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Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy is among the nation’s top graduate schools in public affairs/public policy analysis, according to U.S. News and World Report’s list of “2021 Best Graduate Schools.” Sanford has four top 10 rankings in the specialties of Public Policy Analysis, Environmental Policy and Management, Social Policy and Health Policy and Management.

The Sanford School was ranked sixth in its core specialty, public policy analysis. In the ranking, Sanford has the top-ranked program in the southern United States for public policy analysis. Public policy analysis is widely viewed as the key indicator among schools of public policy.

Sanford also remained in the top 10 for Environmental Policy and Management (#3) – a reflection of the school’s outstanding faculty in this area and the graduate programs offered in partnership with Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, including the international Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) program. The Sanford School also remained in the top 10 for Social Policy (#6), and for Health Policy and Management (#7), two of the Master of Public Policy program key concentrations. Some of the school’s other top strengths, such as international development, security, and media and democracy, are not among the issue areas included in this ranking.

The U.S. News rankings reflect the opinions of deans, directors and department chairs at 276 schools of public affairs and administration nationwide. The survey was distributed in 2019 and early 2020 and the response rate was 62%. For specialty areas such as public policy analysis, the academics were asked to nominate up to 15 programs for excellence.

At the master’s level, Sanford offers the Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree, the Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) degree and a number of dual degrees. The schools also jointly offer the international Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) degree. All of the programs offer a global perspective, faculty with high research productivity and a strong alumni network around the world – helping others and making a difference in the world. Learn more about Sanford’s strengths.

Sanford has built on its long-standing strengths in policy analysis, social, health and environmental policy with recent faculty appointments in areas including technology policy, national and international security and cybersecurity.

Sanford Dean Judith Kelley emphasized that when comparing graduate schools, prospective students should understand that programs vary. Sanford’s MPP degree (reflected in the public policy analysis ranking) is not the same program as a master of public administration degree, or MPA (reflected in the overall public affairs ranking).

“At the Sanford School, our core strength is public policy analysis with both a domestic and a global perspective. Our program provides the most important skills a student can learn to prepare for a rewarding career in policy, leadership or service,” Kelley said. “Our core strength is clearly revealed in the rankings.”

“The overall U.S. News rankings group public administration, environmental management, international policy, health management, public policy and other degree programs into one large ‘public affairs,’ category,” Kelley said. “That makes it important for students to look closely at the curriculums of programs they are considering, the faculty expertise, and to choose the program that will best help them meet their career goals.

“As one recent alum, Luis Maes, former Senior Manager for Global Responsibility at Walmart, described it, what is so powerful about Sanford is that students learn ‘not just the analytical tools, but also the collaborative leadership part that helps you get things done.’”

Sanford’s Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program is very different than the typical international relations programs that are part of the U.S. News survey, Kelley said. The Sanford program is aimed at mid-career professionals from developing nations, most of whom use their education to advance their home countries. MIDP alumni work in more than 100 nations around the world.

The Sanford School ranks in the top 10 percent of all public affairs schools/programs in the United States, according to the US News ranking.

“Sanford’s mission is to improve lives and communities by researching the most pressing public policy issues and preparing students for lives of leadership, civic engagement and public service. The community of our students, faculty, staff and alumni is strong and accomplished, with a commitment to tackling the world’s big policy challenges,” Kelley said.

View the the U.S. News & World Report rankings or learn more about the top-ranked Sanford programs. Apply to the Duke Sanford MPP programMIDP program or iMEP program to be part of a future class.


Master of Public Policy: Life at Sanford