Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

Program Description

What's your policy passion?

The Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD) offers learning and research opportunities for highly qualified students to advance knowledge and move the study of public policy forward. Students graduating from this program will be in a position to train the next generation of public service professionals and to conduct public policy and management research for government, business, think tanks and other research organizations.

The PhD program involves a combination of course work (culminating in a comprehensive exam) and proposing, writing and defending a dissertation. It is designed so that students can finish in as little as three years of full-time study. Students who are engaged in the program on a full-time basis can expect to receive financial support. Upon entry into the program, each student is assigned a research advisor and an advisory committee.

Students entering the program in September are required to participate in the Get Connected! academic orientation for new students. This event will be held at the U of S campus in September. More information will be provided in the late spring to all students.

Areas of Research Priority

The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy conducts leading research within three main priority areas:

To ensure engagement in these areas of research, JSGS faculty are committed to encouraging student involvement on research projects, grant applications, seminar series, and other opportunities for knowledge translation. As such the school has on average three to five fully funded fellowships to support Master of Public Policy students ($20K over 16 months) and doctoral students ($23K annually for three years).

Application Qualifications

Applicants to the PhD program must have a master’s degree in public policy, public administration or in a cognate discipline such as economics, political science, political sociology or educational administration, with a minimum average of 75 per cent in that program.

Please note that because the number of applications received greatly exceeds the number of available places, not all qualified applicants will be offered admission (we typically admit two to three students a year). Indeed, successful candidates will typically have an average well in excess of 80 per cent (or lower first class).

To apply to the program, applicants are required to submit a research program statement that outlines the research that they would like to pursue in the area of public policy. This should include a well-defined problem statement, a review of the appropriate literature, an initial methodology and a statement indicating the significance/relevance of such a research program. While students will not be held to the research program that they outline, the document will serve to guide the student and their committee with the courses and the material they explore through their course work.

Exceptional students may be considered for a transfer from the school’s MPP or MPA program to the PhD program, following completion of at least 15 credit units of the core courses required for the MPP (MPA students who wish to be considered must take MPP core courses through their electives). Students seeking a transfer will be required to pass a qualifying exam. Three letters of recommendation (typically from faculty in the school) in support of the transfer must be provided.


Students are required to complete nine credit units (three courses) from the following core set of courses:

  • Students must register in the two following courses:
    • JSGS 865 - Decision Making in Organizations
    • JSGS 869 - PhD Reading Cours
  • Students must register in one course from the following:
    • JSGS 803 - Quantitative Method
    • JSGS 851 - Qualitative Methods
  • Students must also register in the two following courses:
    • JSGS 990 or JSGS 990AB Seminar Series (continuous registration required)
    • JSGS 996 Research (U of S campus students - continuous registration required) OR JSGS 901 Research (U of R students)
  • Students at the U of S campus must also complete – in their first term of study – GSR 960 Introduction to Ethics and Integrity. This is a non-credit, online course required by the College of Graduate Studies and Research and is at no cost to the student.
  • *Once an applicant has been admitted, the program of studies (i.e., selection of appropriate courses based on above) will be determined.

Students who have taken one or more of these courses previously (i.e., in a master's program) will be required to substitute an additional course or courses. Students may take additional courses in a particular subject area if they wish, subject to the approval of their advisory committee.


Students entering the PhD program are required to pass a qualifying exam. This exam may be waived for students with a master’s degree (with thesis) in public policy from a recognized university and for students with a master’s degree (with thesis) in a cognate field (e.g., economics, political science, political sociology, public or educational administration). Normally this examination is administered within the first year, preferably within the first four months, of a student beginning the PhD program.

Students will complete a comprehensive exam following their prescribed course work. The comprehensive exam involves both written and oral components. The exams will cover general public policy topics, as well as material linked to the student’s research program. Following successful completion of the comprehensive exam, students will move to the development of a dissertation proposal and, upon its approval, to the dissertation research. Students will be given the option of using either the standard dissertation structure or the three-paper model.


Highly qualified doctoral students who are engaged in the program on a full-time basis can expect to receive funding at a competitive rate. All complete applications received by February 1 will be considered for funding. Complete applications received by May 1 will be considered for any remaining funding.

Tuition and Student Fees

For the 2015-16 academic year, tuition is approximately $1,344/term. Continuous registration for all students in the PhD program is required – that is, students must register in all three terms each academic year until their program is completed.

Please note that all students must also pay a graduate student fee, as well as an international surcharge (if applicable).  (U of S student fees | U of R student fees)

For a comprehensive list of living expenses, please visit - U of R  |  U of S

Click here for information on scholarships and funding.

Fact Sheet

Download a print friendly copy of our Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy fact sheet.


If you have any questions, please contact us at (U of R campus) or (U of S campus).