Master of Public Policy: Insights with Claire Woo

18 September 2019

What did you study at undergraduate level and when did you graduate? What are you studying now? Are you studying and working at the same time?

I studied a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and am now completing a Master of Public Policy (Majoring in International Studies).  I’m working at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science as a Senior Policy Officer on engagements with North Asia, Central Asia and Africa.

What made you decide to apply for Crawford School?

I had always planned to do further postgraduate study after completing my Bachelors, but wasn’t really sure what field to pursue. I’d been living overseas after graduation but was planning to return to Canberra to join the public service. This was probably the time that Crawford School presented itself as a possible option for further study. The school had an amazing reputation for public policy not only in Australia but within the region, and learning outcomes for students were high. I did a fair bit of research online – looking at testimonials from current and previous students along with reading up on the courses offered. I took my time comparing it to other institutes in the US and UK but ultimately, I knew I wanted to pursue a degree that would focus not only on Australian public policy but also explore policy in the geopolitical context of Asia, and this is something that Crawford excels in.

How did you choose your particular further study course (compared to others)? 

As my career in the public service progressed, I began to realise that I needed to hone my understanding of public policy and the MPP offered by Crawford seemed to be a degree with practical application to my everyday work.

The various specialisations available were also a drawing factor as they provide the flexibility to explore practical courses such as ‘evidence-based policymaking’ and ‘economics for government’ along with more thematic courses such as ‘international law’ and ‘issues in Japanese public policy’. I’ve always had a lot of diverse interests and struggled to find a degree that would allow me to utilise my various passions but Crawford provides a mix of generalised core courses to ensure foundational knowledge and more tailored courses – which ensures that you never get bored. There’s always something new to explore.

Were you weighing up any alternative degrees or career pathways before choosing this qualification?

I considered options at other universities, however, the double degree Crawford School offers in conjunction with Tokyo University was a very strong factor in my final decision.

What was the process to get accepted into your course? What were the prerequisites?

I undertook a bridging course in public policy before applying for Crawford. This wasn’t a pre-requisite, but it allowed me to enter the school without undertaking the initial ‘introduction to public policy studies’ course. In terms of pre-requisites, I believe that an undergraduate degree with high credit average was required for admission. I also had experience working in public policy that was weighted towards my application, but I believe this is no longer required.

What does your study involve? Can you describe a typical day at Crawford School?

I study part-time, so a lot of my study takes place after work or on weekends. My typical day is heading into the Crawford computer labs on a Sunday morning to print off readings or to progress research. When my schedule clears enough to attend classes in person, I really enjoy engaging in class discussions and heading along to tutorials. Luckily most courses offer a tutorial option after work hours so you don’t feel that you miss out on any learning opportunities.

What characteristics or skills do you hope to gain by completing your course?

I think it’s very easy to form an insular point of view when it comes to the development of policy. The Australian Public Service has always been a leader in its field and in my opinion, has sought to integrate academic principles of evidence-based policy into its decision-making processes. In my role, I’m exposed to many types of delegations from different parts of the world – all which prescribe to differing ideological thoughts and values all of which translate into their policy and policy-making processes. As technology continues to increase our global connectivity, being able to understand how and why institutions enact policies becomes a critical skill and allows us to trial successful policies at home while avoiding some of the pitfalls experienced in other countries.

Personally, I have a big picture view and I hope that by studying and completing my Masters I will have a newfound respect for the intricacies of policymaking and how even minute details have the ability to make or break a good idea.

Will this course be beneficial in your career? Where could you or others in your position go from here? Please explain your answer.

Crawford School offers so many opportunities to learn, engage and thrive. I’ve learnt how to run NGO-sponsored projects for community gardens in South Africa, I’ve participated in the WTO Trade Dispute Settlement process acting as a delegate from a small developing nation, and recently I completed an internship with the Japanese Diet.

These are all experiences that have enhanced my expertise in programs and policy, but more importantly, they have offered opportunities for me to demonstrate leadership. Through my studies at Crawford School – I have become more confident speaking to public policy issues both academically and professionally and I’m empowered when it comes to believing I can make a change.

For those at the cusp of their careers – especially those with ambitions to work in government, I can’t emphasise enough the benefit of undertaking further study. To this end, I believe Crawford School not only has a fantastically thorough curriculum, but it also has a finger on the pulse of the major issues faced by governments today. From AI, automation and social policy - Crawford School excels at offering something for everyone.

The breadth of material covered ensures that you will always find a topic you’re passionate about, and given hard work and ambition – it will open doors for you.

What do you love the most about your course?

The expertise of the lecturers. I love that Crawford gives you access to leading academics in their fields. The wealth of knowledge that’s available to tap into is incredible and leads to amazing conversations with people and perspectives which broadens your understanding of a topic but also develops you as a person. The lecturers are also good at understanding commitments outside of studies. As I work full-time this has been invaluable in balancing work and study along with life in general. I once had to attend a wedding of a close friend as a signatory on the same day as an exam was scheduled. Thankfully was able to have the exam deferred so I could meet both obligations.

Also, let me just mention the intensives. Intensive courses at Crawford are lifesavers for students that work full-time. Being able to take a week of lectures and then submit assignments over the course of the session has been one of my favourite components of the course.

What are the limitations of your course?

It’s very structured, which means that to complete a specialisation you can only choose electives from an approved list. I think I would have loved to have an option to take electives outside the school which complemented my studies; for example, language electives for international majors would have been ideal.

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