Bloomington Campus

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

The Joint Ph.D. Program in Public Policy is a collaborative endeavor of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Political Science.

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 understanding 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 also must submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Joint Program Committee on 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.

Degree Requirements

The University Graduate School requires doctoral students to complete 90 credit 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 of Public Affairs 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.

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 Progress 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, 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

After completing the course work for a field of concentration, the student is eligible to take the qualifying examination for that concentration. The examinations in fields of concentration offered by the Political Science Department and SPEA are prepared by facutly in those fields and offered at times scheduled by the Political Science Department and SPEA.  The examination in the field of Public Policy is written jointly by faculty in the Political Science Department and SPEA, and students can negotiate the timing of that examination.

After receiving a pass or qualified pass on each of the three exams, the student schedules the oral examination. Upon completion of the oral examination, signatures of the committee member and 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 School of Public and Environmental Affairs faculty, and two must be from Political Science. This committee may be but is not necessarily identical to the Progress Review Committee. The selection of the 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 members 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, Florida State University, University of North Carolina, The Ohio State University, University of Arizona, Georgia Institute of Technology, Ulsan University (Korea), the University of Massachusetts, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and University of Washington.

Academic Bulletins

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