In addition to gaining strength in a particular disciplinary tradition, Public Policy PhD students acquire depth in the policy area in which they will write a dissertation.

Sample PhD Tracks

Review sample PhD tracks. 

Additional Information

  • Students take a minimum of two courses in a policy area to fulfill this requirement.
  • Every student develops a plan of study to be approved by both the Public Policy PhD Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and the student’s faculty advisor that satisfies the policy area requirement and prepares the student for the policy-area qualifying exam. 
  • Students primarily focus on policy areas in which Duke has particular strength. (Students have the option, subject to approval of the DGS, to adopt another policy area focus.)

Policy Area Expertise

The Sanford School of Public Policy and the Nicholas School of the Environment deliver unparalleled training in environmental policy through the joint University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP). This program capitalizes on the expertise of faculties at both schools and reflects Duke’s commitment to environmental leadership. UPEP provides training that is multidisciplinary without sacrificing disciplinary rigor. UPEP Students complete a portion of their core training with Public Policy PhD students and have access to the full suite of Public Policy courses. 


A Strong Foundation

“The core of my research agenda is to identify barriers to gender equity in these settings, creating pathways for policy intervention. Sanford has been an integral part of my educational journey.  The collaborative environment amongst PhD students and between PhD students and faculty has helped me grow as a scholar and has provided a strong foundation.”

—​Nivedhitha Subramanian PhD'20, Assistant Professor, Bates College