Monthly Archives: February 2018

Leveling the Playing Field for International Students: How to Apply to WBS Public Policy Program

Every year I get a lot of inqueries how to apply to our program. Unfortunately, I cannot give individual advice for two reasons: first, there is simply too many potential applicants who seek advice; second, answering some of them would give an unfair advantage.  So please consult our websites to look at the official criteria.

However, I do see that especially overseas students lack some previous experience and a kind of subtle insider knowledge most European or North American students would possess. To level the playing field somewhat, here are some recommendations.

1.) The statement of purpose is very important. The more specific and concise you are the better. Generic statements such as ‘My dream is to serve in presidency of my country’ do not tell much. Give specific reasons why WBS, why this institution. The more you can link to specific courses offered, people at WBS the better. The more you can give us an idea about specific interests, future goals, the better.

2.) Formats of CVs vary dramatically across countries. At WBS we accept all major formats, but do remember: the better and easier it is for those selecting the students to get the relevant info, the better. Just imagine: we have to go through 100s of applications. The easier it is to get the most important info the higher you will end up on the pile.

3.) Some main interests of ours: describe your overall grade, if you have a GPA report it, quickly give us an idea what a good grade consists of in your country; don’t list endless numbers of minature events, activities, but focus on your most important ones (usually full-time, relevant for public policy etc.), putting other stuff into a minor category etc.; writing samples or links to publications etc. are an added bonus.

Do you like these hints? Let me know.


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Your Professor’s Users’ Manual #HigherEducation #highered

Your Professor’s Users’ Manual

Achim Kemmerling, WBS, Erfurt University

As any complicated, supposedly high-tech instrument your university professor comes with an instruction sheet. Please read carefully to avoid malfunctions and unnecessary wear & tear.


1.) Make an appointment for an office hour (mail to

2.) Prepare yourself before coming to the office hour.

3.) If you want to ask for a Letter of Reference follow these instructions

4.) If you would like discuss your term paper/ MA thesis: send or bring as print input as specific as possible. What’s the research/ policy questions? What literature will you look at (examples)? What methods will you use? What could be relevant findings?

5.) If you need a signature on a form/ sheet/ etc. print out the sheet and put it in my mail box. We will come back to you, if there are problems.

6.) If you need to excuse yourself for an absence, pls. email to

7.) If you want to talk about a grade pls. be aware that changing grades can only happen if there has been a factual mistake/ clerical error, but for no other reasons.

8.) If you want to talk about internships etc. please bring your CV, list of organizations you were thinking about, etc.

9.) Avoid unnecessary emails. Your professor’s brain, like any natural resource, is of limited capacity and works optimally only under careful resource management.

10.) While flattery won’t work, being kind and considerate always pays off.







Achim Kemmerling

Prof. of Public Policy and International Development

Willy Brandt School of Public Policy

Erfurt University

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Paper on excessive policy diffusion

Kristin Makszin (Hungarian Academy of Science) and I wrote a paper on the link between international policy diffusion and policy instability. It is part of an edited volume on policy diffusion, innovation and failure in eastern Europe and beyond. For details see here. My former colleague Andrew Cartwright, co-editor, has written a concise blog entry summarizing the main idea behind the edited voluem.

In the paper we look at the link of policy instability, i.e. policy changes that did not last, and when and how policy diffusion has exacerbated this instability. We argue that pension privatization in particular, is a tale of excessive ambitions, especially promulgated by supranational organizations, but that there are other instances in which diffusion-induced policy change proved to be unsustainable.

These tales are very interesting for other scholars working on international policy diffusion and social or welfare policy research. Just as an illustration, I plot the number of countries that followed a typical (partial) privatization of pension systems over time. While we see patterns consistent with policy diffusion (an S-shape), we also see indications of a boom-and-bust cycle as a lot of those countries which introduced the reforms have also partially or completely reversed them later on.


Here is our Kemmerling_Makszin_manuscript before print. For a better copy pls. contact me directly.


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