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Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy

Overview of Program

The Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy Program is a collaborative endeavor between 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 citizens and institutions.

The National Research Council recently ranked the Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy Program as high as #2 among public policy Ph.D. programs in the United States.

The Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy Program is located in Bloomington, Indiana, which was recently named one of the nation’s “Top Ten College Towns” by for the benefits of being home to a large, prestigious college as well as for the entertainment and recreational opportunities on campus and throughout the area.

Faculty Research and Areas of Expertise


SPEA policy and management faculty undertake research across a broad range of areas that include:

  • Cultural policy and arts administration
  • Environmental and energy policy
  • Civil society, civil engagement and volunteerism
  • Sustainability and sustainable development
  • International affairs and development
  • Social policy and health
  • Governance and public law
  • Public finance and economics
  • Nonprofit management and philanthropy
  • Policy analysis
  • Public management
  • Methods, econometrics and data management.

For more information on past and current research by faculty, click here.

In addition to the Ph.D. in Public Affairs and Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy degrees, SPEA offers the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree. The M.P.A Program was ranked #2 overall in the United States by U.S. News and World Report in 2013. Several concentrations within the M.P.A. Program were also highly ranked, including:

  • Environmental policy and management (#1)
  • Nonprofit management (#1)
  • Public finance and budgeting (#3)
  • Public management and administration (#3), and
  • Public policy analysis (#9)

Political Science

The Department of Political Science is one of the oldest and best programs in the country. It was ranked #25 overall among political science graduate programs in the United Sates by U.S. News and World Report in 2013.

Political Science faculty undertake research across various sub-fields in the discipline that include:

  • American politics
  • International relations
  • Comparative politics
  • Public policy
  • Political philosophy
  • Theory and methodology

For more information on past and current research by Political Science faculty, click here.

Along with the Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy, the Political Science Department offers the Ph.D. in Policy Science.


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 here. 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 and assesses the applicant’s demonstrated ability to pursue independent study, language and research skill training, and maturity and experience.


Graduates of the Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy Program have been very successful at obtaining employment in academic and research organizations. Placements include Dartmouth College, George Washington University, Emory University, Florida State University, University of North Carolina, Ohio State University, University of Arizona, Georgia Institute of Technology, Ulsan University (Korea), University of Massachusetts, University of Washington, Northern Illinois University, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

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.

  • Core Requirements
  • Research Tool Skills
  • Fields of Concentration

Core Requirements

Public Policy students are required to complete the following courses:

  • Research Design and Methods in Public Affairs (V680) or Introduction to the Study of Politics (Y570)
  • Seminar in Public Policy Process (V690) or Public Administration, Law, and Policy: Approaches and Issues (Y565). This course is offered alternately each fall semester by SPEA (V690) and the Department of Political Science (Y565).
  • Workshop in Public Policy (V691). 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 current literature in the field, to prepare manuscripts for presentation and publication, and to defend their ideas and theories. There are two sections offered: one by SPEA and the other by the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.
  • Seminar in Teaching Public and Environmental Affairs (V621) or Political Science and Professional Development (Y550). 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 quantitative analysis sequence. The two-semester quantitative analysis sequence requirement is generally fulfilled through one of the course sequences listed below:

  • Statistics for Research in Public Affairs I and II (V606 and V607, School of Public and Environmental Affairs)
  • Political Data Analysis I and POLS-Y 576 Political Data Analysis II (Y575 and Y576, Department of Political Science)
  • Statistical Techniques in Sociology I and II (S554 and S650, Department of Sociology)

In addition, students must demonstrate either: (1) advanced proficiency in quantitative/qualitative 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 his/her field of study and 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 School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Political Science share equally in delivering Public Policy as a required field of concentration. Students in the Public Policy Program select two additional fields of concentration, one from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and one from the Department of Political Science. These additional fields of concentration include the following:


  • Environmental Policy
  • Public Management
  • Public Finance
  • Public Policy Analysis

Political Science:

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Political Philosophy
  • Political Theory and Methodology

Course offerings in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Political Science help the student prepare for examinations in all three fields, and students supplement their course work 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 in conjunction with his or her Progress Review Committee, faculty advisor and Ph.D. program director.