The study of public policy at CEU is rooted in the university’s mission to promote open societies as well as a conviction that a combination of different social science methods is required to address the complex challenges of reform and good governance. The decision to offer programs in public policy a decade ago also involved the practical recognition that on the global, national, and local levels of policymaking, there was – and is – an increasing demand for analysts from developing and transition countries.
The MA in Public Policy program was launched in 2004. In the preceding decade, public policy had been taught as part of a several MA programs. After the Rector asked the Center for Policy Studies to establish a specialized public policy program, a new degree was created and a team of political scientists, lawyers, social anthropologists and policy studies scholars was recruited.
The new MA program involved close cooperation with CEU departments such as Political Science, Economics, and Legal Studies, as well as policy practitioners from Central European thinktanks and NGOs. It received significant support and funding from regional programs, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Local Government Initiative (LGI) (which was part of the Open Society Institute infrastructure).
The Department of Public Policy was established in 2006, in recognition of the achievements of the new MA program and its faculty. Three years later, the University began developing the School of Public Policy, and in 2015, just over a decade after the first students enrolled in the MA in Public Policy program at CEU, the transition from the Department to the School of Public Policy will be completed.
With the integration of several disciplinary perspectives and practice elements into one public policy program, CEU broke new ground. The new program was built on a series of core courses designed to provide political, economic and legal perspectives on public policy, and offered specialized courses in, among others, the areas of decentralized government, international public policy, higher education, and media and communications policy. It was the first CEU program to include a mandatory internship component.
Funding from a number of donors and supporters outside the university helped make the new MA in Public Policy program a success. The Center for Policy Studies successfully obtained a prestigious European Marie Curie Chair grant for the project entitled “MAPPing Global Knowledge Networks.” Many students were sponsored by USAID, LGI, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Magyar Telekom, and British American Tobacco; and the Open Society Foundation started to support a Roma student scholarship in 2005.
CEU has also benefitted from the highly competitive Erasmus Mundus grant from the European Commission. The consortium of CEU and its partners – the University of York, the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague, and the Barcelona-based Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals – was the only one to win Erasmus Mundus funding in the field of public policy. Mundus MAPP soon became one of the programs that attracted the highest number of applications, both within CEU and amongst the other commission-funded Erasmus Mundus programs.
At the doctoral level, the Department of Public Policy joined forces with the Departments of Political Science and International Relations and European Studies to found the Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations in 2008. The first student to achieve a PhD with the Public Policy specialization graduated in 2013, summa cum laude.
Over a period of 10 years, faculty members have become leaders in teaching and research within their domain and have successfully secured external research funding. They coordinate and participate in international public policy research networks regularly and provide policy advice to national governments, international organizations and the European Union.