Norman Paterson School of International Affairs program beats out Harvard’s

Ahead of ivy-league Harvard and second only to Johns Hopkins—this is how Carleton University’s master’s degree program in international affairs ranked in a recent United States survey of North American international relations teaching and scholarship. The Teaching, Research, and International Politics (TRIP) Survey of International Relations Faculty in the United States and Canada is designed to identify what international relations scholars think about the current teaching, discipline and contemporary issues in international politics.

The 2006 results were released by the College of William and Mary this past February. When asked to choose the five best terminal master’s programs in international relations for a student who wants to pursue a policy career, the majority of respondents answered, “Johns Hopkins, Carleton University, Georgetown University, Harvard University and Columbia University.”

Of the 2,838 individuals initially identified, 1,112 American and 110 Canadian scholars answered 83 questions in four areas related to teaching and research. Questions ranged in topic from “How did the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent ‘war on terrorism’ influence courses that you continued to teach?” to “Which area of the world do you believe will be of greatest strategic importance to the U.S./Canada in 20 years?” The survey was pretested with prominent U.S. scholars, such as Marty (Martha) Finnemore from George Washington University and James Fearon, who is a leader in ethnic conflict at Stanford University. Selected American results were published in the prestigious Foreign Policy Magazine.

“This is a welcome endorsement from colleagues across the continent for the work that we do,” says Fen O. Hampson, the director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA). “American scholars typically are much more aware of what is happening in their discipline in the U.S. than elsewhere. So for Carleton, as a Canadian institution, to be recognized signals that our teaching and research is well-known and respected.”

Barbara F. Walter participated in the survey. She is an associate professor with the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacifi c Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Although the survey was geared very heavily toward PhD programs, she believes that the results are also reliable for the master’s level.

Why did Carleton do so well? Walter thinks two factors are important. “My guess is that every Canadian respondent put Carleton no. 1, whereas votes among the Americans were split amongst a wider group of schools.” The implication is that Carleton’s program is far more dominant in Canada than its U.S. peers are south of the border.

Secondly, the wording of the questions infl uences the fi nal results. “The question asks respondents to identify the top programs for students wanting to pursue a public policy career. By definition, that means that those schools in their nation’s capitals are likely to come out on top.”

In her opinion, public policy schools in capitals ensure that students have both better networking opportunities and a greater likelihood of getting a job after graduating. As she points out, Johns Hopkins and Georgetown are both in the D.C. area and Carleton is in Ottawa. “I would interpret the results to say that Carleton offers one of the best, if not the best, terminal MA programs in international relations for students wishing to pursue a public policy career in Canada.”

Carleton’s master’s program is currently organized around seven clusters, including the new Intelligence and National Security cluster. According to NPSIA’s associate director Dane Rowlands, the survey results confirm that the ongoing review and enhancement of the master’s program is a successful strategy for maintaining quality. “In part due to our location in Ottawa, we are so embedded in the real world of international events and issues that we can identify the trends and respond with revisions in the program.”

For example, in the late 1990s, it became clear that global issues were overlapping and that NPSIA beats Harvard this required professionals who could look at problems from more than one perspective. But NPSIA’s discrete specialty streams meant that students were not interacting enough with each other or learning enough about alternative approaches. The school responded by making all courses available to every student so that classes could be taken in a broad range of topics and problems tackled from varying viewpoints.

While he is very pleased that NPSIA is receiving a great deal of attention as a result of the survey, Hampson believes that the real story is about Carleton University as a whole.

“Historically, the University has not ranked high in Canadian national surveys. The TRIP survey results indicate very clearly, however, that when we are compared to our peers, we are doing many things well.”

To view the survey, readers can visit the NPSIA website at

What is a terminal master’s program?

In this case, terminal refers to the fact that the student enrolled in a master’s program does not have any intention at the moment of continuing on to doctoral studies—the MA is anticipated to be his/her final degree.

This entry was written by Martha Attridge Bufton and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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