Bloomington Campus

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

The Joint Ph.D. Program in Public Policy is a collaborative endeavor of the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) 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 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.

Major Junctures

Progress Review Committee

The progress review committee must include at least two faculty members from The O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs 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—gener-ally during the third semester—the committee provides the student with a formal review of the progress made toward the degree.

Qualifying Examinations

The Political Science Department gives field exams on a regular basis. O'Neill 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. O’Neill 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 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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