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Students are registered full-time, which is the equivalent of four half-courses each semester, and they complete 16 half-courses to receive their PhD degree. At least eleven half-courses must be at the doctoral level, and a minimum of five taught at Harvard Kennedy School
The curriculum requires students to complete distribution requirements, core requirements and Oral General Examination, and participate in PhD Research Seminars. All public policy course work and qualifying exams should be completed in the first two years.
By the end of the third year, students submit and defend a dissertation prospectus after which they research, write, and prepare to defend their dissertation. Typically students wrap up researching and writing their dissertation withing three years after their Oral General Examination.
Students usually complete their degree requirements within five years, and are awarded their degree after they submit and successfully defend their dissertation.
For those students who do not hold a Master in Public Policy degree (or an appropriate master's degree in a similar field), they must complete the distribution requirement by taking a total of two MPP courses at Havard Kennedy School, each in the Democracy, Politics and Institutions and Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences policy areas.
Students will need to demonstrate PhD-level proficiency in theory, methods, and both a primary and secondary field of interest. The general requirements include distribution requirements in five fields within these ares, with courses and exams listed below:
Students enroll in the required PhD-level field courses that are connected to their primary field of interest.
Students discuss their field requirement study plans with their faculty advisors during their first and second years, after which they submit their plans to the Doctoral Program Office. Students select two among the above fields as their primary and secondary fields of interest. The primary field is a student's area of speiclization; the secondary field may be a disciplinary or methodological area where a student has completed two or more PhD-level half courses.
The 60- to 90-minute Oral General Examination tests whether students have mastered their primary and secondary fields of interest. The exam determines whether students have achieved enough understanding of their fields to be considered experts, and have sufficient grounding in the literature that will help them write a successful dissertation.
But more broadly, the exam assess students' academic aptitude and training as well as their prospects for having successful careers after graduating from the program.
The purpose of this requirement is to establish a solid foundation for future research. Students should seek PhD-level courses that broaden and deepen their knowledge in the special field. Most Harvard Kennedy School courses and seminars are targeted toward practitioners rather than scholars and do not normally serve as PhD-level courses. As a consequence, at least part of the special field work will normally be done in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences or other graduate units outside the Kennedy School.
A plan of study that includes the syllabus for each proposed course in the special field must be submitted to the Program Office for approval at the beginning of each year.
Many concentrations in a variety of fields are possible. Three pre-approved primary fields include Environmental and Natural Resource Policy; International Development; and Judgment and Decision Making.
Following the preparation of a written prospectus at the end of the third year, students usually complete their dissertation research and writing within two years.
Dissertations may be written as either one multi-chapter work, or a collection of three independently publishable, substantively linked essays. The degree is conferred by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences after the dissertation defense (which is open to the public).
View a complete list of dissertations written from 1972 to the present in the Public Policy Dissertations Archive.
It is important to identify possible dissertation committee members by the end of the second year in residence. Two principle advisors must approve the dissertation prospectus in writing to the Director of Graduate Studies after the oral presentation at the end of the third year. The prospectus for a multi-chapter dissertation should include at least the following:
The prospectus for a 3-paper dissertation must include: