Study at CEU’s School of Public Policy: Let us conceive a better world together!

Study at CEU’s School of Public Policy: Let us conceive a better world together!

The School of Public Policy (SPP) at Central European University (CEU) is a leading global institution, which is committed to inspire and empower its diverse student body and equip them with the knowledge, competences, and emotional intelligence to address complex real-world policy problems. We asked the Head of SPP, Martin Kahanec, to answer our questions about the graduate programs and scholarships his school offers. We also included several SPP students and gave them the opportunity to tell their stories.

Q: Besides being the Head of CEU’s School of Public Policy, you are a leading expert on labor policy issues. What is in your view the greatest labor market challenge of our times?

MK: There are several, these include youth unemployment, aging, poverty and social exclusion, or mass migration, just to name a few. The so-called fourth industrial revolution, whereby intelligent devices ranging from computers to artificial intelligence programs and cyber production systems provide a good substitute for work currently performed by humans, is a great opportunity, but it also poses a number of significant challenges. These new intelligent technologies can increasingly replace workers, including highly skilled ones. Whereas such ‘robots’ will increase productivity and thus raise incomes and provide for more and better leisure options, they also will reduce opportunities for well-paying, decent jobs. The crux of the challenge is not so much in whether there will be jobs; it is rather the quality of available jobs and the distribution of income. The key policy challenge is maintaining social cohesion in the world of growing concentration of income and economic power in the hands of a few highly skilled professionals and, especially, owners of such intelligent ‘robots’.

Q: You yourself studied at CEU two decades ago. How would you characterize that experience?

MK: CEU grants its students a transformative and empowering experience. It boasts a diverse international community of students, faculty and staff, a vibrant student life and an inspiring intellectual environment, as well as attractive Masters’ and PhD programs. In Politics and International Studies, to which the School of Public Policy contributes, CEU consistently ranks among the top global universities according to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) subject ranking, attaining the highest rank in 2015, 29th in the world. My CEU experience was a key stepping stone for my career. But I am equally grateful for the lasting friendships it has provided and the great memories through its social activities, events and exciting student life.

Q: How does studying at CEU’s School of Public Policy differ from doing so at other leading public policy schools?

MK: The quality of the learning experience is primarily determined by the quality of the learning environment and the diversity of learning stimuli. CEU boasts the second most diverse body of students in the world, according to the 2017 ranking of THE World University Ranking. The learning experience in a class with students from e.g. Argentina, Hungary, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Vietnam, the US and about fifty other countries is a unique experience. It gives you a very different, often entirely new perspective on public policy problems, and it inspires you to come up with more innovative solutions to these.  

Q: What academic programs does SPP offer and who can apply?

MK:  Our two-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) program emphasizes the work-based and applied skills of policy management, leadership and advocacy. Students joining this program have a wide variety of academic backgrounds, such as economics, environmental affairs, foreign languages, biological sciences, sociology, religion, history, business, maths, medicine, or engineering.

Our one-year MA in Public Policy (MAPP) program provides students with a firm grounding in analytical skills and key themes of public policy and policy analysis as well as practical and issue-oriented knowledge that will prepare them for their future roles as policy-makers, advisors, or analysts in governmental and non-governmental organizations. It is also open to graduates of all disciplines, but degrees in the social sciences will score higher in the admission process.

Third, we offer a unique Erasmus Mundus Master’s Program in Public Policy (Mundus MAPP) joint-degree program, which is funded by the European Union. This program has strong analytical and practical components. Students spend the second year of their studies either at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (Spain), specializing in Global Public Policy, or the University of York (UK), earning a specialization in European Public Policy.

Last but not least, we boast a PhD program in Political Science within the Public Policy Track of CEU’s Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations. For our doctoral program we look forward to applications from those who have an interest in conducting academic research on the causes, functions, nature and outcomes of public policy.

Q: What are the most common careers of an SPP graduate?

MK: One third of our alumni join non-profit organizations and more than 25% of them pursue careers in the private sector. Many SPP graduates choose to work in areas of international development, human rights advocacy, or social justice and governance. Our alumni serve as national development strategy advisors, monitoring and evaluation specialists, or partnership managers, just to name a few. Many land at leading international institutions and multilateral organizations such as at the World Bank, national governments, prominent think-tanks, or supra-national bodies such as the European Commission.

Q: Do you offer scholarships?

MK: A wide range of scholarships and fellowships are available for those who apply to the School of Public Policy. On top of a number of full and partial tuition waivers, we award financial aid packages which not only cover the full cost of tuition but includes a monthly living stipend, health insurance, and some offer housing. You can apply for financial aid  along with your application by January 31, 2019 which is awarded based on a combination of academic merit and financial need. The majority of our students end up with some, often rather generous financial support. But do not forget to apply by January 31, 2019, to be considered for financial aid. Students with their own financing can apply until May 1, 2019.


Melody Rachel Konadu Frempong (Erasmus Mundus Master of Arts in Public Policy) is a citizen of Ghana, she studied Social Work and  Sociology before joining CEU.

Growing up in Ghana, I have sought to improve the lives of my people through effective policy formulation.  My dream is to be a policy researcher in an effort to facilitate policy formulation for social development.

To make someone better off is to help improve and change someone’s condition. To always see the good in people irrespective of this. Through education I want to help bring the unique potential of individuals to the fore which is incremental for the progress of society.

At SPP I have the opportunity to work with leading experts of various fields who challenge me intellectually to approaching problems flexibly and enable me to engage in critical problem-solving. The outstanding technological resources, at the CEU library and other learning facilities are tools to help realize my future aspiration as a Policy Researcher.


Bernadett Sebály (Master of Arts in Public Policy) is a Hungarian, with a background in Cultural Anthropology, and has worked to build strong community organizations before joining CEU.

Prior to CEU, I trained and mentored community organizers with the Civil College Foundation, from where my decision to improve knowledge in governance and civil society was prompted by the series of measures designed to silence civil society organizations in Hungary. I dream is become a civil society professional who can provide answers for civil society organizations, social movements and donors working in non-democratic countries.

“During my eight years of activism with The City Is for All organization, I organized housing rights in a multi-class alliance. This reinforced my belief that I can make the world a better place if I help people become aware of their power so that they can engage in shaping their own lives and the future of their society.”

Building knowledge is precious and relevant, and should be anchored in local communities. My goal is to link the worlds of activism, civil society organizations and academia in a way that is fruitful for all.


Viktor Mak (Master of Arts in Public Administration) is an American with strong Hungarian roots.

“Public Policy is a rare discipline – it combines the rigor of academia and the pursuit of truth with the power of the state and policy to remake society and the world.” He says.

Making the world a better place seems like such a daunting task, challenged for example by the consequential failures of the state – such as inadequate healthcare or poor educational system. At SPP we critically engage with the craftsmanship of policy-making and the management of public goods and the learn to employ the skills to analyze, measure, monitor and evaluate the potential impact various policies may have on societies. Of course not all SPP grads will go onto working for the government as policy analyst, but these skills and this potential impact exists in the nonprofit sector and even in the private sector in some capacity.


Isabelle Karabajakian (Master of Arts in Public Administration) is from Syria with a background in Political Sciences and Public Administration. She is aspiring to be a Policymaker.

Throughout my professional life, I have seen first-hand how poor governance leads to the waste of public resources drained from sectors such as infrastructure or education. I came to SPP to study Public Policy to learn about the principles and practical solutions of evidence-based policy-making to address government inefficiency in my country.

For me, making someone better off means being kind to them first, recognizing their equal dignity and – to the extent possible – providing them with the tools they need to feel empowered over their own lives. The world is a better place when everyone feels empowered.

I think in a globalized society, the two most fundamental skills needed are intercultural competence and knowledge of a common language in the policymaking world. The English-language program at SPP along with its very diverse student body provide an opportunity to acquire such skills. The practical component – Skills for Impact module and the year-long Applied Policy Project allows us to have a real-world experience and impact as part of our studies. All of this is unmatched by other renowned public policy schools.


Fridon Lala (Master of Arts in Public Administration) is from Kosovo. He previously studied Management & Marketing. 

I am interested in learning about the practical interlinkages of public policy and domestic legislation and their impact on the opportunities of the minorities in Kosovo in terms of social and economic development. Working as an advocate for minority rights helped me to realize the need for formal education to effectively address the development problems in my country.

I believe in order to achieve inclusion in social and economic development one should adopt the concept of fairness to acknowledge peoples’ differences. Not everyone starts from the same ground and have the exact same needs, therefore the principle of equity should be used. Everyone is gifted and have the potential of being successful, some just do not have the opportunities.  

The MPA program at SPP has given me this opportunity in the form of a firm theoretical footing, and a strong practice-oriented component which has provided me with the opportunity to apply my academic knowledge to solve real-world problems and keep challenging the statistics. Moreover, CEU’s shared values and diversity has strengthened my devotion for social change. 

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