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Public Policy Examine varioius approaches to Public Policy and conduct your own research.
Public Policy Examine varioius approaches to Public Policy and conduct your own research.

Qualification: MM

Faculty: Commerce, Law and Management

Duration: 2 years

School: Wits School of Governance

Study mode: Full-time; Part-time


Graduates of the MM are able to critically engage and apply a range of analytical and interpretive lenses on complex issues within the broad reach of the state and civil society and their respective roles as social change and development agents. Our graduates are able to work independently, think for themselves, defend their operational choices and ask questions that make sense out of complexity.

The MM specialisations are designed to test your ability to design and carry out a complex problem solving task within a well-articulated analytical and conceptual framework. You will have a solid foundation in a range of qualitative and quantitative research approaches, and have the ability to engage with multidisciplinary bodies of knowledge, developing synthesis and making and defending your choices regarding the approach you take to doing research.

WSG believes that our degree cultivates policy practitioners, researchers and policy analysts that make a difference.

The need for high-quality policy-makers, policy analysts, policy advisors and civil society policy researchers and activists has become pervasive in the governmental, developmental, non-governmental and other sectors of contemporary society. Policy considerations today encompass the achievement of overall democratic governance, specified levels of service delivery, the fostering of ethical and accountable practice, and the equipment of the public management cadre with the necessary theoretical, strategic and operational skills. The world of practitioners of necessity operates hand-in-hand with the specialists in policy research.

Core Courses

PADM7009A - Introduction and Orientation
PADM7027A - Research Proposal Development
PADM7213A - Research Report
PADM7214A - Qualitative Research Methods
PADM7215A - Quantitative Research Methods

PADM7216A Governance and Policy
Governance is a “contested concept” and the ideas that emerge from this engagement serve as a foundation for an analysis of the policy making and implementation. The role of governance, in whatever form, will be used a heuristic for engaging with “wicked problems”. Are conventional approaches to governance and policy adequate for addressing complex multi-dimensional social issues? New thinking on governance and policy in relation to wicked problems will result in alternative approaches to governance and policy respectively, with a focus on “learning governance” and “policy design” respectively. Outcome: understand the limits and challenges of governance and through critical thinking engage alternative models of governance and modes of policy making.

PADM7217A Research Proposal Panel

Fundamental Courses

In addition, a candidate must complete the following fundamental courses based on her/his stream of interest.

PADM7218A - Approaches to Public Policy
The course considers various approaches to public policy – not only authoring public policy, but also analysing it. At its heart this course involves critical thinking, unpacking what we know, have read or experienced, and turning it over, turning it on its head and questioning it. We will consider together, who and what plays a role in formulating public policy; what kind of state determines particular kinds of policy – and who defines the kind of state or policy. We will also consider what paradigms and discourses may be at play in the formation, critique, and reform of policy. The course offers a number of perspectives which students  will be able to interrogate on the one hand, but also use to think about policy-thinking more generally. Crucially, the course is grounded in case studies mainly from South Africa, but also the African continent and elsewhere in the world. The intention here is to critique from a place of groundedness, using the work of African scholars and others outside the so-called academic empire. Some of the conceptual outcomes of the course design are envisaged to be (1) a language for critique of policy and policy approaches; (2) a set of arguments about the nature of the South African state and what a decolonised African state is/should be; and (3) a thoughtful consideration of the etymology of policy choices.

PADM7219A - Institutions and Policy Management
The course explores key issues in the interface between policy institutions, policy management and substantive policy content. It emphasises the institutional mechanisms – institutions, processes, associated organisational cultures, power relations within – that are used to manage public policy. The course is anchored in international and South African theoretical frameworks, with comparisons to Africans models, theoretical applications and experience. The dynamic interrelationship between policy substance and policy institutions, and how they mutually impact on each other, stands central. The course focuses on the political and bureaucratic determinants of the type and shape of relevant policy institutions. Contemporary policy experiences in South Africa serve as the case study basis of the course. Participants may also choose any African country as the focus of both their assignment research project and class interventions. The course will assess the competency of participants to apply and interpret policy frameworks. The primary objectives of the course are to equip learners with the theoretical and practical knowledge, as well and the strategic policy insights. The course strives to empower participants to design public policy institutions that are required to optimise throughput on public policy.

A candidate must also complete one elective course from List A below:

Elective courses

PADM7230A - The Political Environment of Public Policy
The course ‘The political environment of public policy’ builds on the reality that public policy processes are realised in contested political and socio-economic arenas. The political environment affects all phases and most aspects of the public policy process, including policy content. The point of departure is that it is inappropriate to study public policy processes as if they are manifested in political voids; as if public policy is simply the outcome of, for example, policy needs, formulation skills, and capacity to implement. The course positions public policy as, to a significant extent, the outcome of complex political processes involving strategy, contestation, the political reading of public needs, and leadership political will. The course argues that a thorough understanding of the multi-layered political environment of public policy facilitates professional and developmentally effective policy and policy processes. In the deconstruction of ‘political environment’ the course emphasises, inter alia, the policy-relevant contexts of national political debates and contestation, policy management as directed by the executive, the politics of inter-governmental relations, the politicisation of centres of bureaucratic power, community politics and contestation, and the impact of party and liberation politics on policy-making. Course facilitation focuses on the development of individual case studies. Outcome: The course enables students to identify and assess  critically the impact of complex political environments on public policy, both procedurally and substantively. Students will contribute to theory-building while, at the applied level, they will be empowered to analyse, assess and direct public policymaking in politically-charged environments.

PADM7231A - Social Policy and Social Change in Developing Countries: The Case of South Africa
This option is designed to provide post-graduate students with an understanding of social policy and social change in developing countries and its relationship to concerns of public governance by examining some of the key actors, institutions and ideologies that inform social policy in middle-income developing countries such as South Africa.

PADM7232A - Economics and Public Policy
This proposed elective will include the following topics: Economics teaching vs. Economics Policy; Debunking the notion that Economics is a Science – quantitative analysis vs. mathematical modelling; market failure vs. government failure; the complementarity (or lack of) in macroeconomic policy; the labour market and the minimum wage; poverty and inequality; industrialisation policy. Outcome: more critical thinking about Economics and the real world.

PADM7233A - Development
The overall aim of this course is to survey debates within the field of ‘development,’ especially as applied to South Africa, the rest of Africa and the Global South. Specific policies and case studies are selected to illustrate controversies in intellectual, policy and practical terms. Although the term development has socio-cultural implications, it is in public policy (from global to municipal scales) and development management that we most directly confront the economic, environmental and social aspects of development, and in South Africa what is generally recognised as the most extreme uneven development and inequality on earth. State-society-business governance relationships are critical to this field. Corporate influence over state policies, programmes and projects (sometimes termed ‘state capture’) and civil society advocacy campaigning are highlighted in this course.

PADM7234A - Cyber Security
Cybersecurity is the protection of computer systems from the theft and damage to their hardware, software or information, as well as from disruption or misdirection of the services they provide. The field is of growing importance due to the increasing reliance on computer systems and the Internet, wireless networks, and the growth of "smart" devices. The course will explore the manner in which society and the public and private sectors in Africa can enhance cybersecurity awareness and respond to cyber threats.

PADM7235A - Humanitarian Assistance
This course will focus on examining how humanitarian crisis environments evolve, how states, societies and communities seek to adapt and respond, and the roles of, and politics surrounding the international humanitarian aid system in the search for sustainable and preventive solutions.

PADM7236A - Environmental Security and Peacebuilding
Environmental security and peacebuilding examines the impact of and responses to environmental events and trends. As a rapidly developing field, it has become particularly relevant for those studying resource scarcity and conflict in the developing world.  This course will study approaches to environmental security and responses to threats associated with environmental factors, with a focus on the African setting. Themes might include: the role of natural resources as a cause of conflict (greed and grievance theory); linkages between specific resources (e.g., oil, water, and forests), conflict, and peacebuilding; peace parks; environmental impacts of war; natural resources post-conflict and peacebuilding; environmental refugees; infectious disease, sanitation, and health; environment and counterinsurgency; peacekeeping and refugee camps; the private sector in zones of conflict (the Global Compact and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative); gender; climate change.

PADM7237A - National Peace and Security Policy
National security refers to the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as a duty of government. Originally conceived as protection against military attack, national security is now widely understood to include non-military dimensions, including economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, cyber security etc. Similarly, national security risks include, in addition to the actions of other nation states, action by violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, multinational corporations, and the effects of natural disasters. This course will explore how African governments in particular manage national security and how it relies on a range of measures, including political, economic, and military power, as well as diplomacy. The course will further examine how governments build the conditions of security regionally and internationally by reducing transnational causes of insecurity, such as climate change, economic inequality, political exclusion, and militarisation.

PADM7238A - Theory-based Planning and Evaluation
This course discusses the theory and practice of developing detailed Theories of Change for programme planning, monitoring and evaluation. By drawing on real-life policy and programme examples, course participants will develop appreciation for using Theory of Change processes for more impactful planning, enhanced implementation monitoring and, ultimately, for alternative approaches to evaluating the results of policy and programme decisions. The course critically interrogates the notion of measuring and evaluating “impact” by going beyond questions of if interventions are working to include questions of how interventions are working and why. Therefore, it discusses how evaluations grounded in detailed Theories of Change can be drawn upon in public sector evaluations that aim to investigate and interrogate “impact” of policies or programmes.

PADM7239A - Impact Evaluation
Development interventions are intended to bring about change. Whether or not such change is achieved is a crucial developmental and public policy question that should be answered. Technically, this means going beyond accounting for inputs, overseeing activities, and producing outputs to assessing outcomes and impact. Among others, figures from impact evaluations provides for evidence-based policy. Therefore, students should equipment themselves with this skill because it provides for tools for verifying and improving effectiveness, relevance, sustainability, and efficiency of interventions.

PADM7240A - Qualitative Data Analysis
This elective introduces selected approaches to analysing and presenting qualitative data to answer research and policy questions. It builds on the previous course in designing qualitative research and data collection. Students will engage with selecting approaches to data analysis, preliminary analysis of data and discussing results.

PADM7241A - Comparative Social Security Systems
This course provides an overview of international variations in the features of social security systems and the factors behind these variations. It also provides insight into the value that can be obtained for local policy development from international policy insights. The course is divided into four parts: comparative social security systems analysis and their value for policy making; Income replacement and the determination of benefits; addressing poverty and inequality; and employment strategies and the labour market.

PADM7242A - Public and Development Sectors Results-Based Management
This course focuses on results-based management as an area of specialisation for public servants and development practitioners. It addresses the development of Results-based Monitoring and Evaluation Systems, organising frameworks for a functional Monitoring and Evaluation System as well as the organisational, human, planning, budgeting, communications and multi-sectoral implications of a functional monitoring and evaluation system. It focuses on the data collection, verification and analysis that need to be undertaken in building a results-based management system, including using data to improve decision- making. Decision theory in organisations is also examined, as well as the role of evidence- informed decision-making. On completing all course requirements, participants will be able to utilise the various logic, forms and approached for the development of results-based management systems in a manner sensitive to local context; apply the logical thinking and process steps in designing results-based monitoring and evaluation systems; design all aspects of a results-based management monitoring and evaluation system; and use data to improve decision making, and enable others to do so as well.

PADM7243A - Monitoring and Evaluation Planning and Management
This course focuses on the institutionalisation of results-based monitoring and evaluations systems and practices, and examines how organisational M&E unit managers/M&E advisors can create a conducive environment for institutionalising results-based M&E plans. The course specifically focuses on addresses creating an enabling environment as well as the technical requirements of programme and project managers to plan and manage evaluations. On completing all course requirements, participants will be able to: convincingly argue for the need to integrate monitoring and evaluation into planning for development interventions; show awareness that tracking mechanisms, evaluation systems and work-processes can contribute to alignment and integration between different levels of planning, or detract from it; assess the readiness of an organisation to undertake evaluations; develop effective evaluation plans and associated documentation that supports the execution of quality evaluations that are amenable to use; and apply a range of tools to support more effective use of monitoring and evaluation information in organisational decision-making processes.

PADM7244A - Selected Topics in Quantitative Research
This elective follows on from the basic principles studied in Quantitative Research. It highlights and extends the importance of topics such as complex sampling, research design and measurement for good research practice using the scientific method. Multivariate statistical techniques are studied theoretically and then practiced and applied. The course is ideal preparation for students planning individual quantitative research.

PADM7245A - Selected Topics in Education, Skills, Economy and Development
This elective introduces debates concerning the role of education in development. It explores assumptions made about relationships between education, economy, development and skills and how these play out in interventions that are made at the level of policy and in workplace and training interventions. It considers implications for designing and conducting research in these areas.

An honours degree or post-graduate diploma with a minimum of a 65% average. This could be a degree from Wits School of Governance or an honour's degree in a cognate (similar) discipline.

You will be required to submit the following documentation:

  1. A brief letter of motivation indicating why you would like to study for your Master of Management at the Wits School of Governance.
  2. A curriculum vitae, detailing your degrees, your employment experience.
  3. Official transcripts of your qualifications showing degree, courses and results (if you are still studying for a qualifying degree, please provide your interim mid-year results).
  4. Your graduation certificates (certified copies and then originals).
  5. Verification and comparison of any foreign qualifications from the South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
  6. IELTS Language Proficiency scores (if your previous qualification was not through the medium of English)).

Click here for more information about the MM and specialisations offered.

30 September 2021
  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.