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Making the ANZSOG EMPA accessible to students without university degrees

10 July 2024

News and media


ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration can be a career-shaping academic program for public sector leaders.  

However, not all public sector leaders who could benefit from it came to the job through a traditional undergraduate pathway, even if they have accumulated valuable applied experience of public sector work. 

To make the EMPA more accessible for students without university qualifications, ANZSOG partnered with the Faculty of Arts at Monash University to establish the Monash Pathway program in 2021. The Pathway provides a valuable entry point for non-traditional EMPA students, building their academic skills and conceptual understanding, and setting them up to succeed in a demanding post-graduate program like the EMPA. 

The first cohort of nine Monash Pathway students commenced in 2021, enrolling in Monash’s Graduate Certificate in Public Policy (GCPP). The group has now had seven successfully complete the EMPA. 

One of this original cohort is Tanya McGregor, a Yawuru woman from Broome, who is currently working on Kaurna Country as the  CEO of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia. 

She spent 26 years in the public sectors of the Northern Territory and South Australia working in areas of Aboriginal employment, Aboriginal Affairs and Health, and also spent time in the Deputy Chief Ministers office.  

In 2021, she decided to undertake the EMPA through the Monash Pathways program, after it was recommended to her by a colleague as a way to get a broader understanding of government 

“I was at Executive level on the back of just a diploma but I had the experience and knowledge of government and thought it was my chance to push to the next level,” Ms McGregor said. 

“The Pathway valued my experience and shaped me and prepared me for a Masters level education. It helped me to look at things through a new lens – because the academic way is different to the government way, it’s a different style of writing and it’s a different way of thinking about issues, so it gave me very different views of how to approach my work,” she said. 

Another participant in the Pathway was Catherine Loft, who is currently Executive Group Manager, Infrastructure, Communications & Engagement, ACT Health, a role she took on a year ago after completing her EMPA, and which covers issues around: ‘staff, culture, psychological safety, budget, cross-directorate collaboration’. 

Ms Loft said that she had started the EMPA 30 years after leaving school, and more than 10 years after completing multiple advanced diplomas, as part of a personal commitment to study to keep herself relevant. 

“The workload I foresaw was overwhelming and intimidating, with a lot of concepts to learn or re-learn. The Pathway gave me an opportunity to have frank conversations and build confidence again in an academic environment. For me, The EMPA would have been very stressful without it – I felt that I was welcomed, respected and well-supported,” she said. 

EMPA broadens understanding and skills

Ms McGregor said that the EMPA had helped broaden her understanding of the public service and the tools available to public sector leaders. 

“One of the things that really opened my eyes was the subject on regulation. You’d think it was dry, but I got a really different understanding of how regulation underpins the work we do as public servants and how it can be utilised to improve things. That’s informed some of my next appointments, including my position on the AHPRA Board. 

“I found the Decision-Making Under Uncertainty subject really useful. I was learning it at the same time as I was running a COVID strategy for Aboriginal communities in South Australia – in an environment that was very uncertain. I also found some of the work on how to combine data and narrative as a way to inform consumers really useful for the work I was doing. 

“Overall, it did expand my horizons and gave me more knowledge about to use the levers we have as public servants in an effective and ethical way with communities. There are ways you can use legislation and regulation to make sure that First Nations knowledge and perspectives are informing what we do in government.” 

“I had been sceptical about the value of academic study, but the EMPA gave you the theory and then the practical application, and the practical application through the experience of practitioners who had done it before, and that was invaluable.” 

Ms Loft said that the EMPA experience had been an opportunity to solidify her understanding of core economic and management principles, and then how to relate that back to critical problem solving.  

“The EMPA has lifted my strategic focus and shown me that policy impacts on service delivery, and how we need to work together and make sure that they’re integrated. Policy has to have the operational lens, but we can’t implement anything without having the right policy, and then we loop that back with the evaluation,” she said. 

“We had a fantastic group through the Work-Based Project, which was diverse in our ages, gender, personality, and skills but worked really well together. The networks from the program definitely helped me on a personal level more than I realised.” 

“The leadership module was really important to me. I’ve always thought I was a good leader but that opened my eyes and gave me a lot more confidence in what I can bring to the table. It shifted my thought process from being the ‘doer’ to more of a listener, supporter or facilitator which has then helped with more diverse problem solving.” 

“I’ve seen a direct benefit to my career progression, but more importantly, it’s how I’m tackling my job. I feel a lot more prepared, a lot more planned. I look at things differently from a much more elevated view. I have more engaging conversations, but also, it’s brought me a level of confidence to lean in at the table, which is really important. I don’t sit back. I value my voice.” 

The Monash Pathway is still operating, and has taken in ten students in 2024. For more information on the EMPA and the Pathway visit the ANZSOG website.