By Adele Chiang and Syed Muhammad Faris
NTU’s pioneer batch of Public Policy and Global Affairs (PPGA) students graduated in July as part of the Class of 2017.
The Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in PPGA was introduced in 2013 under the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
It aims to nurture the next generation of public policy-makers with a focus on public administration and international relations in its curriculum.
Before its inception, students were only offered a Minor in Public Administration.
To date, 2,700 students have taken courses in politics and public administration. More than 100 have graduated with a Minor in Administration.
A degree in PPGA was offered in response to its rising popularity among students.
In recent years, there has been a spike in the number of students who bidded for PPGA modules in the Students Automated Registration System, said Associate Chair (Academic) and Acting Head of PPGA Yohanes Eko Riyanto.
“It was then that we realised we were ready to offer PPGA as a full-fledged major,” he added.
Good job prospects
Valedictorian Koh Phay Chung was one of the 71 PPGA students who graduated this year.
Koh said that graduating as a student of the pioneer batch was a “defining moment” for him.
“We are a part of the first and only public policy undergraduate course offered in NTU,” said the 25-year-old.
While most students may be sceptical of enrolling into a new course, Koh was impressed with what PPGA had to offer.
He chose PPGA because of its nature as an “applied form of political science”.
Koh added that he acquired important skills from the course and attributed this to the school’s focus on team-based learning.
Examples of team-based learning include participating in seminar dicussions and role-playing during in-class tasks.
“Team-based learning hones your communication skills by engaging you on diverse levels of communication,” said Koh.
These levels of communication range from small group discussions to class presentations. Students also have the opportunity to lead seminar discussions, he added.
Koh said that the skills he acquired will open many doors of opportunities for him and his peers.
“I feel very optimistic. There are many (career) possibilities for us,” he said.
Graduate Caren Tso is also positive about her job prospects.
Said the 22-year-old: “The possibilities are quite extensive given that you can work in both the private and public sector (with a degree in PPGA).”
“We can work in the government affairs department in private firms or in policy planning departments in the public sector,” added Tso.
Improving the curriculum
While the pioneer batch of PPGA students celebrates their graduation, Mr Riyanto noted that there is still room for improvement in the current curriculum.
“We would like to enhance the multidisciplinary elements of the programme by allowing students to take modules beyond PPGA and count them towards their major requirements,” he said.
A collaboration with the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) is also in the works.
RSIS offers PPGA-related programs at the postgraduate level.
Mr Riyanto said that this collaboration will provide students with “a wider perspective on issues related to public policy-making and global relations”.
NTU’s PPGA course consists of two components – public policy and public administration as well as international relations – setting it apart from other local universities offering similar courses.
“Currently, no other universities in Singapore offer a major blending of these two elements,” said Mr Riyanto.
NTU also launched a double major programme in Economics and Public Policy (ECPP) in 2016 to meet the increasing demand for PPGA modules.
The ECPP programme complements the PPGA curriculum by introducing the economic rationales behind policy decisions.
Said Mr Riyanto: “In the current globalised world, the skills offered in the PPGA programme are highly relevant in policy-making.”