Our model

The Ford School's joint doctoral program—in which candidates combine their public policy studies with disciplinary work in economics, political science, or sociology—represents a unique approach. Pioneered here at the University of Michigan in 2001, the model is still shared with just a handful of other universities.

All Ford School doctoral students complete a PhD in one of the University of Michigan’s world-class social sciences—economics, political science, or sociology--becoming full members of their disciplinary departments through a rigorous sequence of theory and methods courses. In addition, they become active participants in the Ford School’s collaborative, interdisciplinary, outstanding public policy community, working with world-renowned faculty who are also enthusiastic teachers and mentors.

The program is designed to appeal to students who want to pursue research careers in a traditional social science discipline and who see themselves as deeply committed to the study and improvement of public policy. Our goal: For joint PhD students to bring the most rigorous tools of social science to bear on critical public policy questions.

Distinctive Program Features

The joint doctoral program is distinctive in these ways:

Generous Support – All of our PhD students receive five years of funding, contingent on satisfactory performance. The funding covers tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. Support may be in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships.

Disciplinary Orientation – Students spend most of their first two years in a department, taking the same sequence of theory and methods courses that are taken by departmental students. In addition, students have a departmental faculty advisor to help them become integrated into the department and to help ensure that they receive a thorough grounding in the theory and methods of the discipline.

Empirical Methods – We expect students in the program to develop sophisticated analytical skills including statistics, economic analysis, benefit-cost analysis, evaluation methods, and qualitative and quantitative approaches to data collection and analysis.

Research Training Opportunities – Active engagement in research is a key component of the program and our students have an array of research opportunities. All students have the opportunity to spend at least a year as a research assistant to a faculty member. In addition, during their first and second years, all students attend a biweekly research seminar and complete a research internship. Faculty advisors provide careful guidance for the independent research paper that is part of the third year.

Interdisciplinary Policy Analysis – A key goal of the program is to facilitate multidisciplinary training and research. We've organized coursework so that early in their studies students are given extensive exposure to different perspectives and approaches and have the opportunity to compare them. Similarly, our faculty, many of whom hold joint appointments, are engaged in multidisciplinary research and can assist students in bringing the ideas of different disciplines to bear in addressing policy issues.

Learn more about our curriculum and structure.

Contact Information

For more information about the PhD program, please contact:

Joint Doctoral Program in Public Policy and Social Science
Ford School of Public Policy
Phone: (734) 764-0453
Email: fspp-admissions@umich.edu

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