Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy


  • The BA in Public Policy is a liberal arts program that emphasizes multidisciplinary training in the social sciences organized around understanding the public policy process at both the domestic and international levels.
  • Students apply to the program during their sophomore year and are admitted to the Ford School for their final two years. The program admits approximately 50 students per year.
  • The undergraduate program builds on two traditional strengths of the University of Michigan: our strong, interdisciplinary social sciences and our students’ focus on issues involving politics and public affairs.
  • Coursework combines classes in economics, political science, and other social sciences disciplines with integrative policy seminars that provide opportunities for students to work together in teams to apply their skills in the analysis of contemporary policy problems. This experience, grounded in the liberal arts, provides an excellent foundation for later professional training in a broad range of professions.

Why consider the Ford School BA in Public Policy?

  • It is a liberal arts degree.
  • Policy problems seldom fit neatly into academic disciplines. Rather than focusing on the mastery of a discipline, the BA in Public Policy is policy-focused, drawing on a variety of disciplines in order to understand a policy challenge and to develop appropriate solutions.
  • The faculty at the Ford School come from a broad range of disciplines (economics, political science, sociology, psychology, mathematics, history) and other professional schools (business, social work, education, information, urban planning, natural resources and environment, medicine).
  • The Ford School BA program is connected to a broad set of programs and activities, such as the School’s research centers, visiting professors and speakers, and student organizations.
  • The small size of the BA in public policy facilitates interaction between students and faculty and provides a strong learning community.

Degree Requirements

Required courses for the BA (20 credit hours):

  • PUBPOL 320: Politics, political institutions, and public policy (4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 330: Microeconomics for public policy (4 credits)
  • STATS 250: Introduction to statistics and data analysis (4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 495: Policy seminar (junior year, 4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 495: Policy seminar (senior year, 4 credits)
  • 6 additional credit hours in PUBPOL at the 300 or 400 level
  • 12 additional credits in student-declared focus area

Focus Areas
The field of public policy touches many academic disciplines and a broad range of policy arenas. Students design focus areas that allow them to develop a deeper understanding of a policy area that interests them.

Focus areas can address an area of public policy, a perspective on public policy, or the policy issues concerning a specific geographic region. Students will take four upper-level classes (12 credits) from any school or college at U-M or during a study abroad/study away program.

Examples of past student focus areas include:

Energy Policy, Health Care Policy & Infectious Disease Control/Prevention, Economic Perspectives on Public Policy, Historical Perspectives on Foreign Policy, Development Policy in Southeast Asia, Middle Eastern Policy

Policy Seminars:
Policy seminars are small, interdisciplinary courses that focus on specific policy issues—domestic and international. During policy seminars, students have the opportunity to interact with policymakers and other experts on the issue being studied. Students work in groups to produce an extensive policy analysis, written for an audience of public officials. Students will take one policy seminar during both junior and senior year; these seminars fulfill the upper-division writing requirement. Policy seminars are only open to Ford School undergraduates and are limited to 25 students.
Recent policy seminar topics include:

  • U.S. social welfare policy
  • Ethics and international affairs
  • Climate change governance
  • Political advocacy
  • K-12 education policy
  • Human rights
  • Health care reform
  • Apology, reconciliation, reparations, and public policy

Elective Courses (18 credit hours):
Each student will work with an advisor to define a focus for his/her BA program and to identify a set of electives that provide appropriate disciplinary depth and policy knowledge. Students may select electives from across the university to meet this elective requirement. The Ford School will offer a variety of elective courses each year. Possibilities include:

  • Poverty policy
  • Environmental policy
  • Crime policy
  • Human rights policy
  • Ethics and public policy
  • Economic development
  • Land use policy
  • The political economy of globalization
  • Political advocacy
  • Science and technology policy

A preview of the curriculum: Public Policy 201

  • Course title: Public Policy 201: Systematic Thinking About Problems of the Day
  • Prerequisites: Econ 101 and at least one other introductory social science class.
  • Course details: This is a sophomore level course, offered for 4 credit hours. The class consists of 3 hours of lecture and 1 section meeting each week.
  • Course description: The main idea that we want to get across is implicit in the title: systematic thinking—largely from the social sciences, but with the application of scientific methods and knowledge more generally—can make a difference in the way that we approach and solve current problems.
  • Course organization: PUBPOL 201 is organized around a series of modules that address contemporary policy issues. For each module, Professor Courant will be joined by another faculty member with expertise in the topic being studied. Past module topics have included: international trade and outsourcing, intellectual property and file sharing, a proposal that would select as the President of the U.S. the candidate who wins the national popular vote, genetically modified foods, K–12 education and the No Child Left Behind Act, and others.
  • Professor: This course is taught by Paul N. Courant. Professor Courant served as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan from 2002–2005 and is currently a Professor of Economics and Public Policy and Faculty Associate in the Institute for Social Research.

For more information

Complete the following form to receive more information about the Ford School’s BA program: Request More Information.