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Curricular Trends in Teaching Public Administration in the United States

Leonardo Santana Rabell

This paper reflects study plans and curricular trends in teaching Public Administration in the United States. Current situation and main challenges faced by this discipline in the United States are discussed, along with the curriculum content of master’s programs in Public Administration at major US universities. The literature studied shows the lack of a unified theoretical framework that exclusively guides teaching, research and generation of new knowledge. However, students completing graduate programs are expected to have a thorough knowledge of policy functions and processes, particularly public policy making and implementation in a democratic government. Additionally, the managerial and behavioural skills necessary to manage complex (public, community, non-profit) organisations ought to be developed. The aim is to train dependable managers (analytical, inter-personal skills and technique mastering) so as to enhance the performance of agencies and programmes. Likewise, understanding the aspects governing public services and the ethical repercussions of administrative actions and decisions is of the utmost importance.

The analysis of study plans of the best master’s programmes in Public Administration in the United States showed a wide diversity of purposes, regardless of the criteria and standards applied by NASPAA to standardise graduate studies. Also, it was found that core courses continue being important in teaching, and that a wide range of such courses exist. However, the most needed core courses are those related to quantitative methods and other subject matter leading to technical and applicable skills. The regulating and appraisal orientation seems to be poorly addressed even in the best programmes. It is concluded that a reasonable balance of applicable management skills and techniques, along with regulating, philosophical and historical issues that comprise the study of Public Administration should be set forth in the curriculum.

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