Programs by Campus


Public Policy

College of Arts and Sciences and School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Combined Degree Program

Departmental E-mail:

Departmental URL: (Please note that when conferring University Graduate School degrees, minors, certificates, and sub-plans, The University Graduate School’s staff use those requirements contained only in The University Graduate School Bulletin.)

(Please note that when conferring University Graduate School degrees, minors, certificates, and sub-plans, The University Graduate School’s staff use those requirements contained only in The University Graduate School Bulletin.)



Degree Offered

Doctor of Philosophy

Special Departmental and School Requirements

(See also general University Graduate School requirements.)

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The joint Ph.D. Program in Public Policy is a collaborative en¬deavor of the Department of Political Science and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).

Its emphasis is on the broad field of public policy, concerning the environment of public policy; the processes of policy formation, management, and implementation; and the analysis and evaluation of policy outputs and results. The institutional setting and design of the program offer a unique educational opportunity. Students in the program receive rigorous social science training and gain knowledge of government decision making processes, problem-solving capabilities, and an un¬derstanding of the substantive aspects of public problems and their effects on public institutions.


All applicants to the public policy program are subject to approval by a SPEA-Department of Political Science joint admissions committee. Application materials can be found at Applicants for admission and for financial assistance are required to submit a statement of career goals, official results of the Graduate Record Examina­tion (GRE), official transcripts of all undergraduate and gradu­ate work, and a minimum of three letters of recommendation. Students whose native language is not English must also submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Joint Program Committee in Admissions and Financial Aid examines each application closely to determine suitability for the program. The committee looks beyond the formal aca­demic record at the applicant’s demonstrated ability to pursue independent study, language and research-skill training, and maturity and experience.

Progress Review Committee

The progress review committee must include at least two faculty members from O’Neill SPEA and two from the Department of Political Science. Members of the committee who hold joint appointments are considered representatives of their primary unit. The chairperson of the committee serves as the student’s principal advisor. Early in the student’s program term—gener­ally during the third semester—the committee provides the student with a formal review of the progress made toward the degree.

Degree Requirements

The University Graduate School requires doctoral students to complete 90 hours of graduate credit. Typically, two-thirds of the 90 credit hours are taken in formal course work and one-third in thesis credit. Students holding a Master’s in Public Af­fairs at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs may be allowed to transfer some of their graduate course work (36 hours maximum)  or similar degree may be allowed to transfer some of their graduate course work (30 credit hours maximum) if approved by their Progress Review Committee.

Core Requirements

Public Policy students are required to complete the following courses:

  • SPEA-V 780 Research Design and Methods in Public Affairs (3 cr.) or
  • POLS-Y 570 Introduction to the Study of Politics (3 cr.)
  • SPEA-P 790 Seminar in Public Policy Process (3 cr.) or
  • POLS-Y 565 Public Administration, Law, and Policy: Approaches and Issues (3 cr.) This course is offered alternately each fall semester by SPEA (V690) and the Department of Political Science (Y565).
  • SPEA-P 791 Workshop in Public Policy (1 cr.) Each student is required to take this 1-credit-hour course for three semesters. The workshop features research presentations by faculty, visiting scholars, and advanced students. It prepares students to critique research in the field, to prepare manu­scripts for presentation and publication, and to defend new ideas and theories. There are two sections offered: one by O’Neill SPEA and the other by the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.
  • SPEA-V 721 Seminar in Teaching Public and Environmental Affairs (2 cr.) or
  • POLS-Y 550 Political Science and Professional Development (1-3 cr.)

These courses prepare students for college teaching and their professional responsibilities toward current and future stu­dents. They are taken in a student’s first year in the program.

Research Tool Skills

Required course work for research skills includes a basic two-semester statistics sequence and two additional elective courses or proficiency in a foreign language.

Basic Tool Skills

The two-semester quantitative analysis sequence requirement is generally fulfilled through one of the course sequences listed below.

  • SPEA-V 706 Statistics for Research in Public Affairs I (3 cr.) and
  • SPEA-V 707 Statistics for Research in Public Affairs II (3 cr.)
  • POLS-Y 575 Political Data Analysis I (3 cr.) and
  • POLS-Y 576 Political Data Analysis II (3 cr.)
  • SOC-S 554 Statistical Techniques in Sociology I (3 cr.) and
  • SOC-S 650 Statistical Techniques in Sociology II (3 cr.)

Advanced Tool Skills

In addition, students must demonstrate either (1) advanced proficiency in quantitative analysis or specialized research skills by completing two additional courses approved by the student’s Progress Review Committee, or (2) proficiency in a language appropriate to student’s field of study approved by the Progress Review Committee. To qualify as language-proficient, a student must take a language proficiency exam from the ap­propriate language department at Indiana University.

Fields of Concentration

The O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the De­partment of Political Science share equally in delivering public policy as the major field of preparation and specialization. Students in the Public Policy Program select two concentration areas—one from SPEA and one from Political Science—in addi­tion to the required concentration in public policy.

The fields of concentration include the following:


Political Science        

Environmental Policy 

American Politics

Policy Analysis

Comparative Politics

Public Management

International Relations

Public Finance

Political Philosophy

Political Theory and Methodology

Course offerings in O’Neill SPEA and Political Science help the student prepare for examinations in these fields, and students supplement their coursework with directed read­ings and research. There is no predetermined set of courses required of all students. Course selection is the responsibility of the student working with his or her Progress Review Commit­tee.

Major Junctures

Progress Review Committee

The Progress Review Committee consists of from four to six fac­ulty members. Two SPEA faculty must be selected for the SPEA concentration and two Political Science faculty for the Political Science concentration. For the shared public policy concentra­tion there must be one SPEA and one Political Science faculty member. One faculty member is chosen by the student to act as the chair of the committee. The chairperson serves as the student’s mentor and guides the student through the Progress Review and qualifying examination process.

Before the meeting of the Progressive Review Committee, the student develops a Progress Review Statement. The statement needs to include background professional and educational information, course work completed and planned in each con­centration and for basic and advanced tool skills, and tentative dates for taking qualifying exams and a discussion of a pro­posed dissertation topic. Once approved by the committee, the statement serves as a contract for the completion of degree requirements.

Qualifying Examinations

The Political Science Department gives field exams on a regular basis. SPEA also offers qualifying exams on a regular basis. Typically, exams are offered twice per year. At their discretion, examiners for all fields may also require an oral examination.

After completing the course work for a field, the student is eligible to take the qualifying exam for that field. Joint Ph.D. Program students are required to take the field exam for their Political Science field at the time scheduled by the Department. Field exams in Political Science are usually offered twice a year, and are announced well in advance. SPEA field exams are also standardized and offered at set times, usually once per year, and are coordinated by an exam coordinator for each field.

Students will receive a high pass, pass, qualified pass, or a fail for each of the three exams. Students receiving a qualified pass will either be asked to re-take portions of the exam, or complete an oral examination. Upon completion of the exam, signatures of the Committee members and the Program Director are required on the Report of Preliminary Examination Committee form.


After filing for candidacy status, the doctoral candidate forms a Research Committee consisting of at least four faculty mem­bers. Two of the members must be O’Neill School of Public and Envi­ronmental Affairs faculty and two must be from Political Sci­ence. This committee may, but will not necessarily, be identical to the Progress Review Committee. The selection of Research Committee members should reflect the dissertation topic and expertise of the faculty chosen.

The candidate prepares a dissertation proposal to present and defend in a meeting of the Research Committee. The Research Committee reviews the research proposal and requires changes as needed.

Once the dissertation research is completed, the candidate defends the thesis in an open oral examination meeting. The Research Committee is ultimately responsible for determining whether the dissertation is acceptable.


The Ph.D. Office, the director of the program, and individual faculty work hard to ensure that graduates of the program are placed in academic or research organizations. Graduates of the Joint Program in Public Policy have been very successful in obtaining such positions. Recent placements include George Washington University, Emory University, Ohio State University, the University of Arizona, Ulsan University (South Korea), the University of Massachusetts, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the University of Washington.

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