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東京大学公共政策大学院 | GraSPP / Graduate School of Public Policy | The university of Tokyo

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My GraSPP/UTokyo experience

Natalie Overchuk (from Ukraine)

Applying for the ANU-UTokyo double degree was one of the best choices I have ever made.

I wanted to do my Master’s degree to help transition into a new field of working more directly in public policy. Going in, I knew I wanted to work around economic policy, especially around issues of productivity and innovation, but I did not know what my place would exactly be. It was hard for me to understand where my previous experiences and new education would be the most advantageous.

When I received the email describing the newly signed agreement between ANU and UTokyo, I was aware of UTokyo’s reputation as being a highly regarded school for hard sciences with a strong emphasis on practical application of knowledge. In addition, Japan has been on my radar for a while as a developed country that is very well known for its struggles with productivity growth and an aging economy. When I looked into the curriculum of the UTokyo side of the program, I was very pleasantly surprised by the variety of courses offered and, most importantly, the presence of quantitative skills courses as a compulsory requirement.

I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the program and this opportunity turned out to be transformational for me on a number of levels.

Here are a few key outcomes that I would like to highlight:

  • It allowed me to acquire some key quantitative skills and knowledge in some leading-edge analytical subjects (statistics, data science, deep learning, causal inference) that are relevant to policy analysis and decision-making
  • Even difficult quantitative classes such as data science and deep learning were tailored to be accessible to public policy students who might be at lower levels of maths ability.
  • I enjoyed the intellectual “freedom” that the program allowed, which has let me focus on developing the content knowledge most relevant to what I want to do in the future, with some niche courses such as economic analysis of innovation, advanced study of science and technology and mechanism design.
  • This freedom also manifested itself in the opportunity to suggest challenging topics to professors around what to focus certain classes within the semester on, for example, applying intellectual property rights questions to personal data or the cybersecurity dimensions of blockchain technologies.
  • The knowledge gained in the program has helped me confirm the relevance of my academic and professional interests, that there is a need for greater specialisation around innovation and productivity issue and greater female participation is very especially needed.
  • UTokyo also offers very strong support in terms of internships opportunities and draws on the resources of its unmatched alumni network in Japan. This is incredibly valuable for international students who otherwise lack any network in a new country.
  • Some of the courses provide students with incredibly valuable opportunities to visit government agencies and organizations in person. For example, in the cybersecurity course we are able to visit government agency and learn how hacking works in person. In the international field workshop, students visit development banks and agencies in various countries and have opportunities to discuss current issues with the officials from these agencies directly. For me, as well as for many of my peers here, these opportunities have been extremely inspiring and encouraging.
  • One of the most important skills, in my opinion, relevant for the future is the ability to navigate various cultures. Having this opportunity in Japan has been incredibly valuable for me to strengthen this skill and gain newfound appreciation and understanding of Japanese culture and context.

I like to think of the double-degree program as offering the best of both worlds (combining theory and practice). My time in Tokyo has helped me appreciate the value of research and theoretical skills I acquired in ANU too.  My experiences in both places have helped me realise that having theoretical and practical training is essential for capacity development for public policy practitioners.