Frequently Asked Questions
What is a digital society?
A digital society is defined by the degree to which digital technologies pervade social relations within a collective. In a digital society, human interaction is frequently mediated, and thus shaped by, digital technologies. The distinctions between online and offline spaces become increasingly ambiguous.
Why a public policy degree with a digital specialization?
Digital technologies are implicated to varying degrees in almost every area of contemporary public policymaking. Policymakers need to better understand technology in order to develop effective policy responses. This does not mean that policymakers need to be technical experts, but they do require a general understanding of how digital technologies operate so as to “speak tech to power” (World Economic Forum, 2019).
The societal transformations that are being ushered in by phenomena such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, bioinformatics, 3D printing, and IoT have wide-ranging implications that demand an informed policy response. Said response must draw both on sufficient knowledge as to how these technologies operate, and on critical analysis of their societal implications extending beyond business cases or technical specifications.
As Canada’s first specialized MPP degree program, McMaster’s MPP in Digital Society is designed to meet the moment as the world looks ahead to new technological opportunities and challenges on the horizon. Regulatory lag has come to characterize the relationship between public policy and technology. This program is intended to produce world class graduates who can close the gap by leveraging the knowledge and skills they acquire through their specialized training.
What career opportunities does this degree prepare graduates for?
The MPP in Digital Society is intended to prepare graduates for career tracks at the intersection of technology and public policy. The training that students receive in the program positions them competitively for public service opportunities in technology policy, data analysis, digital transformation, digital government, and digital service delivery. However, a grounding in digital technology and public policy is an asset for a much broader range of public sector employment opportunities.
The demand for public policy experts with a specialization in digital technology is by no means exclusive to the public sector. Many tech companies are incorporating a policy function into their organizations. Recognizing that the fast pace of technological advancement and the need to both anticipate and influence regulatory trends, the technology sector is actively and increasingly engaged in regulatory entrepreneurship, that is, “pursuing a line of business in which changing the law is a significant part of the business plan” (Pollman and Barry, 2017).
Other career opportunities may include advocacy or research roles in the non-profit sector.
Why does the program start in May as opposed to September?
The program is designed to align with optimal hiring windows across the public and private sectors. Moreover, beginning in May permits graduates to complete the degree requirements within a one-year timeframe as opposed to two years.
I don't officially graduate until June. Can I still start this program in May?
Yes. Students who complete their undergraduate courses at the end of April can formally enroll in the MPP in Digital Society in May, even if their convocation or official graduation does not take place until June.
Is the program offered in-person or online?
The program continues to take a remote-first approach, with the option for students to work and learn on-campus.
What are skills development labs?
Skills labs are a unique offering of McMaster’s MPP in Digital Society. A complement to traditional, seminar-style graduate courses, skills labs are intended to develop leadership capabilities and core digital competencies such as the fundamentals of programming and data analysis.
No prior experience in coding or statistics is required to participate in skills labs. They are tailored for novice learners.
Does the program include a co-op placement or internship option?
Students have the option of entering the MPP-DS co-op program stream that includes a four-month co-op opportunity. Co-op placements will take place from May to August following the successful completion of all other program requirements. Students who successfully complete their co-op placement will participate in the fall convocation.
Eligibility is based on performance in the program and availability of placement options. The program will actively seek co-op opportunities for our students and students will also be encouraged and expected to apply for external opportunities. Placements will be competitive; admission to the co-op stream does not guarantee placement although we will assist students to the best of our ability in finding positions. Tuition for the co-op term is $500.
What scholarships and bursaries am I eligible for as an MPP student?
The Master of Public Policy program is eligible for loans under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
In addition to graduate scholarships, MPP students are encouraged to use McMaster’s platform “Award Spring” which does a good job matching students with funding opportunities. Please note Award Spring is only accessible to current students, and that incoming students may not be able to access it until August.
There are general bursaries and some donor bursaries that a student could be eligible for. These bursaries normally get paid out in January or February and by applying to something called the “general bursary,” a student would automatically be considered for other donor bursaries. We also refer students to the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award.
What would a sample course schedule look like? When are courses usually held?
Courses are held virtually but synchronously; live attendance is required. We schedule courses during daytime/working hours Tuesday to Friday, leaving Mondays for special events and class/assignment preparation. The attached downloadable pdf shows a sample schedule, based on the course offerings for the 2023/24 cohort of students.