Urban and Public Affairs (PhD)


Doctor of Philosophy in Urban and Public Affairs
Unit: College of Arts and Sciences (GA)
Department: Urban and Public Affairs
Program Website 
Academic Plan Code(s): UPA_PHD

Program Information

The PhD program prepares students for careers as professors, researchers, and public servants in the fields of Urban Policy and Administration and Urbanism and Sustainable Development Planning.

Students are required to complete 48 credit hours of study. Two field areas are offered: Urbanism and Sustainable Development Planning and Urban Policy and Administration. Twelve (12) credit hours of dissertation research are also required. Students must pass a qualifying examination before commencing formal dissertation work. Students should consult the Program Guidelines for details.

Academic Policies

Waivers And Prerequisites
Students who have recently and satisfactorily completed equivalent courses elsewhere may request that up to nine (9) credit hours of coursework count towards their 48 credit hours of required PhD study. Students who are not prepared for advanced study or do not hold the prerequisites for a particular course will be required to complete remedial work. Such courses do not count toward degree credit. Students should consult the Program's Student Guide for details.

Dismissal and Academic Standing
Any student with a grade point standing below 3.0, or experiencing similar academic problems, will be placed on academic probation by the Graduate School. Students are ordinarily not permitted to continue on academic probation for more than one semester. Students not rectifying these academic problems after one semester will be recommended for dismissal if academic problems are not corrected after one semester. In addition, students receiving more than two grades below a B-minus in any graduate-level course (600 level or above) will be dismissed from the program. No grade below a C-minus will be counted towards the fulfillment of degree requirements. The Program Director will review the performance of students each semester to ensure students are making satisfactory progress. Students not making satisfactory progress are subject to dismissal from the program.

Students who do not complete all program requirements within four years of reaching doctoral candidacy status ordinarily will be dismissed from the program.

Qualifying (Comprehensive) Exam
To qualify for PhD candidacy, students must satisfactorily complete a Comprehensive (or Qualifying) Examination. Students must sit for this exam as soon as they are eligible. The Comprehensive (Qualifying) Examination is held in May each year.

Consult with the Program Director and refer to the Program's Student Guide for details about the examination.

Page Photo: Chris Watson, 2005, CreativeCommons 2.0.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply through the Graduate School.

The suggested requirements for the admission to the Urban and Public Affairs doctoral program are as follows:

  • Bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA (on 4.0 scale);
  • Master's degree with at least a 3.5 GPA (on a 4.0 scale);
  • GRE scores: Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical.  Minimum level of proficiency required (for PhD work) in all three areas.  
  • TOEFL: Applicants whose native language is not English and who do not hold a degree from a university where the language of instruction is English must also submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language, with a (normal) minimum score (in the range) of 100 on the internet-based test, or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with a (normal) minimum score of 7.5.
  • A personal interview with members of the PhD Admissions Committee also may be required for applicants not fully satisfying (normal) admissions requirements. Interviews will be conducted in-person when feasible or via internet video when in-person interviews are not feasible.

Applications must include:

  • All transcripts from all institutions attended;
  • Supplemental application (available from department web site);
  • At least two letters of recommendation (from former professors).

The program gives preference to applicants who intend to study full-time and who can be supported with financial aid (i.e., a Graduate Research Assistantship or a Fellowship).

A few (exceptionally qualified) part-time students may be admitted if they can demonstrate they have very flexible schedules and can attend daytime courses and fully participate in program and department functions.

Students should consult the Program's Student Guide for additional details and requirements.


Fall Admissions Deadline: July 15 (before February 1 for a University Fellowship or a Graduate Assistantship)

Spring Admissions Deadline: November 15

Summer Admissions Deadline: April 15

Program Requirements

The PhD in Urban and Public Affairs consists of 48 credit hours of study including:

  • 18 credit hours of core courses,
  • 15 credit hours in a field area
  • 3 credit hours additional methods course, and
  • 12 credit hours of dissertation research.
Core Courses18
Urban Policy and Governance
Research Methods 1
Urban Theory and Public Affairs
Regression Analysis 1,2
Special Topics in Urban and Public Affairs (Advanced Urban Studies)
Special Topics in Urban and Public Affairs (Doctoral Urban Economics)
Additional Required Methods Course3
Field Area Courses 315
Urbanism & Sustainable Development Planning
Sustainable Urbanism
Urbanism in the Global South: Cities and Space
Planning Theory and History
Sustainable Development and Planning
Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems
Environmental Policy
Economic Development
Housing and Community Development
Land Use Planning
Comparative Urban Development
Elective Courses (6 credits) 4
Urban Policy and Administration
Required Courses (6-9 credits) 3
Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation
Urban Policy and Administration
Foundations of Public Administration 5
Elective Courses (6-9 credits) 4
Dissertation Research
Minimum Total Hours48

Doctoral Candidacy

After completing all required coursework, including 12 credit hours of dissertation research, and passing the qualifying exam, each student is required to maintain continuous enrollment in DOCT 600 Doctoral Candidacy until he or she graduates.


Students must complete workshops satisfactorily.  Workshop will be convened by the PhD director and will normally meet three-five times a semester.  

Dissertation Research Workshop: Students who have recently advanced to candidacy will present dissertation proposal ideas to other students and interested faculty.

Professional Development Workshop: Topics may include: academic publishing, undergraduate teaching, and the academic job market, among others.