To BSG or not to BSG?

Students at BSG conference

MPP students Mariana and Amina at the Challenges of Government Conference last December.

I’m halfway through the MPP course and a lot of people have been asking me about it, so I thought I’d share some insights about being at BSG.

Why study for a Master of Public Policy? My first thought was: “I need a break from work… a change of routine”. The automatic pilot button had long been pressed and after a 10-year-long career in the government, I wanted to be a student again!

Being Brazilian, I’ve always asked myself: “Why do Brazilians do public policy in certain ways? How could we do better and which policies should be prioritised? How can I identify what we did well and why?”

I was also curious to know more about other countries, what their public policy challenges are and how their governments have dealt with them.

I found out about BSG through one of my mentors. I came across the new Master of Public Policy at the University of Oxford and thought it was right for me.

For me, BSG is much more than just a School of Government; it’s a School of people and principles. It’s a place where we learn from experts; share opinions, agree, disagree.

In class, we discuss concepts of utilitarianism, justice, human rights. We study cross-country policies on health, education, security. We learn about law, governance and interests groups. We read about political economy, cost-benefit analysis, financial crisis, market failures and inequality. We think about global challenges, outbreaks, earthquakes, climate change. We understand the importance of science for public policy. We apply the theory learnt to negotiations, communication strategies, public budgeting, major project management. We improve our professional skills such as writing and teamwork during our summer project.

Most of all, BSG is a chance to meet people from all around the world, learn about their experiences and cultures, acknowledge their diversity of thoughts and beliefs. Network, make friends, take selfies!

It’s a School with a great team to support you and a Dean whom you are always looking forward to meeting again. And it’s an opportunity to be part of one of the best universities in the world.

If it all sounds too good to be true, be aware: there will be no spare time for you! This is an intensive one-year course with lots of work, lectures, side events, coffees, teas, seminars, group work and many, many deadlines.

And if you are not a native English speaker, don’t panic! Look around: you are not the only one.

And if you do panic, take a deep breath – there is a mindfulness course. Learn how to control your anxiety.

It’s so good to be here. Six months have already passed – time is going quickly. Soon, the exams will be done, the assessments will be completed and the last day of class will finally come. Then, everyone will fly away elsewhere for their summer project and move on with their lives.

Today, as I walk around Oxford – this charming old city with so many ancient buildings, beautiful gardens, churches and colleges – I realise that one day I will look back and remember fondly this time of my life

One year, one school, one University. And if you are still asking yourself: to BSG or not to BSG? I chose to BSG and be the change I want to see in the world.

Mariana Salles P Castro is studying for an MPP at the Blavatnik School of Government.

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