Lifelong learning at the Hertie School

Prof Hammerschmid shares insights into our Executive MPA: the programme's origins, uniqueness, and achievements, training professionals to address today's policy challenges.

How do you train professionals to take on the policy challenges of today, work for the common good, and lead their organisations to success? In 2008, the Hertie School launched the Executive Master of Public Management, later reformed and relaunched as the Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA), to do just that. We talked to Professor of Public and Financial Management Gerhard Hammerschmid about why the programme was created, why it is unique, and what it has achieved so far.

Why did the Hertie School launch the Executive Master of Public Management back in 2008?

When the Hertie School began, we realised the school needed to offer an executive master’s degree to reach out to professionals already active in their fields – not just people working within government, but also those working alongside the government. An executive master’s programme is a core signature product of a professional school, and it went hand in hand with our mission to modernise government and improve its capacity. In Germany in particular, public administration was (and still is) very much dominated by legal expertise. There was a fundamental lack of policy experience and management expertise, and we wanted to change this.

What were the programme’s core ideas? 

There were two. The first was that if you want to modernise and reform both government and the way it works with other sectors, you need to understand how public policymaking works, how key management areas function within government, and what conditions the government needs to function properly. The second core idea was to offer courses that teach skills such as how to shape the future of government, how to address the key challenges of governing, and how to innovate the ways in which government works.

Why is the programme unique in Germany?

Our programme is unique because it looks beyond German public administration, takes an intersectoral approach and offers the flexibility needed to study it parallel to an existing job. Many executive programmes are very much focussed on their own national government’s system. But right from the beginning, we decided we wanted to provide expertise that goes beyond national public administration and offers an international experience. The programme is also unique because it’s intersectoral. As a school of governance, we believe that public policy challenges can’t be solved by government alone. You need to collaborate with the private sector and civil society, and so our programme has always brought together participants from civil society, private sector organisations, consultancies, and international organisations. Lastly, our programme is special for Europe because there still aren’t that many executive master’s programmes in public administration available here.

What has the programme achieved?

We’ve now been going for 15 years – that’s already some feat for an executive master’s programme in public administration! A lot of other programmes have opened and shut their doors before reaching that milestone. And in those 15 years, 300 alumni have graduated from the programme to take on leadership positions both within governments and at organisations that collaborate with governments – not just in Germany but across the globe. 

What does the future hold for the Exectuive MPA programme?

We’re continuously working to keep the programme relevant in an ever-changing world of new developments and challenges and to keep track of the current needs in society that governments must address. My deepest wish is that we’ll remain relevant over the next ten years and beyond. To do that, we’ll need to constantly adapt the programme to reflect these changes and focus on those core competences that leaders – in government and beyond – will require to succeed.

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