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Asia-Pacific's highest-ranking public policy schools

31 May 2021

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Over the last 15 years, the number of Public Policy schools in the Asia-Pacific region has grown rapidly. New analysis by Associate Professor Björn Dressel and Professor David Stern ranked the top public policy schools in Asia-Pacific by research output. This analysis highlighted that the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, the Lee Kuan Yew School at the National University of Singapore, and the School of Public Policy & Management at Tsinghua University in China, were leading public policy schools based on research outputs.

Why are public policy schools becoming more important/prominent?

These schools are responding to growing demand in the region for skills like public policy analysis, management, and leadership among both students and public institutions alike. Public policy was traditionally delivered by practitioners with generalist skills working in government. As the needs of public policymakers evolved to tackle more complex issues such as climate change, social policy issues and a globalised workforce, a professional education trend emerged upskilling public policy practitioners to meet the demands of the 21st century. The trends in the Asia-Pacific emulate long-standing models in the United States and Europe that provide current and future policymakers with applied interdisciplinary training in public policy analysis and management.

Public policy schools in the Asia-Pacific region have aligned themselves with the trend towards professional education that has long existed in law and business schools in the region – some in collaboration with partners abroad.

What are some of the challenges facing public policy schools in the region?

In some ways, the challenges of public policy schools are reflective of broader challenges in the university sector. How to get the balance right between publishing and teaching is an age-old struggle. Some policy schools struggled with SCOPUS listed research outputs. This may have been because their publications were focused on domestic audiences and were non-English outputs.

Public policy schools are stand-alone and professionally-oriented academic institutions of tertiary education that offer postgraduate degrees (i.e., Master’s, PhD) in public policy, public administration, and public or international affairs. Given their commitment to training professionals: the masters is a terminal degree in that it trains students to work as a policy analyst in government, think tanks, or the private sector. The schools may have focused on teaching to a larger extent than research outputs.

Why rank public policy schools in the Asia Pacific region?

In the last 15 years, there has been a significant rise in the number of public policy schools in the region and as of 2020, 45 institutions in 12 countries in the region can be classified as research-active schools of public policy (see our paper for the definition). However, until now there has been no public ranking. This makes comparisons and evaluations difficult. The US and Europe have been ranking their public policy schools for years. We felt it was a worthwhile project to undertake this analysis.

What were some of the unexpected findings from your rankings?

With a focus on research-active public policy schools, our analysis shed light on several features, including

  • There is uneven growth in the sector amongst nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • Major differences in research output among schools in the region with the three top schools account for 54 per cent of publications and 63 per cent of citations from the region, many schools produce much less.

  • The strong performance of Chinese public policy schools particularly compared to schools in Japan and South Korea.

How would you like to see your research findings used?

We hope that this annual ranking exercise will become the starting point for a wider conversation about the nature and performance of public policy schools in the Asia-Pacific region, which in the future might take a closer look at the types of research conducted and the curricula of these institutions, and how they may differ from those of public policy schools in other parts of the world.

Indeed, such a conversation is central to the training of future public sector leaders in the region, given the potential to shape the nature of governance in the region for decades to come.

To learn how we defined public policy schools, methodology and our findings, please view the article here.

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Updated:  28 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team