A good policy analyst is a mythical creature? May be not any more. More and more high flyers are enrolling for courses in public policy, as they want to offer alternatives for various problems of their community. And these modern Che Gueveras are indeed "true revolutionaries driven by great feelings of love". Arunima Rajan The John F. Kennedy School of Government was established at Harvard University in the early 30s as the Graduate School of Public Administration. It quickly became one of the most renowned colleges offering courses in public policy and was given its current name in 1966. The institution was set up during the Great Depression, at a time when the American government faced historic challenges at home and abroad, and Lucius N. Littauer, a Harvard alumnus, donated $2 million to the university to establish a public affairs institution to educate a new professional governing class. After several years, prominent universities around the world, including Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, followed the footsteps of Harvard and started offering courses in public policy. Until 2001, India seemed to restrict public affairs training to Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussorie. That training was only for civil service officers until the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB) started its Post Graduate Programme in Public Policy (PGPP). During the initial years IIMB admitted only officers from the Indian government for the course. In fact, it was created to fulfil the need for an educational programme in public policy for government officers. Now, after several decades, the country seems to be waking up to the need for courses in Public Policy and Administration. More and more universities are offering courses to equip a new breed of policy makers to tackle the issues related to governance as well as policy research. Contrary to the popular perception that the most ambitious workers prefer jobs in the corporate sector, institutes like IIMs are receiving applications from mid-level employees of the IT sector (which is traditionally considered to be one of the most sought after sectors), for public policy programmes. This is precisely the reason why institutes like Takshashila are offering courses for professionals from all disciplines who wish to study public policy while continuing their full time occupations. Beyond the IIMs, there are also other institutes offering courses in Public Policy: Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, TERI University, Management Development Institute, Azim Premji University, and Indian School of Business. According to officials there, the Centre for Public Policy has received nearly 500 applications from candidates outside government for its 2013 schedule of classes. "The fact that institutes like IIM are offering the courses show that there is a demand in the market for such courses," says G Ramesh, Chairperson of Centre for Public Policy, IIMB. Academics point out that more and more businesses have to engage with governments, at home and abroad, in a professional, transparent manner. To be competitive, a business executive will need to have a good grasp of government relations, regulatory affairs, corporate social responsibility and even "corporate diplomacy". One of the campaigners for public policy education and the cofounder of Takshashila Institution, Nitin Pai, considers basic public policy skills essential for today's executive. An awareness of this need became a game changer as the Indian education sector opened up. “Both citizens and politicians have become aware of the fact that there is a governance deficit because of a lack of capacity,” says Pai. He adds that what shows up as corruption, inefficiency or poor quality of service is ultimately the result of inadequate knowledge, skills and training in public policy. There is no doubt in Pai’s mind that both politicians and citizens are realising this deficit. “This is the fundamental reason why public policy education is gaining increasing importance." Teaching methodology In looking at Indian programmes, one important question is: Are they as demanding as those offered by their western universities? According to Nitin Pai, the answer is "yes." The Graduate Certificate Programme in Public Policy is academically rigorous and meets the standards of a one-semester course in the best public policy schools. "We have designed the curriculum for 'networked distance-learning'. This allows students to study at their own time, from the convenience of their homes or offices, on a learning management system (LMS) and interactive webinars. It also allows our global network of experts to deliver guest lectures," says Nitin Pai. In addition, the weekend policy workshops bring the students, faculty and alumni together for face-to-face sessions where they get to interact with top government officials, senior policy-makers, and experts. Inter-disciplinary approach The PGPP programme offered by IIMB covers a wide range of disciplines, such as public policy making, Micro economics, evidence-based policy making, social marketing, general management, as well as public system management. Student Profile Today, a public policy programme will have students from a variety of disciplines; engineering, finance, business administration, media, arts, humanities, and social sciences. While most are in the age group of 25-45, one can also occasionally spot senior citizens taking the course. Some institutes even give scholarships to promising undergraduates to add to the vibrancy of the class. So, does a course put things in perspective for an aspiring policy maker? According to Sharmistha Mukherjee, a PGPP of IIMB, it does. “I am interested in working on policy implementation for the health sector. Having over five years of domain knowledge in healthcare across the globe, I thought it was best to integrate my experiences with new concepts and tools that I will pick up from this course. This will give me better understanding of policy formulation and issues in proper implementation,” says Sharmistha, who was working as an IT Professional for last 6 years. “I plan to do consulting with companies engaging Government verticals. Long term I want to work for NGOs for children.” Another success story is that of Kingshuk Bishwas, who is playing a lead role in several campaigns of Gujarat Government . Amit Seth, an IIMB alumni, has donned the hat of strategic analyst for a start up that offers primary healthcare services for people from rural areas. Meanwhile at Takshashila, which has yet to complete its first year, some of the students have already been hired by firms engaged in public affairs. One has been selected to be part of a blue skies team at a major industrial conglomerate. Many have used the GCPP as a stepping stone for Master's or PhD programmes in public policy. While a few of the students have succeeded in UPSC examinations, school officials acknowledge that the programme is not recognised by UGC, AICTE or any other government-body. Officials also note that their programme is not targeted at coaching candidates for UPSC examinations, although the GCPP programme can provide a sound foundation for a career in government. Despite the strengths of the various programmes offered, institutes point out that it is not easy to find jobs for their candidates within local or state government agencies. Professor G Ramesh stresses that government agencies often don’t absorb their graduates. "Most graduates end up engaging in policy making through the public arms of corporations," notes Prof Ramesh. Still, it is heartening to see the advances in educating students in public policy.