduate degrees.. They are so open to answering any questions. If you want to progress or go into this specific area, I would definitely say it’s something to consider. There is no shortage of information from previous graduates of the programme  and from the  staff teaching on the programme and  I would definitely recommend this programme to others as it really sets you up with a good knowledge base and also increases your employability post-graduation due to the practical and relevant subjects on offer as part of the programme.