Paras Tyagi and Swasti Raizada take some time off their busy schedules to answer a few questions about their experiences working as erstwhile members of the Recruitment Coordination Committee (RCC), Masters Programme in Public Policy, 2014-16, NLSIU.
- The emergence of Public Policy as a field of enquiry and an established discipline in Indian academia is as recent as a decade ago. Knowledge about the nature and scope of the field is also being rapidly made known. In this context, how do you appeal to recruiters and make the program attractive?
Swasti: We begin with explaining how public policy is a broad framework of the purpose and process for addressing a social, economic, technological or environmental issue and is essentially rooted in what the governments choose to do or not to do. This helps the recruiters in understanding why it needs to be treated as an independent and professional service. This is done by invoking the examples of increasing number of specialist positions like Economic Advisors, Defence Advisors, and Public Health Consultants etc. within the Government. It is also done using examples of political consultancies which are increasingly focusing on bringing policy convergence.
From our experience, it has been witnessed that organisations in the development sector are better placed to recognise this growing importance while organisations which deal with technical areas such as energy, infrastructure, defence, and technology are still struggling with understanding what job roles should be assigned to policy analysts and consultants.
Paras: Students have an important say in matters related to academics, extracurricular activities and other student activities in NLSIU. This helps the students to interact with the decision makers at all levels in the university, and with this experience, they learn about the nitty-gritty of administration.
A public policy professional is the ideal choice for the industry as someone who can communicate with the government, to not only speak the language of law but also understand the sensitive nature of public issues.
- What makes the MPP course at NLSIU stand out in comparison to Public Policy courses at other institutions in India? How important is the convergence between law and policy from the recruiters’ perspective?
Swasti: Well, in India law still remains the key engine to drive policy design. Public policy at NLSIU reflects a balanced transition from this traditional approach to a more dynamic policy approach. Experts both in the private and public sector are gradually realising the benefits of having a professional who understands the administrative pressures while formulating and implementing a policy. E.g. Why it is important to speed up the publication of policy briefs during the Budget Session, analyse public comments on a draft policy in a limited timeframe, embedding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in the policy design itself to help monitoring and evaluation etc.
NLSIU, with its distinguished faculty and alumni, is one the best places to operationalize such a vision. It is the only law school to have an independent public policy programme in the country. It has a rich blend of bureaucrats, internationally recognised guest speakers, domain experts frequently visiting the campus. This helps it root all policy debates in the sacrosanct Constitution of the country and provide students with a foundation that helps them logically deconstruct the rules and regulations that drive the administration of a diverse country as India. For the recruiter, this means that although the students of MPP have a domain expertise from their undergraduate studies, they are equally enriched in understanding the application of law to a policy problem. This makes the batch of students unique in their holistic understanding of a problem statement.
- What kind of organisations especially look for policy graduates? What skills do they seek in them?
Swasti: The MPP course at NLSIU provides students with the latitude to explore their interests to suit the academia, civil society organisations, government and corporate organisations. Organisations having any sort of government interface are turning towards policy students for creating new roles. To start with, the recruiters expect the students to be good at monitoring and evaluation, one of the better-evolved streams within the policy cycle. Besides these, a strong theoretical background in policy studies helps the student to be imaginative when tasked with a problem statement in the industry. Analytical tools like social cost-benefit analysis, impact assessments, content analysis, social network analysis etc. are add-on skills for evidence-based policy making. A student is also expected to have some technical grounding in the sector to be able to easily adapt to it.
Paras: The Government has realised the importance of partnerships with the private sector to enhance the quality of governance with new tools that are not only technical in nature but also critical policy skills to aid the government in decision making. Organisations like state-owned rural livelihood missions, Ministry supported think-tanks and other government-aided agencies look for policy graduates. Similarly, corporates, research think-tanks, donor agencies and other organisations interested in the social sector have also shown interest.
- What challenges did you face in your endeavour to develop and sustain a long-term relationship with the industry?
Swasti: Since the policy space in the country is still in its experimental stage, the career path for students is still unclear. Although the recruiters are excited about the novel concept of public policy, getting exact job descriptions from recruiters takes its own time. Job definitions vary from business development to advisory roles. In some cases, policy students are offered legal positions by virtue of being a student of National Law School while design of economic policy instruments is left to a separate team in the organization. This leaves the student underutilized, even misplaced in some cases within the organizations and also leads to compartmentalization of the policy itself. As RCC therefore, getting details of job descriptions and communicating the exact nature of the role to the students so that they understand what the organization has to offer therefore becomes crucial. As a student body, it is a daunting task to be able to create that bridge between students and industries and provide a perfect job fit for the two.
Paras: We faced many important challenges. The biggest one was to convince people about the course and its intent to serve both the private and public sectors. As it is a new discipline in India, many people especially in the government were not aware about its purpose to serve both social and economic development objectives of the society.
- Carving out a niche for the program is critical in the initial years. How can the course be structured, from your experience, to cater to the evolving needs of the industry?
Swasti: Well, the pedagogy of public policy at NLSIU has been conceptualized after a thorough brainstorming exercise between the academic stalwarts of the country. It has brought in a good mix of subjects taught in prestigious international universities. The course can be enriched on the applied side by creating a repository of case studies and more hands-on learning by bringing industry projects to the campus. Additionally, introducing skill based courses like econometrics, negotiation, financial accounting, and project management can help the students inculcate creative thinking. Broadening the range of electives offered can also help enrich the course and make it attractive to a wider pool of recruiters.
Paras: Students should take initiatives to interact with the organizations where they would like to see themselves in the future and try to research about the policy challenges faced by them. If the interested students can research about, for instance, the CSR related activities of the industry, then they can advise the organizations on efficient fund allocation in the future to meet their objectives.