Skip to main content

Public Leadership (MSc)

  • Duration: 28 months
  • Mode: Part time

Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

Deploy research knowledge and practical skills to overcome complex service issues on our challenge-focused leadership programme.


Change business for good

Address a real-life policy issue related to your role and organisation in a work-based project.


Leadership development

Tackle specific career challenges and enhance your capability as a reflective leader with a professional coach.


Designed for professionals

Study alongside your work and home commitments with teaching delivered in three-day blocks across 28 months.


Socially responsible

As the world's first Public Value Business School, we're committed to delivering social improvement alongside economic development.

Delivering value and impact to multiple stakeholder groups is fundamental in public services. Navigating this diverse landscape of politics and policy, collaboration and conflict, innovation and improvement, is more complex than ever as leaders find ways to deliver more with less.

The business of changing leadership is ours.

Our MSc in Public Leadership delivers perspectives and approaches to lead change in your career and your organisation. It’s a perfect fit for experienced practitioners from public service and third sector fields including education, environmental protection, fire and rescue, health care, housing, planning, policing and social services.

Using the latest research and real-world insights, our team of academic and practitioner experts will help you navigate policy and delivery challenges across disciplinary, geographic, organisational and sectoral boundaries. They’ll help you reflect on how theory and practice can generate and sustain individual development, organisational improvement and enhanced citizen outcomes.

Alongside the taught element of the programme, you’ll benefit from sponsorship, developmental workshops plus peer and individual coaching. A series of Masterclasses will complete this wraparound component, where high-profile guests and speakers will share knowledge of strategy, innovation, leadership and change with you.

Portrait of woman outdoors
“Public service professionals are having to find new ways of responding to complex challenges. We need to strengthen leadership skills at all levels to deliver on the goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. So, I welcome initiatives such as the new Master’s in Public Leadership.”
Sophie Howe Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

We're committed to delivering programmes that are innovative and relevant, providing the best learning outcomes and career prospects for our students. In light of this, we're currently reviewing some elements of this programme. As such, the details shown are subject to change and indicative only. You can still apply now. We'll update this page and contact all offer holders when the review is complete to confirm any changes.

Where you'll study

Cardiff Business School

We're an AACSB International accredited Business School with a clear purpose: to make a difference in the communities of Wales and the world.

  • icon-chatGet in touch
  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4674
  • MarkerColum Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3EU

Admissions criteria

Academic requirements:

Typically, you will need to have either:

  • a 2:1 honours degree (GPA 3.0/4.0) in a relevant subject area such as education, environmental protection, fire and rescue, healthcare, housing, planning, policing, and social services
  • a university-recognised equivalent academic qualification
  • an approved professional qualification
  • or relevant professional experience evidenced by a reference.

English Language requirements:

IELTS with an overall score of 7.0 with 6.5 in all subskills, or an accepted equivalent.

Other essential requirements:

You will also need to provide evidence of at least 3 years of relevant work experience. References should be signed, dated and less than six months old at the time you submit your application.

Application deadline:

We allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis, so we recommend you apply as early as possible.

Selection process:

We will review your application and if you meet the entry requirements, we will make you an offer.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements.

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

The programme is structured around part-time delivery.

There will be four core modules of 30 credits each and a final Work-Based Project of 60 credits.  The taught modules will be scheduled in a series of three-day blocks (Wednesday-Friday) roughly five weeks apart, so typically one module will be completed per semester.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2022/23 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2022.

Year one

Year one helps you explore some of the drivers for policy choices across the public services. It will encourage you to ‘look up and out’ and understand current and future challenges and their impact on strategic decision making. An understanding of change and the significance of different approaches to leadership will also be considered.

During the first year you will develop skills for engaging collaboratively with increasingly complex, unstructured service challenges that are the learning vehicle for exploring the nature of theory and practice. A series of Practice Workshops will provide opportunities to share the experiences of high profile guest speakers, facilitate leadership self-insight and self-confidence and use coaching circles to support you in addressing individual work-based challenges.

Year two

Building on the knowledge and skills developed in the first year, year two helps you consider different theories and approaches for turning policy into action. We will think through the implications of changing directions in policy for new forms of governance, service delivery and work processes. It will also support you to consider the nature of innovation and creativity, and its role in policy formulation and implementing service improvement.

Expectation of your ability to respond to challenges will become more demanding. Professional Practice workshops will continue and the skills developed through the individual work based challenges will be consolidated in anticipation of the final project. You will benefit from three sessions with an external coach to address specific career challenges, and enhance their capability as reflective leaders.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

Each module will be facilitated by a team consisting of internationally-recognised academics representing different disciplines from within Cardiff Business School and across the University, along with a wide range of experienced practitioners from different services, advisory bodies and think tanks. Coupled with your own extensive and varied experience, this approach is seen as key to the ability to understanding multiple perspectives and behaviours, challenge ingrained assumptions and work collaboratively across boundaries, real or imagined.  Masterclasses led by high profile guest speakers will provide additional opportunities to network and share learning about the challenges of strategy, innovation, leadership and change.

Modules will use challenges as a stimulus for learning. These will arise from issues identified during field trips to unfamiliar organisations, case studies, scenario-based provocations for policy implementation or user-centred consultancy challenges.  Drawing on techniques arising from action, problem-based and similar learning methodologies, participants will be encouraged to move between ‘the balcony and the battlefield’, focussing on issues such as the quality of evidence, approaches to data analysis, identifying key interdependencies, contrasting value assumptions, building influence and legitimacy, initiating and maintaining action, etc.  The focus will be on developing awareness of the dynamic and complex process of collaborative meaning making. This relies on high-level skills of self and group reflection rather than a dependency on simplistic task allocation and mechanical models of problem solving.

Across the modules, you will also have the opportunity to work on individual impact challenges arising from your own organisation, facilitated by coaching circles composed of your fellow students and invited guests. This experience will provide opportunities to gradually put into practice some of the knowledge as well as the intellectual, professional and transferable skills necessary for successful completion of the final project and their future leadership practice.

How will I be assessed?

Reflecting the ethos of the programme, assessment will encourage you to demonstrate critical analysis of the relationship between research and practice to understand a range of work-based challenges.

You will be assessed through a variety of methods, including written essays, group presentations and individual reflection. A learning log will underpin all the modules, where you will be encouraged to demonstrate in-depth reflection on issues arising from modules and the workplace. The log can also embrace learning arising from the one-to-one coaching sessions. This will be submitted at the end of the taught stage of the programme.

The final project will consist of a 20,000 word essay, which will present an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills that have been developed in a way that will create tangible value for a public service organisation.It requires you to address a small-scale challenge within the workplace that may have cross-service dimensions, and demonstrate a collaborative approach to its analysis and resolution.It will enable you to show understanding of relevant research and best practice, demonstrate sophisticated analytical and sense making skills, employ innovative techniques for engaging with multiple stakeholder and sectoral perspectives, and produce findings and an action plan that will have practical relevance to your host organisation. You will be encouraged to work closely with a work sponsor to enhance your organisational insights and change management strategies.

How will I be supported?

The University offers a wealth of support for postgraduate students.  These include:

Learning Central

The Masters in Public Leadership has a dedicated presence on Learning Central, the University’s virtual learning environment.  All programme and module materials are posted here.


A variety of hard and electronic copies of books, journals and data-bases are available. The Aberconway library is located in the main Business School site, and additional resources are available at the Arts & Social Studies Library on Colum Drive and the Bute Library in King Edward VII Avenue. 

Personal Tutor System

You will be allocated a Personal Tutor. This member of academic staff will maintain an overview of your learning and educational experiences. If you are experiencing difficulties, your Personal Tutor will be there to listen and where possible provide professional guidance or else direct you to the appropriate source of support.

The Student Advisory Service

A free, impartial, non-judgemental and confidential service is offered to students on a wide range of personal, financial and academic matters.

Disability & Dyslexia Service

Confidential advice and support is provided for students who are disabled or who have a specific learning difficulty (dyslexia) or long term medical condition.

Counselling Service

The Cardiff University Counselling Service provides members of the university community with an opportunity to examine issues that prevent them from maximising their full potential and to explore options for change. The Counselling Service is confidential and free of charge. It has had international recognition as a Centre for Excellence for individual and group counselling.

The Graduate Centre

The Centre is on the 3rd floor of the Students Union Building in Park Place, and serves all enrolled postgraduate taught and research students at Cardiff University, offering facilities and activities specifically designed for the postgraduate community.


We will provide you with regular feedback on your work. This will come in a variety of formats, including oral feedback, personalised feedback on written work, and generic written feedback.

Students undertaking their dissertations are expected to meet regularly with their dissertation supervisor to review progress and discuss any questions. Your supervisor will be able to provide feedback on your research plan and drafts of your work as you progress.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?

The Learning Outcomes for this Programme describe what you will be able to do as a result of your study at Cardiff University. They will help you to understand what is expected of you. 

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • current and future drivers for change in a variety of service contexts
  • contemporary theoretical debates on public service leadership and management
  • the challenges of strategic decision-making and policy implementation
  • ways of developing innovative approaches to policy enactment and performance improvement
  • International best practice across public services
  • issues that arise from working in a diverse and inclusive environment
  • traditional and emerging models of change and leadership in a variety of public service contexts

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate an ability to:

  • critically evaluate the relative merits of different academic and practitioner perspectives by focusing on a range of factors such as the quality of evidence cited and interests being pursued.
  • reflect critically on the relationship between theory and practice, and policy and delivery, to understand improvement challenges
  • analyse the complex interdependencies of a range of unstructured scenarios to identify options and delivering responses to service challenges
  • identify and integrate multiple stakeholder perspectives across boundaries of all sorts – geographic, sector, organisational, etc.
  • analyse the change context and identify potential barriers to implementation and the implications for leadership
  • adopt a global perspective, looking ‘up and out’ in response to opportunities and choices

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate an ability to:

  • engage with complex issues systematically and creatively
  • respond confidently to change and uncertainty
  • select appropriate leadership skills to ensure impact
  • build a strong practice of cross-service collaboration
  • demonstrate a clear public value ethos and ethical integrity
  • see problems as opportunities and develop innovative responses to service challenges
  • initiate and sustain effective action and impact
  • learn from partial progress and significant failure.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate an ability to:

  • collect qualitative and quantitative information systematically from primary and secondary sources
  • extract clear messages from the careful analysis and synthesis of complex information 
  • critically analyse material, identifying assumptions, evaluating quality of evidence, detecting false logic or reasoning, and identify implicit values
  • construct clear, persuasive and well-founded arguments to communicate information and justify insights, using a range of media and formats
  • work both autonomously and collaboratively, with particular reference to the diversity of partners
  • bring initiative and creative insight to problem solving processes
  • solve complex problems and make, implement and review decisions
  • offer constructive and insightful critical self and peer evaluation

Tuition fees for 2022 entry

Students from the UK

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £7,000 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national, unless you qualify for UK fee status, tuition fees will be in line with the fees charged for international students. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Students from the rest of the world (international)

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £7,000 £1,000

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs

No additional costs will need to be considered.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

No specific equipment is required.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.

Careers and placements

At Cardiff Business School, you’ll receive a career-changing education from world-leading academics that have different points of view. They’ll challenge your thinking as you consider the world of business from a range of alternative perspectives.

We’re focused on your future. As a student on our MSc in Public Leadership, you’ll access a dedicated Executive Coach to help you shape a programme of personalised professional development so that you can realise your career potential.

We’ve developed relationships that range from the largest multinationals to the smallest micro-businesses, and include a wide variety of social enterprises and cooperatives. We use these networks to deliver value for our students through:

  • real-world case studies and insights
  • collaboration with our Public Value Entrepreneurs in Residence
  • guest lectures
  • field trips and workshops.

This wide ranging and varied learning experience will help enhance your career and demonstrate how you can make a difference along the way.

The programme is designed for those already working in a public service. However, successful completion of the programme will enable participants to apply for more senior positions, and new hybrid roles emerging across the public services.



Master's Excellence Scholarships

An award open to students with a home fee status intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

UK Government master’s funding

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2021 or later, you may be able to apply for UK Government postgraduate funding to support your study at Cardiff University.

Alumni Discount Scheme

The alumni discount is available for all master’s programmes in Cardiff Business School, as well as conversion courses in subjects including journalism, geography and planning, and creative writing, and master's programmes in clinical optometry, neuroimaging, education, global cultures, history, philosophy and translation.

Next steps


Open Day visits

Register for information about our 2021 dates.

Make an enquiry

Contact us for more information about this course.


Learn more about our truly global university.

Discover more

Related searches: Business

HESA data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2020. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18, published by HESA in June 2020.