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Debating Public Policy Instruction: Graduate Level and Beyond

January 14, 2010

Research Article

Raheem ul Haque

The history of policy programs in Pakistan dates back to the early 1960s, when Punjab University started a program in Public Administration. Simultaneously with US advisory support, the Pakistan Administrative Staff College and National Institutes of Public Administration were established to provide training and capacity building of the higher civil services of Pakistan. Subsequently, Public Administration programs sprang up in a number of public universities but it was only in the last decade that universities started Public Policy and Governance programs.

Our research indicates that currently there are fifteen degree awarding policy programs in the country. Eleven programs (9 Public Administration, 1 Governance, 1 Public Policy) require 14 years of education for admission, seven programs (4 Public Administration, 3 Public Policy) require 16 years of education, six programs offer PhDs while two offer Executive Programs (1 MBA- Public Administration, 1 Public Policy). Curriculum wise, these policy programs can be divided into three broad categories: First, Public Administration programs which have evolved more towards management than policy with concentrations in Human Resource Management (HRM), Marketing, Finance and MIS with few schools offering Development. Second, Public Policy programs with heavy economic concentration producing economic analysis experts. Third, programs in Public Policy, Administration and Governance, which have an inter-disciplinary curriculum and aim at providing broad range of policy related skill sets.

To explore both the philosophy and methodology of graduate level policy instruction for indigenous needs, senior social science academics were interviewed at various Pakistani universities1. Our study showed that there was a broad consensus among the academia that the study of Public Policy had remained understudied and that national interest was generally understood and defined in narrow terms. One reason was that the vision and philosophy of Governance had yet to be properly articulated by the political elites while the current formulators of public policy; the bureaucracy had limited engagement with the public, academics and other stakeholders. For most academics, the current domestic reality of process and institutional breakdown, and various regional and class imbalances demanded rethinking and evidence based formulation of policies, followed by efficient implementation. A few additionally stressed good university governance as key to inculcating the very value system articulated in governance literature providing an opportunity for students to gain first hand experience in both theory and practice.

Most academics understood Governance as an over all ability of the political system to address public needs and aspirations. They considered it as a broader notion that encompassed Public Policy as interplay of policy formulation related to public interest, and Public Administration as the management of public sphere during the policy implementation process. Some instead considered Governance closer to Public Administration only including Public Policy if broadly defined. Addressing the issue of governance in the context of globalization, Shafqat defined Good Governance as a two dimensional phenomenon; Political and the Technical. In the Political, he included rule of law, consensus building and conflict resolution through bargaining and negotiations, requiring supremacy of parliament, independence of judiciary, freedom of media and an elite having some faith in constitutional liberalism. In the Technical he included efficient and professionally trained civil service as an effective custodian of public institutions—as modern and well trained bureaucracy ensured continuity of policies, political stability and cultural cohesion. In defining Public Administration, some academics restricted it to management of public institutions encompassing only the technical issues of administration while others defined it as an art of policy implementation including the management of political, socio-cultural and administrative issues. For Public Policy though, academics agreed that it was a complex interface of economics, political science, sociology and management aspects, a holistic interdisciplinary approach to policy analysis. Few academics also suggested inclusion of Development Studies into the broader policy domain arguing that its interdisciplinary social sciences makeup complemented a professional policy degree with academic theory.

Within policy studies, a vibrant debate exists on the influence and use of economics. Shafqat, a political scientist argued that Good Governance rather than economic development alone was a function of political will and leadership’s commitment, affected by the cultural, historical and institutional setting of the country.2 Burki, an economist while accepting that policy was a mixture of economics, sociology and political science, argued that a strong economics base was required because quantification and statistics were now required for all social scientists to strengthen their argument. Thus concentration in economics with master’s level micro, macro and econometrics courses was necessary in the policy arena. But even economists agreed that Neo-classical Economics restricted to Rational Choice Theory should be a thing of the past primarily supported by the argument that public policy instrumentation and choice of tools should not be treated as evidence with an autonomous meaning, as Neo-classical Economics had been for the last few decades.3 “Instruments” were not neutral devices and included power relations. They could further legitimize certain relations by their politicization or de-politicization, thus constructing a framework for categorizing a situation. 4 Instead, Pasha argued for heavy concentration on Political Economy while Burki supported Institutional Economics because both explained the formulation and implementation process better than Neo-classical Economics.

“… Good Governance rather than economic development alone was a function of political will and leadership’s commitment, affected by the cultural, historical and institutional setting of the country.”

Hussain agreed that there was no neutral study of public policy, considering governance as a value driven phenomena and argued for a people centered policy and an ethics based governance. But even with a consensus on values for overall policy evaluation, its instrumentalization would still be a challenge. Moving beyond the so called ‘natural’ phenomena articulated by Neo-classical Economics, both Burki and Pasha specifically mentioned Game Theory as an important constituent of the policy domain because it analyzed and tried to model interactions among people, groups and institutions. Still this consensus on a different instrument for policy analysis did not extend to the level of quantification of social sciences. While some academics wholeheartedly supported quantification, others though accepting the strength of empirical evidence argued for case study treatment with emphasis on qualitative analysis instead.

“… Game Theory as an important constituent of the policy domain because it analyzed and tried to model interactions among people, groups and institutions.”

Another difference of opinion existed in the debate between Generalists and Experts. Most academics argued that the modern system of government could not alone be handled by the generalist bureaucrat and thus required experts in specific policy arena. Rais alone extended this line of argument taking a position against the generalist policy analyst instead suggesting that a postgraduate with thorough grounding in social sciences would be better placed in the policy arena than a generalist master’s level policy graduate. Hussain was closer to this position arguing that intake of interdisciplinary postgraduate policy programs be restricted to social science or at most literature majors. Most other academics were open to an interdisciplinary policy program with diverse student intake.

“… the modern system of government could not alone be handled by the generalist bureaucrat and thus required experts in specific policy arena.”

Language was another area of concern. Haider approached it as a single most important factor in equalizing knowledge among the various groups of students. Shah argued that the substance of thesis/report would be much better if written in Urdu, because students’ level of articulation differed drastically between English and Urdu.

In terms of Program Structure, opinions regarding the two year Master’s program were quite similar while differences remained on the method and structure of executive programs. Suggestions varied from a short term 6 weeks in-house program involving facilitated sessions among a group of around 60 executives, representing armed forces, national assembly members, nazims and the private sector; a 3-6 month in house program with both class room instruction as well as seminars, providing in depth grounding in relevant policy areas; and a 1 year university program. The difference of opinion lie in the purpose of executive education, some arguing for training while others for education in a structured university oriented program.

The lack of a structured market for policy graduates was considered itself an outcome of a lack of graduate program as Development and Social Science graduates had an existing market in the State Bank, Housing sector, Financial Consulting research departments and NGOs. Rais had serious reservations arguing that any market required a change in the mindset that policy was the preserve of bureaucrats, while for Think Tanks, trained social scientists served better than the generalists. For others, the competence level of graduates mattered more. Hussain saw a huge opportunity in Chambers of Commerce, professional organizations and legislative bodies, which employed full time policy analysts across the world including India. But in Pakistan, a lack of awareness of benefits of policy research, analysis and implementation had led to a lack of investment in policy arena as well as a lack of market.

“… a lack of awareness of benefits of policy research, analysis and implementation had led to a lack of investment in policy arena as well as a lack of market. ”

Although universities did not follow the same pedagogical approach owing to their selected philosophy, faculty expertise and student intake, still the academic discourse generated through a continued policy instruction discussion among academics would lead to further articulation of stated positions, improvements in curricula, and a direction and vision for policy programs in the country.

This is a slightly revised and somewhat modified version of a chapter from the research report titled Training Needs Assessment for Master’s Level Programs a study conducted by the Centre for Public Policy & Governance (CPPG) for the Governance Institute Network Interna – tional (GINI). The research team included Raheem ul Haque, Khurram Waqas Malik, Adeel Riaz & Saboor Karamat


1 Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Director CPPG, FCC; Dr. Hafeez Pasha, Dean School of Social Sciences, BNU; Dr. Rasul Buksh Rais, Professor LUMS; Dr. Abid Burki, Professor LUMS; Dr. Sarfraz Hussain Ansari, Professor NDU; Maj Gen ® Syed Usman Shah, Chair Governance Department, NUML; Dr. Rifaat Hussain, Chairman Dept. of Defense & Strategic Studies, QAU; and Mr. Ameer Haider, Director Hamdard Institute of Management Sciences, Hamdard University were interviewed

2 Saeed Shafqat, “Pakistani Bureaucracy: Crises of Governance and Prospects of Reform.” The Pakistan Development Review 38:4 Part II, (Winter 1999), pp995–1017.

3 Lasoumes and Gales, “Introduction: Understanding Public Policy through Its Instruments – From the Nature of Instruments to the Sociology of Public Policy Instruments”. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, Vol 20, No.1,(2007), pp1–21.

4 ibid