Public Management belongs in a category of its own. No one is more aware of this than Maarten Noeninckx, strategic coordinator at the FPS Economy. Between 2013 and 2015 he was enrolled in the AMS Master in Public Management, a degree focused entirely on giving students a meaningful and comprehensive insight into the diverse aspects of public management. Maarten enrolled in the course to assist his Director General with day-to-day tasks but also – and perhaps more importantly – to contribute to the establishment of a strategic vision. His employer was behind him 100% when he decided to enroll for the course and let’s just say it hasn’t held him back in any way.
Today, Maarten looks back on the course and the progress he has made. “The program offers you a really broad perspective on all facets of public management. Lecturers also provide ample methods for you to apply to all those facets. All these aspects came together in my thesis.” According to Maarten, the disparity between academic thesis and practical application is frequently underestimated. “I kept it as relevant as I possibly could – something I was only capable of because we got the freedom to pursue this – and focused on the way in which I could most adequately restructure the FPS. A number of those very concrete issues still occupy me to this day.”
Real problems, concrete solutions
The hands-on approach offered by the program is something Maarten remembers particularly fondly. “It is a very interesting course. I don’t just mean the material provided by the professors – who are all incredible in their respective fields – but also the students. It’s not just theory I’m referring to; everything gets translated to real life. The lecturers are all grounded in practice. For example, post-communication was taught by someone who actually ran a communications agency.
"The participants and lecturers work in all levels of government and perform highly diverse functions: legal, economic, political and so forth. You get to learn from people who are faced with very specific practical problems on a daily basis."
Ria Janvier is also an authority when it comes to staff regulations.” The downside of such a practical approach can often be a lack of focus on the bigger picture. According to Maarten, however, MPM manages to avoid this pitfall entirely. “The lecturers work in all levels of government and perform highly diverse functions: legal, economic, political and so forth. As such they really complement each other. You get to learn from people who are faced with very specific practical problems on a daily basis. This way, you can learn first-hand how to deal with such situations.”
Flexible and challenging
It isn’t always easy to combine a complementary course with a full-time job. In this respect, the Master in Public Management offers an accessible program. “What I thought was very interesting was the leadership path which runs throughout the entire program. The curriculum is highly concentrated in comparison to other schools. This allows for less wasted time. In Louvain for instance you have to commute for 3 to 4 days.” The interactive nature of the course is another game changer. “Because cases are interchanged between students, you’re encouraged to engage in conversation with your fellow students on complex subjects, which can lead to fresh insights into the feasibility of some proposals. As a result, putting theory into practice – in my experience – goes smoothly.”
“I think a definite advantage of the AMS approach is that the lecturers don’t settle for the way things are. You are actively encouraged to rethink the framework."
Being innovative within a government framework can be challenging. “When I started out I was deputy head of the department of international relations. This essentially means a lot of cooperation with outside organizations. From time to time, this could be hard: you’re bound to the rather strict constitutional framework in which federal energy administration is grounded.” In such instances, it is important to creatively look for potential projects. That appetite for change is something Maarten also found in AMS: “I think a definite advantage of the AMS approach is that the lecturers don’t settle for the way things are. You are actively encouraged to rethink the framework.”