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Standards of Excellence in Public Administration Education and Training

    The Task Force on Standards of Excellence for Public Education and Training was initiated by the Division of Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the United Nations (UN) in partnership with the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA) in July of 2005. Its members were jointly appointed by Guido Bertucci, the Director of the DPADM/UN and Turgay Ergun, the then President of IASIA. Its first meeting occurred in Como, Italy and subsequent meetings have occurred in Warsaw and Brussels. In addition, various members of the Task Force have participated in or conducted open hearings at many conferences in many parts of the world. 

    On behalf of the Task Force, the UN has undertaken a major survey of public administration education and training institutions which was carried out by Jide Balogun. It has also supported the preparation of the volume, Excellence and Leadership in the Public Sector: The Role of Education and Training edited by Allan Rosenbaum and John-Mary Kauzya. Also, both the UN and the Task Force have commissioned various papers – they include:

• “National Organizational Arrangements for Delivering Public Administration Education and Training” by Natalya Kolisnichenko.
• “Quality Standards in Public Administration Education and Training” by Theo van der Krogt.
• “Public Affairs Education: Adding Value in the Public Interest” by Kathryn E. Newcomer.
• “Standards of Public Administration Education and Training in Select Countries in Asia” by R.K. Mishra
• “Quality Assurance in the Rising International Market for Public Affairs Education” by Laurel McFarland. 

    The document that follows represents the final proposed set of Standards of Excellence for Public Administration Education and Training produced by the Task Force. It also includes proposed criteria by which one might assess an institution’s progress towards achieving the Standards of Excellence as well as a checklist that individual institutions can utilize in working with the Standards. 

    The members of the Task Force are of course aware that the Standards of Excellence may not be uniformly applicable or equally relevant in all situations. However, it is our belief that most of them are relevant in most situations. Of course, we also realize that some of the Standards, as well as the criteria by which to assess them, may be more or less applicable depending upon the comprehensiveness of the program of education and/or training involved.

The full membership of the Task Force included:

• Allan Rosenbaum, Chairperson of the UNDESA/IASIA Task Force, Current President of IASIA and Director of the Institute for Public Management and Community Service at Florida International University (FIU), Miami, Florida, USA;

• Guido Bertucci, Co-Convener of the Task Force and Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management/United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DPADM/UNDESA);

• Turgay Ergun, Co- Convener of the Task Force and Director General, Public Administration Institute for Turkey & the Middle East, (TODAIE), Ankara, Turkey, and immediate Past President of IASIA, Brussels, Belgium;

• Barbara Kudrycka, Minister of Higher Education and Science, Government of Poland, Warsaw, Poland;

• Natalya Kolisnichenko, Associate Professor, Department of European Integration Odessa Regional Institute of Public Administration, National Academy of Public Administration Office of the President, Odessa, Ukraine;

• Blue Wooldridge, Professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Richmond, Virginia, USA.

• Theo van der Krogt, Secretary General, European Association for Public Administration Accreditation, Twente, Netherlands;

• John-Mary Kauzya, Chief, Governance Systems and Institutions Unit in the Division of Public Administration and Development Management/United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DPADM/UNDESA);

• Ludmila Gajdosova, Executive Director, Network of Schools and Institutes of Public Administration of Central and Eastern Europe, Bratislava, Slovakia;

• Jide Balogun; formerly Director General of the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria and InterRegional Advisor with the U.N.;

• R.K. Mishra, Senior Professor and Director, Institute of Public Enterprise, Osmania University, India;

• Bianor Cavalcante, Director, Brazilian School of Public Administration, Getulio Vargas Foundation, (EBAPE/FGV), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil;

• Mark Orkin, Director General, Southern African Management Development Institute (SAMDI), Pretoria, South Africa;

• Margaret Saner, Director Institutes Initiative CAPAM – Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management, United Kingdom.


    Because the public seeks high quality services, organizations in the public sector must be high performing. In order to perform highly, persons working in the public sector should be of the highest level of skill and preparation. Consequently, the institutions that educate and train these persons must be always striving for excellence because, most assuredly, better governance is fundamentally related to the more effective preparation of public administrators. 

    In an earlier publication of this Task Force, "Excellence and Leadership in the Public Sector; the Role of Education and Training", the volume’s co-editor and the Task Force’s Chairperson, Allan Rosenbaum, formulated the objective of the Task Force’s end product as follows: 

    The intent of this joint effort is to develop objective standards regarding the
nature of excellence in public administration and training. The hope is that
such standards will enable individual institutions to assess themselves and
in so doing, determine the resources that are necessary to achieve excellence. 

    This last point must be stressed here: the standards proposed here are intended to be used for self-evaluation in a learning process, not as a measuring rod for ‘judging’ programs or institutions. In the same publication, Blue Wooldridge proposed a set of characteristics of high performing schools and institutes of administration and used these characteristics as a basis for developing criteria by which to assess excellence in public administration education and training. Among the numerous characteristics of high performing organizations that Wooldridge suggests are:

● Commitment to a clearly described vision and mission
● Focus on quality services for the client
● Empowerment of employees
● Valuing diversity
● Communicating effectively 

    These characteristics are ones that are exhibited by all high performing organizations whether they be public sector agencies or education and training institutions. Their implementation however, represents critical challenges for all such organizations and they are ones that the Task Force has sought to address as it has developed the Standards of Excellence that follow. As Guido Bertucci, the Director of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management at the UN, points out “The UN/IASIA initiative is premised on the belief that public administration education and training programs must be conceived and implemented with the aim of making current and future public sector leaders capable of effectively addressing the key issues facing the world today…”. It is towards the achievement of this goal that the Task Force has worked and for which it offers the Standards of Excellence that follow.

Standards of Excellence

    The Task Force believes that standards of excellence for public administration education and training should facilitate organizations in the public sector to be high performing through providing them with the highest quality of public servants. In order that public administration education and training institutions can best do this, the Task Force suggests the following Standards of Excellence for Public Administration Education and Training(*)

    1- Public Service Commitment: The faculty and administration of the program are defined by their fundamental commitment to public service. They are in all of their activities (teaching, training, research, technical assistance and other service activities) at all times absolutely committed to the advancement of the public interest and the building of democratic institutions. This is true within all facets of the program including internal organizational arrangements as well as programmatic activities at local, regional, national and international levels. 

    2- Advocacy of Public Interest Values: The program's faculty and administration reflect their commitment to the advancement of public service by both their advocacy for, and their efforts to create, a culture of participation, commitment, responsiveness and accountability in all of those organizations and institutions with which they come into contact. In so doing, both by pedagogy and example, they prepare students and trainees to provide the highest quality of public service. 

    3- Combining Scholarship, Practice and Community Service: Because public administration is an applied science, the faculty and administration of the program are committed to the integration of theory and practice and as such the program draws upon knowledge and understanding generated both by the highest quality of research and the most outstanding practical experience. Consequently, the faculty, administration and students of the program are actively engaged through its teaching, training, research and service activities with all of their stake holder communities from the smallest village or city neighborhood to the global community at large. 

    4- The Faculty is Central: The commitment and quality of the faculty (and/or trainers) is central to the achievement of program goals in all areas of activities. Consequently, there must be, especially in degree granting programs, a full time core faculty committed to the highest standards of teaching, training and research and possessing the authority and responsibility appropriate to accepted standards of faculty program governance. This faculty must be paid at a level that allows them to devote the totality of their professional activities to the achievements of the goals and purposes of the program and must be available in adequate numbers consistent with the mission of the program. In that regard, a ratio of 1 faculty member per 20 graduate level students and at least 4 full time faculty would represent typical minimum requirements. Faculty teaching responsibilities should not be greater than two academic courses (or their equivalent in a training institution) at any time in the calendar year in order to allow for necessary involvement in research, training, service and technical assistance activities.

    5- Inclusiveness is at the Heart of the Program: A critical element in the achievement of excellence in public administration education and training is an unwavering commitment on the part of faculty and administration to diversity of ideas and of participation. The people who participate in programs, including students, trainees, trainers, administrators and faculty, should come from all the different racial, ethnic, and demographic communities of the society. The ideas, concepts, theories and practices addressed in the program should represent a broad variety of intellectual interests and approaches. Inclusiveness in terms of individual involvement (including sensitivity to issues of ethnicity, nationality, race, gender orientation and accessibility to all) within a program serves also to encourage inclusiveness in terms of ideas. Both forms of inclusiveness, intellectual and participatory, are the hallmarks of excellent programs. 

    6- A Curriculum that is Purposeful and Responsive: A principal goal of public administration education and training is the development of public administrators who will make strong, positive contributions to the public service generally and, in particular, to the organizations they join, or to which they return. This requires public administration education and training programs to have coherent missions which drive program organization and curriculum development. In addition, it is critical that those who educate and train public administrators communicate and work with and, as appropriate, be responsive to the organizations for which they are preparing students and trainees. It also requires that the student and/or trainee be inculcated with a commitment to making a difference and that their education and training prepare them to effectively communicate (both verbally and in writing) with those with whom they work. 

    7- Adequate Resources are Critical: An important prerequisite to creating a program of excellence in public administration education and training is the availability of adequate resources. Many different kinds of resources are required including facilities, technology, library resources and student services (in terms of assistance with meeting such basic needs as housing, health care, etc.). The availability of these resources is obviously a function of the availability of adequate financial resources. Those financial resources must be such as to sustain full time faculty and/or trainers, provide needed assistance to students and faculty (such as funding to participate in international conferences, etc) and insure the availability of adequate classroom, research, training and meeting space as well as individual offices for each faculty member and as needed for students. 

    8- Balancing Collaboration and Competition: Finally, and most importantly, their must be among the program faculty, trainers, administrators and students or trainees a sense of common purpose and mission deriving from the program's commitment to the advancing of the public interest. There must also be a sense of determination, indeed even competitiveness that drives the program to be the best and creates a desire to meet and exceed world class standards of excellence.

     In order to assess the achievement of these standards of excellence it is necessary to have appropriate criteria against which to measure program progress. The criteria for assessing standards presented below are inspired by the chapters by Wooldridge and others in Excellence and Leadership in the Public Sector and the standards used by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration/Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (NASPAA/COPRA 2006), The European Association for Public Administration Accreditation (EAPAA 2006), the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA 2005), and the European Foundation for Management Education - Educational Planning and Assessment Systems (EFMD-EPAS 2006), various discussions within the Task Force and other colleagues at the several open meetings organized by the Task Force during international conferences.

● In the following text the term ‘program’ is used as a generic term for all kinds of education and training. It can refer to a 2 years degree curriculum as well as to a one day training activity.
● The more formal the result of the program (for example a master degree) the more specific some of the standards and criteria can or must be specified. Also in some occasions additional standards could apply (for example that a master degree program should have a specified length or amount of study points). Because the standards below are meant for the totality of education and training activities, at some points criteria for certain types of education or training are specified.
● Although at several occasions this point is repeated, it must be emphasized that the involvement of all relevant stakeholders in defining, interpreting and detailing these standards, is essential.

Main Categories of Criteria for Measuring Standards of Excellence

    The criteria for measuring standards are divided into various categories. This categorization can be debated, and certainly other groupings are possible and defendable. However, after the inspection of several sets of criteria and/or standards used in international evaluation and accreditation, it was concluded that one could divide criteria for measuring standards into two groups: the first being those concerned with the organizational nature and characteristics of the institution providing programs and the second being those criteria that relate to the actual program being delivered by the institution.

Therefore we distinguish:

This can be subdivided into four subcategories:

A. Institutional Criteria for Measuring Excellence in Program Organization
The following set of criteria applies to the institutional level and can be seen as prerequisites to the delivery of excellent programs.

1. Strategic planning process: the program systematically should develop and update a program strategy within the framework of its chosen or mandated purpose. This process should address the programs activities in the areas of instruction, training, research and public services. This process should result in a distinct mission for the program.

2. Financial and budgetary structure: there should be a transparent and efficient financial and budgetary structure where those responsible for the program have clear budget control.

3. Quality assurance system: the program should have an adequate (continuous, circular and comprehensive) and formal quality assurance system (strategy, policy and procedures) in which the involvement of relevant stakeholders is assured. The output of this system should be publicly available.

4. Human resource management (HRM) system: the program should have an adequate HRM-system with respect to remuneration, personal development (and especially the development of educational skills and international experience) and involvement. Also, the faculty and staff should reflect the diversity in the population of the country.

5. Contribution to the discipline: appropriate to the mission of the program or institution, the faculty receives adequate support and stimulus to generate and disseminate new knowledge in the discipline of public administration and related fields.

6. Social and cultural diversity: the personnel policy and practice should reflect and promote social and cultural diversity.

7. Facilities: there should be adequate facilities with respect to library, support staff, classrooms and instructional equipment, ICT-systems and faculty offices, and (if applicable) residential facilities. The facilities should be accessible for disabled persons.

8. Student services: the institution should have adequate student services of good quality at least with respect to individual advice or tutoring and job placement assistance.

9. Public relations: the programs should have a public relations system that provides adequate, accurate and objective information on its tasks, objectives and structure, on the specific programs offered and their costs, on the awards offered and on the general performance of the program and institution.

10.  Grievances: the institution should have an adequate (fair, accessible) system for the handling of grievances.

11.  Exemplary function: the program should be run as an exemplary public organization.

12.  Benchmarking: the program should regularly compare its functioning with (other) high performing organizations.

B. Criteria for Measuring Program Excellence

The second set of criteria for measuring standards applies to the substantive aspects of programs. Here four subsets are distinguishable: criteria for measuring standards for the development of programs, the management of programs, the content of programs and the performance of programs.

B1. Program Development and Review or Measuring Program Excellence

1. Program development and review process: there should be an adequate process for both the development of and the reviewing of the program – one in which all relevant stakeholders are involved.

2. Program goals and objectives: the program development or review should result in a set of clear and realistic program goals and objectives, including identifying the program target group(s) and program activity level; ideally the objectives should be formulated in the form of competencies or learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and attitudes) to be obtained. These goals and objectives can take the form of a program mission.

3. Educational strategy: on the basis of the program goals, objectives, level and target group(s) an adequate educational strategy should be designed. Especially the balance between theory and practice should be addressed. The use of multiple teaching methods should be realized. The teaching methods used should be ‘evidence-based’ as far as possible. When e-learning elements are used in the program, special attention should be given to them.

4. Program design: the goals, objectives and educational strategy should be translated into a program design that encompasses the program components, schedule, assignments and assessments.

5. Program coherence and consistency: the program should be coherent and consistent and the student should be able to fulfill its requirements within the time foreseen. The relation between the objectives, competencies and/or learning outcomes and the program elements, assignments and assessments should be clear. 

6. Program faculty: the core faculty should include individuals with both academic and non-academic experience. For the most part, faculty teaching in graduate degree granting programs should possess terminal degrees and be actively engaged in research, service and, as appropriate, consulting activities. Adequately prepared practitioners should be involved in all academic programs and/or training programs.

7. Number of core faculty/staff: the number of full time faculty responsible for the core of the program should be at least four, or greater, depending upon the mission, size and comprehensiveness of the program.

8. Research involvement: the faculty/staff responsible for the core of any degree granting program should devote a significant percentage of their time to research and community service.

9. Program admission: there should be an adequate, transparent and fair admission procedure with the admission criteria publicly available.

B2 Program Content

1. Program coherence and consistency: the content of a program should logically follow from the program goals, objectives and chosen educational strategy.

2. Program level: the content should be adapted to the level appropriate for the target group(s).

3. Formal program requirements: the content should encompass the elements prescribed in requisites for a certificate or degree.

4. Program basis: the content of the program should, appropriate to the level of the program, reflect international ‘state-of-the-art’ concepts and insights, theories and methods. As far as possible, the methods/procedures/policies taught should be ‘evidence-based’. 

5. Multidisciplinary: the content of the program should reflect the multidisciplinary basis of the public administration field.

6. Practical experience: Degree granting programs should be structured in such a manner as to insure that all graduates have had some sort of structured experience in the public or not for profit sector.

7. Community consultation: In the development of both training and degree granting programs, the needs of the organizations for which the individual is being prepared is of critical importance. Toward that end there must be appropriate consultation and dialogue.

8. Curriculum components: The program or training curriculum shall enhance the student's competencies, values, knowledge, and skills to act ethically, equitably, effectively and with efficiency: Subject to the mission of the program, they should include:

The Management of Public Service Organizations:
- Human resource management
- Budgeting and financial processes
- Information management, new technology applications, and policy
- Administrative and constitutional law
- Effective communication skills
- Organization and management concepts and behavior
- Not for profit and private sector relationships and grant management

Improvement of Public Sector Processes:
- Development of high performing organizations
- Management of networks and partnerships
- The delivery of public goods and services
- Management of projects and contracts
- Supporting workforce diversity
- Motivation and design of public sector organizations

Leadership in the Public Sector:
- Creative and innovative problem solving
- Leading institutional and organizational transformation
- Conflict prevention and resolution strategies
- Promoting equity in service delivery
- Developing approaches to poverty alleviation
- Promoting democratic institutional development
- Public Sector Ethics

The Application of Quantitative and Qualitative Techniques of Analysis:
- Institutional and developmental economics
- Policy and program formulation, analysis, implementation and evaluation
- Decision-making and problem-solving
- Strategic planning

Understanding Public Policy and the Organizational Environment:
- Political and legal institutions and processes
- Economic and social institutions and processes
- Historical and cultural context
- The management of economic development
- The implications of the “third party government”
- Acknowledging and reconciling cultural diversity

These area requirements do not prescribe specific courses. Neither do they imply that equal time should be spent on each area or that these courses must all be offered by public affairs, public policy or public administration programs. Nor should they be interpreted in a manner that might impede the development of special strengths or areas of specialization in each program.

9. There are other criteria that are relevant for assessing the excellence of programs. Such criteria refer to more general aspects of the program and contribute to the more overarching goals that are critical to the well being of any society. Consequently, programs preparing individuals for the public sector, or to enhance their skills, should have content addressing the following:
Public sector ethos: all education or training programs produced for the public sector should contribute towards the development of individuals with a true public sector ethos who can be characterized as being knowledgeable about and understanding the importance for an effective public sector of:

● Democratic values
● Respect for individual and basic human rights
● Social equity and the equitable distribution of goods and services
● Social and cultural diversity
● Transparency and accountability
● Sustainable development
● Organizational justice and fairness
● Recognition of global interdependence
● Civic engagement

Public sector skills: education and training programs preparing individuals for the public sector should enable (with respect to the goals and the level of the program) those participating to build personal capacities for:

● Analytical and critical thinking
● Dealing with complexity
● Flexibility
● Dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity
● Operating in a political environment
● Building high performing organizations
● Involving other groups and institutions in society to realize policy goals
● Life time learning
● Applying life experiences to academic and training activities

Public sector nature: educational or training programs produced for the public sector (with respect to the goals and the level of the program) should address:

● Internationalization and globalization
● The balance between centralization and decentralization
● Impact of multinational organizations and agreements
● Weakening of the state (the influence of cutbacks and new public management).
● New modes of communication and their impact
● Collaborative governance

B3 Program Management and Administration
Another set of criteria for measuring standards has to do with program management:

1. Program responsibility: there should be a clear structure of responsibility for the program.

2. Program budget: the budget (in terms of finance, personnel and facilities) should be adequate to attain the programs goals and objectives.

3. Program administration: there should be adequate program administration.

4. Participant progress: there should be an adequate accounting for student’s progress that is available to the individual student.

5. Assessment: the performance of the students should be measured adequately, preferably in terms of competencies attained. Students should be assessed using published criteria, regulations and procedures which are applied consistently and students should have access to due process with regard to issues involving their performance.

6. Program information: students should have available timely, up-to-date information on the program.

7. Faculty review: faculty/staff involved in the program should be reviewed regularly and assessed on their performance.

8. Communication: there should be an adequate system of communication between all persons involved (students, teachers and staff).

9. Delivery consistency: in the case of multiple deliveries of courses, consistency in delivery should be guaranteed.

10.  Program monitoring and review: there should be an adequate (continuous, circular and comprehensive) system of monitoring (course and program evaluation) and reviewing of the program with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders. This system should be consistent with the overall quality assurance system of the institution.

B4 Program Performance

1. Performance measurement system: there should be an adequate system of program performance measurement. The program performance measurement system should be related to the program objectives and to the degree feasible include a bench marking system.

2. Satisfaction: the satisfaction with the program as seen by relevant stakeholders (students, graduates and employers) should be measured regularly.

3. Basic operating information: information on relevant (depending on type of training or education) data such as number of participants, target group coverage, drop-outs, and (average) study time, should be readily available.

4. Specific targets: if specific targets are to be attained, the measured performance should be evaluated against these targets. Targets could be set by the institution itself, but also by relevant outside institutions.

5. Benchmarking: the performance of the program should be compared with the performance of other relevant programs when possible.

6. Impact on the community: appropriate to the mission of the program, its impact on the community should be measured and assessed.

7. Financial performance: Depending on the institutional arrangements, information on financial performance such as cost per student and return on investment (in terms of time, effort, funding) should be available.

8. Program Impact: Regular efforts to obtain assessments by the organizations for which individuals are being educated and/or trained must be undertaken. The results of these assessment efforts should be used to adjust program education and training activity in such a manner as to improve effectiveness and assure responsiveness.

The Use of the Standards of Excellence

    Below you will find all criteria again, but now with indications of possible level of attainment in the form of Likert scales.

IMPORTANT: the indicators should be used as indications; they are not rules or objective and precise measurements of a criterion. There could be other indicators of the level of attainment. 

    The list of Likert scales can be used for a self-evaluation of your institute and program, and as a start for a quality enhancement program. You may wish to consider the following items:

With the help of your stakeholders, answer the following questions:

1. From your mission, what criteria are not applicable, and why?

2. If you do not have the resources to do a full quality review, select the criteria that are most important for you and your stakeholders. 

3. From your mission, what level should you attain at least on each criterion?

4. From your mission, what other criteria for evaluation should be taken into account?

Answer the following questions: 

5. Score your institution/program on each of the (selected) criteria. What evidence do you have for this score? Make sure you can substantiate it with objective evidence.

6. On what criteria do you perform below the level you set as goal? What are the (possible) causes for underperforming?

7. What measures should be taken to improve your performance on each of the criteria?

            In consultation with your stakeholders: 

            8. Decide on the actions to be taken and undertake a planning effort. 

            9. Implement the actions as planned. 

           10. Evaluate the results of your actions regularly and, when necessary,

take further action.

Self Assessment Tool
John-Mary Kauzya, Dr.
Chief, Public Administration Capacity Branch
Division for Public Administration and Development Management
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Room DC2-1742
New York, N.Y. 10017
Phone: (212) 963-1973
Fax: (212) 963-2916
Email: kauzya@un.org


Almaz Atnafu WOLDEKIDANE, Ms.
Senior Governance and Public Administration Officer
Division for Public Administration and Development Management
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Room DC2-1740
New York, N.Y. 10017
Tel: +1-917-367-9994
Fax: +1-212-963-2916
Email: almaz@un.org

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