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A degree that meets the moment

Digital innovations are actively reshaping our societies. Governments, industry, and civil society are grappling with ways to develop effective public policy responses to the opportunities and challenges presented by digital technology.

The MPP in Digital Society is a professional degree that combines seminar-based learning, case studies, skills labs, and experiential education opportunities to develop a set of core competencies at the intersection of digital technology and public policy. The interdisciplinary curriculum focuses on developing the theory and skills necessary to ensure that students develop and are able to demonstrate mastery of public policy fundamentals, foundational informatics, and the base mechanics of digital technologies.

The aim of the program is to train prospective policy leaders to navigate the rapidly changing dynamics of the technological landscape so as to more effectively address the complex social, political, and economic challenges that have accompanied the Digital Age. By leveraging their training as both technologists and policymakers, graduates of the program will be prepared to lead interdisciplinary teams in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. They will be well placed to advance innovative solutions to complex public policy challenges resulting from the advancement of digital technologies.

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 enrol in the MPP in Digital Society in May, even if their convocation or official graduation does not take place until June.

How is the program being impacted by COVID-19?

The program will continue to be offered remotely using synchronous, virtual instruction methods. Students will not be expected to be on campus, although optional in-person opportunities may be made available to students.

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?

Because the MPP in Digital Society packs a demanding curriculum into a short timeframe a formal co-op placement or internship is not feasible under its present structure. That said, every effort will be made to place graduates in career-oriented positions upon conclusion of the program.

What scholarships and bursaries am I eligible for as an MPP student?

As the MPP program does not receive funding from the province of Ontario, there are some limitations regarding eligibility for funding. For instance, students in the program will not be able to leverage an OSAP grant. However, in addition to entrance 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.