2023-2024 PhD in Public Policy Student Handbook

Get to know our community standards, policies, and requirements.

This handbook covers the Public Policy (PPOL) doctoral program, which is administered jointly by Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Harvard Griffin GSAS). The PPOL Program leads to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree awarded by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Harvard University’s PhD Program in Public Policy provides advanced graduate training for exceptional scholars preparing for positions in academia, research organizations, and government. Graduates of the program carry out policy analytic research; train the next generation of researchers, teachers, and leaders; and engage in the formulation and execution of public policy in national and international organizations. In this way, the program furthers Harvard Kennedy School’s primary mission of training enlightened public leaders and generating ideas that provide solutions to the most challenging public problems.

Responsibilities

Graduate school is a professional degree, and therefore, is a partnership between the faculty, the staff, and the student. Within this partnership, both the program and the student share responsibility for the student’s academic career.

It is the program’s responsibility to share degree requirement information, outline the policies of the program and communicate important resources, act in a professional manner, and communicate with the Harvard community professionally.  In turn, the student is responsible for reviewing the local and University policies annually, acting in a professional manner, and communicating with the Harvard community professionally. For students, this means:

  • Review the Graduate Handbook and the Harvard Griffin GSAS policies on an annual basis.
  • Understand the policies and degree requirements and ask for clarification as needed.
  • Understand University expectations for standards of conduct and academic integrity.
  • Communicate professionally with professors, staff, and other students (review the University policies on non-discrimination and anti-bullying and the GSAS student codes of conduct).
  • Review University and program email correspondence. Harvard communicates important policies and deadlines via email. Emails to a student’s Harvard email is the official form of communication. It is presumed that these forms of email correspondence will be received and reviewed by the student. 

 

Admissions and Enrollment

ELIGIBILITY

Applicants who have earned a bachelor’s degree are eligible to apply to the Public Policy doctoral program. Prospective students apply and are admitted to one of four tracks:

  • Economics
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Politics and Institutions
  • Science, Technology and Policy

Students may not change tracks prior to matriculation.


REQUESTS TO CHANGE TRACKS

Applicants are admitted and matriculate into one of the four tracks. Ordinarily, matriculated students cannot change to a different track from the one to which they were admitted. In rare and exceptional circumstances, students can apply to change tracks by submitting a request to the PhD Program Chair, stating the reason for the proposed change, the student’s background and qualifications for the proposed track, and how changing tracks may affect the time to completion of the PhD degree. The PhD Program Chair may request additional information, if necessary.

The PhD Program Chair will send the application and supporting documents (including the original application) to the Admissions subcommittee for the proposed track. The subcommittee will review the file and proposal, comparing the application for the proposed track with those of candidates who were admitted to the track. The subcommittee will then make a recommendation to the PhD Program Chair, who will make the final decision on the proposal.


APPLICATION

To be considered for the program, applicants must submit:

  • The Harvard Griffin GSAS online application
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts for all colleges or universities attended
  • Valid GRE general test scores
  • Internet-based TOEFL or IELTS scores (for those for whom English is not their first language)
  • Statement of purpose
  • Writing sample of no more than 20 pages, which must be single-authored and written in English

Admission is for the fall term only. The program does not have a terminal master’s degree.
 

HKS MASTER’S GRADUATES

Graduates of HKS master’s degree programs who apply and are accepted to the PPOL Program within three years of graduation may petition for credit for doctoral-level courses they took as a master’s degree candidate. If three or more years have passed, applicants will need to meet all track requirements.


DEADLINE

Complete applications must be submitted online by December 1. Decisions are announced in late February.

 

All students register each term online. To maintain full-time student status, students must
enroll in 16 credits (four courses) each semester. Students during the G1 or G2 year will often register for PPOL 3000 for one of their courses to achieve the full course load. Most G3+ students will primarily enroll in PPOL 3000 to reach the full course load.

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

Students are required to be in residence for at least three years.

 

Academics

Academics form the foundation of the Harvard Kennedy School experience.

This section provides important information about Doctoral Program degree requirements and curriculum, including the Doctoral Program’s policies for petitions, grading, and periods of degree conferral.

ALL PPOL STUDENTS ARE REQUIRED COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING:

  • All course requirements for one of the four tracks
  • Two primary field courses
  • Two secondary field courses
  • Two PhD research seminars
  • Oral general examination
  • Dissertation prospectus defense
  • Residency requirement
  • Dissertation defense and submission

 

Students apply to and are admitted to one of four tracks within the Public Policy PhD
Program:

  • Economics
  • Politics & Institutions
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Science, Technology and Policy

If a student wishes to enroll in a different track than the one to which the student was admitted, it is necessary to submit an application. This application—along with the original Harvard Griffin GSAS admissions application—will be reviewed by the faculty committee for the specific track to which the application is being made. The application will be compared with applications submitted to that track (those admitted and not admitted), and a recommendation will be made to the Chair of the Program for a final decision. If an application to enroll in the new track, the student may remain in the track to which they were admitted and participate fully within that track, or withdraw from the Program to pursue their interests in an appropriate program.

 

Economics Track
 

THEORY—ECONOMICS (TWO COURSES)

  • Econ 2020A Microeconomic Theory I
  • Econ 2020B Microeconomic Theory II

THEORY—POLITICS AND MANAGEMENT (ONE COURSE)

  • Econ 2510 Inside Government: Making Public Policy
  • Gov 2127 Popular Protest in Comparative Perspective
  • Gov 2136 Political Regimes and Regime Change
  • Gov 2148 Civil Society, West and East
  • Gov 2305 American Government and Politics: Field Seminar
  • Gov 2356 Agenda Setting and Representation in Congress
  • Gov 2453 Practical and Theoretical Regulation of Voting
  • Gov 2473 Parties and Interest Groups in the U.S.
  • Gov 2500 Bureaucratic Politics
  • Gov 2710 International Relations: Field Seminar
  • Gov 2782 State Failure and Civil Society
  • Gov 2791 Comparative Foreign Security Policy
  • HBS 4880 Macro Topics in Organizational Behavior
  • HBS 4882 Micro Topics in Organizational Behavior
  • Psy 2500 Proseminar in Social Psychology
  • Soc 204 Classical Social Theory
  • Soc 208 Contemporary Theory and Research: Seminar
  • Soc 224 Organizational Analysis: Seminar

METHODS—ANALYTICAL (ONE COURSE OR QUALIFYING EXAM*)

  • API 302 Analytical Frameworks for Policy
  • Econ 2030 Psychology and Economics
  • Econ 2034 Networks
  • Econ 2035 Psychology and Economic Theory
  • Econ 2040 Experimental Economics
  • Econ 2042 Experimental Economics for Social Scientists
  • Econ 2052 Game Theory I: Equilibrium Design
  • Econ 2059 Decision Theory
  • Econ 2060 Contract Theory
  • Econ 2071 Simplicity and Complexity in Economics
  • Econ 2099 Market Design
  • Eng 201 Decision Theory
  • Eng 202 Estimation and Control of Dynamic Systems
  • Eng 210 Mathematical Programming
  • Psych 2650 Behavioral Approaches to Decision Making and Negotiation

*The qualifying exam is held in late January. Students may re-take the exam only once.

METHODS—EMPIRICAL (TWO COURSES)

  • Econ 2110 Econometrics I
  • Econ 2115 Econometric Methods for Applied Research


Judgment and Decision-Making Track


THEORY—ECONOMICS (TWO COURSES)

  • Econ 2020A Microeconomic Theory I
  • Econ 2020B Microeconomic Theory II

THEORY—NORMATIVE (ONE COURSE)

  • API 302 Analytical Frameworks for Policy
  • Econ 2050 Economics, Law & Public Policy
  • Econ 2080 Economics and Politics
  • Gov 1061 The History of Modern Political Philosophy (grad section only)
  • Gov 2030 Political Concepts: Field Seminar
  • Gov 2034 Ethics, Economics, and Law
  • Gov 2088 Ethical Foundations of Political Thought
  • Phil 175 Theories of Criminal Justice: Criminalization, Policing, and Punishment
  • Phil 176G Groups and Political Philosophy
  • Phil 180 Justice and Politics of Cultural Memory and Representation
  • Phil 238 Truth
  • Phil 247C Conceptual Engineering
  • Phil 256 Becausal Relations
  • Phil 279 Topics in Political Philosophy

METHODS—EMPIRICAL (THREE COURSES)

  • API 222 Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics
  • Gov 2001 Quantitative Social Science Methods I
  • Gov 2002 Quantitative Social Science Methods II
  • Psych 1950 Intermediate Statistical Analysis in Psychology
  • Psych 1952 Multivariate Analysis in Psychology
  • Psych 2030 Bayesian Data Analysis
  • Psych 2080 Statistical Learning
  • Econ 2030 Psychology and Economics
  • Econ 2034 Networks
  • Econ 2035 Psychology and Economic Theory
  • Econ 2040 Experimental Economics
  • Econ 2052 Game Theory I: Equilibrium Design
  • Econ 2057 Stochastic Choice
  • Econ 2059 Decision Theory
  • Econ 2060 Contract Theory
  • Econ 2071 Simplicity and Complexity in Economics
  • Econ 2099 Market Design
  • Eng 202 Estimation and Control of Dynamic Systems
  • Acomp 209A Introduction to Data Science
  • Acomp 209B Data Science 2
  • Acomp 221 Critical Thinking in Data Science
  • Gov 2003 Causal Inference with Applications
  • Gov 2004 Introduction to Machine Learning
  • Soc 2272 Computational Sociology


Politics and Institutions Track


THEORY—NORMATIVE (ONE COURSE)

  • Econ 2050 Behavioral Economics, Law & Public Policy
  • Econ 2080 Economics and Politics
  • Gov 1061 The History of Modern Political Philosophy (grad section only)
  • Gov 2030 Political Concepts: Field Seminar
  • Gov 2034 Ethics, Economics, and Law
  • Gov 2088 Ethical Foundations of Political Thought
  • Phil 168 Kant’s Ethical Theory (grad section only)
  • Phil 172 The History of Modern Moral Philosophy (grad section only)
  • Phil 175 Theories of Criminal Justice: Criminalization, Policing, and Punishment
  • Phil 176G Groups and Political Philosophy
  • Phil 178Q Equality and Liberty (grad section only)
  • Phil 178Z Inequality (grad section only)
  • Phil 180 Justice and Politics of Cultural Memory and Representation
  • Phil 238 Truth
  • Phil 247C Conceptual Engineering
  • Phil 256 Becausal Relations
  • Phil 272 Foundations of Justice
  • Phil 278 Nonconsequentialist Ethical Theory: Seminar
  • Phil 279 Topics in Political Philosophy

THEORY—POLITICS (TWO COURSES)

  • Gov 2005 Formal Political Theory I
  • Gov 2006 Formal Models of Domestic Politics
  • Gov 2127 Popular Protest in Comparative Perspective
  • Gov 2136 Political Regimes and Regime Change
  • Gov 2148 Civil Society, West and East
  • Gov 2305 American Government and Politics: Field Seminar
  • Gov 2356 Agenda Setting and Representation in Congress
  • Gov 2453 Practical and Theoretical Regulation of Voting
  • Gov 2473 Parties and Interest Groups in the U.S.
  • Gov 2500 Bureaucratic Politics
  • Gov 2710 International Relations: Field Seminar
  • Gov 2782 State Failure and Civil War
  • Gov 2791 Comparative Foreign Security Policy

METHODS—ANALYTICAL (ONE COURSE)

  • API 302 Analytical Frameworks for Policy
  • Econ 2030 Psychology and Economics
  • Econ 2034 Networks
  • Econ 2035 Psychology and Economic Theory
  • Econ 2040 Experimental Economics
  • Econ 2042 Experimental Economics for Social Scientists
  • Econ 2059 Decision Theory
  • Econ 2060 Contract Theory
  • Econ 2071 Simplicity and Complexity in Economics
  • Econ 2099 Market Design
  • Eng 201 Decision Theory
  • Eng 202 Estimation and Control of Dynamic Systems
  • Eng 210 Mathematical Programming
  • Gov 2003 Causal Inference with Applications
  • Psych 2650 Behavioral Approaches to Decision Making and Negotiation
  • Stat 186 Introduction to Causal Inference

METHODS—EMPIRICAL (TWO COURSES)

  • Gov 2001 Quantitative Social Science Methods I
  • Gov 2002 Quantitative Social Science Methods II


Science, Technology, and Policy Track


THEORY—NORMATIVE (ONE COURSE)

  • Gov 1061 The History of Modern Political Philosophy (grad section only)
  • Gov 2034 Ethics, Economics, and Law
  • Gov 2088 Ethical Foundations of Political Thought
  • HLS 2052 Critical Theory in Legal Scholarship
  • IGA 515 Bioethics, Law, and the Life Sciences
  • Phil 168 Kant’s Ethical Theory (grad section only)
  • Phil 172 The History of Modern Moral Philosophy (grad section only)
  • Phil 175 Ethical Theory: Proseminar
  • Phil 178Q Equality and Liberty (grad section only)
  • Phil 178Z Inequality (grad section only)
  • Phil 272 Foundations of Justice
  • Phil 278 Nonconsequentialist Ethical Theory: Seminar
  • Phil 279 Topics in Political Philosophy

THEORY—POLITICS (TWO COURSES)

  • Eng-Sci 298R Solving Tech’s Public Dilemmas OR
  • IGA 513 Science, Power, and Politics

(AND ONE OF THE FOLLOWING)

  • Aframer 201 Social Theory, In and Out of Africa
  • Eng-Sci 298R Solving Tech’s Public Dilemmas
  • Hist 2955A/B History of Global Capitalism: Seminar
  • HLS 2452 Constitutional Law: Money and the Making of American Capitalism
  • IGA 403M Policy for an Engineered Planet
  • IGA 515 Bioethics, Law, and the Life Sciences
  • IGA 516 Law, Science, and Society in America
  • IGA 518 Knowledge as Power in Law and Science

METHODS—ANALYTICAL (TWO COURSES)

  • API 302 Analytical Frameworks for Policy
  • Anthro 2702 Political Economy
  • Econ 2042 Experimental Economics for Social Scientists
  • Econ 2071 Simplicity and Complexity in Economics
  • Hist 2019 Energy History: Seminar
  • HLS 2101 Global Law
  • HLS 2145 Law and Economic Development
  • IGA 402 Confronting Climate Change: A Foundation in Science, Technology and Policy
  • IGA 408 Climate Disruption: Emerging Topics in Policy, Politics and Technology of Climate Change
  • IGA 956Y Science, Technology, and Society: Research Seminar

METHODS—EMPIRICAL (ONE COURSE)

  • Gov 2001 Quantitative Social Science Methods I
  • Gov 2002 Quantitative Social Science Methods II
  • MIT STS.412 Quantification

If a course is not on the approved list a petition must be submitted to the Doctoral Programs Office for approval. Petitions may be obtained from the Director of Doctoral Programs.

PHD RESEARCH SEMINAR

All students participate in the HKS PhD Research Seminar, API 901 and API 902—two courses focusing on public policy frameworks, research methods, and presentation of research in progress. First-year students are required to take API 901, and API 902 is required of third year students.

COURSE WORK

Students must complete the required course work specified by each track by the end of the G2 year.

ORAL EXAMINATION

The oral examination, taken at the end of the second year, runs 60-90 minutes, during which the mastery of two fields is tested. Students must complete all course requirements before taking the oral examination. Students propose their fields, one being a primary field of substantive interest and one a secondary field, which may be a disciplinary or methodological area. The fundamental purpose of the exam is to determine whether the student has achieved sufficient understanding of the scholarship in the fields to be considered someone with significant expertise. In particular, the exam indicates whether the student has sufficient grounding in the literature that is likely to be most pertinent for writing a successful dissertation. More broadly, the exam assesses the student’s academic preparation and aptitude as well as interest in and prospects for a successful career after completion of the PhD. One half hour is devoted to each of the two fields selected by the student. An additional half hour is allowed for the faculty committee to meet in executive session and provide feedback to the student. Students are required to sit for the oral examination before the beginning of the G3 year.

When selecting fields, students should consult the program office for existing fields and methods of proposing optional fields. At least two doctoral level courses in each of the primary and secondary fields are required. Secondary fields may (but need not) be chosen from (or include courses from) the required areas of track course requirements. There is no difference in the level of minimal competence required to pass the exam between the primary and secondary fields; however, many students may have a great facility with the material in their primary field.

The exam committee will consist of two examiners with expertise in the respective fields; in extraordinary cases, there will be a third examiner. The student may request two specific field examiners, but the final decision rests with the Director of Graduate Study. The Director will determine when a third examiner is necessary and will designate that person.

In order to prepare for the oral examination, the student should identify the primary and secondary fields prior to the exam and nominate faculty examiners. One faculty examiner on the committee must have an HKS appointment. The student should meet with the examiners to agree on the nature and scope of the fields and develop a reading list that provides adequate coverage of the field. Students and faculty members will have access to samples of previous reading lists that provide adequate coverage of fields. Once the student and examiners reach an agreement, a brief description of the name, nature, and scope of the fields, examiners names, courses taken in identified fields, and reading lists should be submitted to the Doctoral Program Director by March 15.

Exam grading will be based on the one of the following ratings: excellent, good, fair, fail with recommendation to retake, and fail without recommendation to retake. Committee members may add a “plus” or “minus” to each passing grade. Conditions may be imposed by the committee, including a requirement to enroll in a specific course, or perhaps to write a paper surveying the literature in the field. In most cases, students will receive the exam results immediately. However, if the committee is undecided, it will inform the student that it will consult with the Director of Graduate Study before assigning the grade (or stating the conditions). If the student fails the examination, the committee will recommend to the Director of Graduate Study whether the student should be allowed to retake the exam or withdraw from the program.

Instructions to Faculty Members Serving on Oral Examination Committees

The oral examination is a critical step in the student’s progress toward the PhD degree in Public Policy, and it is one of the rare moments where we can step back and assess the student’s prospects for success. Your responsibility is to judge the evidence to support a positive answer to the question: “Will this student be able to complete the research and writing necessary to produce a high-quality dissertation in the chosen area(s) of interest?”

Faculty examiners should focus on the student’s preparation in the two fields chosen by the student. One is termed the primary field and on the secondary field, but they should be given equal weight when assessing the student’s overall performance. The oral examination provides an opportunity to evaluate the student’s competence in the area of specialization and potential for writing a dissertation in that area.

Faculty members should also direct questions to any area where the student has performed marginally in coursework or written qualifying exam. Under our current policies, a satisfactory course grade is a B.

The exam will run for 60 minutes, after which the committee will meet in executive session to reach a decision. Grading for the exam will be one of the following ratings: excellent, good, fair, fail with recommendation to retake, fair without recommendation to retake. Committee members may add a “plus” or “minus” to each passing grade. Conditions may be imposed by the committee, including a requirement to enroll in a specific course, or perhaps write a paper surveying the literature in a field.

In most cases, students will receive the exam results immediately. However, if the committee is undecided, it should inform the student that it will consult with the Director of Graduate Study before assigning a grade (or stating the conditions). If the student fails the examination, the committee should recommend to the Director of Graduate Study whether the student should be allowed to retake the exam or withdraw from the program.

DISSERTATION PROSPECTUS

The prospectus is due before the beginning of the fourth year. Every student is expected to present the prospectus orally before two members of their dissertation committee before the fourth year. One of the two committee members must be an HKS faculty member. There is no stipulated length for this paper, and the prospectus may simply be a slide deck.

Guidelines for the Dissertation Prospectus

The prospectus allows students to demonstrate that their work has reached a sufficient stage of development, assuring both students and faculty committees that students will prepare a satisfactory dissertation. The prospectus also serves as the basis for a student’s oral examination with the likely dissertation chair and second faculty member; thus, the examination is an opportunity to reassure success of the dissertation.

A satisfactory prospectus will include a literature review, an analytical framework or theory, a discussion of data sources, and an extended definition of the central questions to be answered in the dissertation. It must also provide strong evidence that the student is well equipped to pursue the line of inquiry outlined, which should include at least some preliminary research demonstrating the plausibility of the proposed project.

Literature review: This should demonstrate that the student is thoroughly familiar with the major studies relevant to the dissertation and demonstrate sufficient background to indicate that the student will be exploring a new question or will explore a question using better methods than previously employed.

Analytical framework or theory: Discussion of an analytical framework should identify the hypotheses to be tested, a description of the sources of the hypotheses, and identification of the procedures through which causal relationships would be discerned. Discussion of a theory should include, as complete as possible, a set of premises upon which the theory rests, the hypotheses that follow from it, and observable implications of the hypotheses that might be empirically tested.

Data sources: The vast majority of PPOL dissertations involve gathering or assembling data. Often, data will come from existing sources, but students may also conduct surveys, run experiments, etc. This discussion should link the proposed data collection to the particular hypotheses the student proposes to test.

Evidence of capability: In addition to discussing the above three areas, the prospectus and accompanying examination must provide evidence that the student is capable of carrying out the study. Thus, it should be demonstrated that the student has capability with the tools proposed to be employed, the data sought has a strong probability of being assembled, etc.

There are two common formats for a prospectus. One would be a presentation that is not unlike a research grant proposal or a book precis. Thus, it would be a single document—20-30 pages in length—laying out the project. An alternative version for a prospectus might be more appropriate for a three-paper dissertation; this would include one paper in reasonable draft form with an accompanying roughly five-page document outlining plans for the other two papers. Even among those two papers, one might be better defined than the other. An acceptable format for the prospectus should be identified jointly by the student and the examining faculty committee. Note that in either case, the prospectus can take the form of a slide deck rather than a paper per se.

There are three possible outcomes from a prospectus examination.

  1. First, the student may pass and proceed to preparing the dissertation.
  2. Second, the student may fail the examination; this should be a strong warning the committee has little confidence the student will be able to complete an effective dissertation on a timely basis.
  3. Third, the committee may request additional work to provide reassurance that a satisfactory dissertation will be prepared. This third outcome is not unusual. When it occurs, the committee may require a subsequent exam or agree the student can satisfy the requirement by providing written documents, which the individual committee members approve. If this third outcome does result, the student must produce the required work in a timely manner as identified by the committee; the committee must report satisfactory completion back to the Doctoral Programs Director.

DISSERTATION

All students should read The Form of the Doctoral Dissertation (available online) before writing the dissertation. The booklet explains the mechanics of producing a dissertation.

There are two styles of a dissertation. The first is comprised of multiple chapters, prefaced by an abstract. The second is comprised of three papers, each of which could be published independently. An executive summary linking all three papers is required as part of the three-paper dissertation. Two papers in the dissertation may be co-authored. Only one of these may be co-authored with a faculty member. The job market paper is required to be single authored. In specific research fields, the dissertation committee chair may require more papers to be single authored.

DISSERTATION DEFENSE

The dissertation defense is a public event advertised to the HKS community and all members of the PhD Standing Committee prior to the defense. Attendance by other doctoral students and faculty members is encouraged. The student arranges the date and time of the defense with the committee, and the Doctoral Programs Office arranges the location.

The defense should occur at least two weeks before the electronic dissertation is due at Harvard Griffin GSAS, to allow sufficient time for revisions. It is advisable to start arranging the defense date in advance to resolve possible scheduling conflicts among dissertation advisors.

The dissertation committee chairperson must be present in the room for the defense. In rare instances, one committee member may participate by conference call if a trip to Cambridge is impossible.

DISSERTATION DEFENSE COMMITTEE

There are three faculty members on a dissertation committee. Their affiliations must include at least one HKS appointment and one person from the PhD Standing Committee (this may be the same individual). Non-Harvard and emeritus faculty members may serve on a committee; however, three signatures of current Harvard faculty members (with an appointment of half-time or greater) are required on the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate.

Adjunct lecturers may not serve on a Dissertation Committee. Consult with the Doctoral Programs Director immediately if you are having difficulty meeting these requirements.

Students are required to maintain a B average to remain in satisfactory standing.

Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May; deadlines for degree applications are
in August, November, and March, respectively. Electronic dissertations must be submitted
to the Registrar’s Office in September, January, and May respectively. If completion of the
degree is delayed, the degree application form must be re-submitted to the Registrar’s Office before the next degree deadline.

Students who have passed the oral examination may request permission for a leave of
absence. Permission may be granted on a case-by-case basis. Students may be on leave for a maximum of one year, after which students will be asked to return to Cambridge or withdraw from the program. Petitions for exceptions to this rule must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies.

TRAVELING SCHOLAR APPLICATIONS

A student may be on traveling scholar status for a period of one year. Petitions for exception to this rule must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies. Students must apply online to be a traveling scholar.

HARVARD GRIFFIN GSAS REGISTRATION PROCESS

  1. Registration and enrollment are completed electronically. Details are available on my.harvard.edu.
  2. Enrollment: students enroll in 16 credits each semester. G1 and G2 students may enroll in 4 credits of PPOL 3000 if they decide to take only three courses in a given semester. G3+ students typically will enroll primarily in 16 credits of PPOL 3000 unless enrolling in a research seminar as well.
  3. Credit cannot be given for a reading and research course led by a professor emeritus.
  4. All doctoral candidates are registered at Harvard Griffin GSAS. To take a course at HKS, you must cross-register from Harvard Griffin GSAS to HKS.

Students typically complete all course work in the first two years and complete the dissertation in 5-6 years. In principle, it is possible to complete the dissertation in the third year; however, students usually need more time for research.

Students must complete and defend the dissertation by the end of the fifth year after
completing the oral examination. Petitions to extend residency should be addressed to the
Director of Graduate Studies.

Harvard Griffin GSAS imposes a strict 10-year limit on the number of years a student can study for his, her, or their PhD degree, including leaves of absence but excluding family leave. The PhD Committee can petition Harvard Griffin GSAS for exceptions to the G10 rule for one year only, after which the student is withdrawn.

Administration and Support

ENTERING STUDENTS

The PhD Committee will assign advisors to incoming students, matching students with
faculty members who have similar substantive interests. The advisor serves as an information source about useful courses at Harvard Griffin GSAS or HKS, taking into account the student’s level or preparation and need for additional background to pass oral general exams. You are required to check in with your advisor twice per term during your first year. The PhD Standing Committee and members of the Kennedy PhD Student Association (KPSA) have developed guidelines for advising for both faculty and students

CONTINUING STUDENTS

As students begin their dissertation research, they should seek additional advisors as soon as possible. Changes from assigned advisors may be negotiated at any time. All students should meet with their primary advisors on a regular basis, particularly to review progress on the prospectus; contact the Doctoral Programs Office if a second advisor is difficult to find. It is best to start looking for an advisor as soon as choosing a dissertation topic.

Students are strongly advised to attend research seminars in their anticipated field of dissertation research and any other related areas. Involvement in seminars should not be delayed until the student has a dissertation prospectus in hand. Research seminars provide an excellent opportunity to meet other students and faculty in one’s specialty. Research assistantships that can help finance graduate study often grow out of these seminar contacts.

Consult the Doctoral Programs Office for general information.

Although teaching fellow work is not required of doctoral students, it is strongly recommended for students who are planning an academic career to spend at least one year as a teaching fellow. Students may teach at HKS or at a department at FAS.

Students should follow the guidelines at each school for applying and should note the payment schedule for each school. Questions regarding each process may be addressed to the Doctoral Programs Director. Applications are typically available late in the spring term for the following year.

Financial assistance packages are offered with the assumption that the recipient is a full-time student in residence, in good standing, and registered in only one degree-granting program. Students in joint programs will be on leave of absence from one institution while registered at and receiving financial aid from the other.

  1. All Harvard Griffin GSAS students may reapply for financial assistance annually. Third- and fourth-year support packages include tuition and health fees. Tuition and health fees are available to G5 students after the 4th year if needed. The final year of financial support is the Dissertation Completion Fellowship taken in either the G5 or G6 year.
     
  2. Let the Doctoral Programs Office know if you need help before you are in dire straits. If you do have a financial emergency, contact the program director immediately.
     
  3. The Doctoral Programs Office collects information about selected sources of support, and advice for writing requests for support. The Harvard Griffin GSAS Fellowship Office has information on grant support from National Science Foundation (NSF), Fulbright, and other sources. You may search the online database for fellowships and grants. A useful series of meetings is led each fall by the director of fellowships at Harvard Griffin GSAS. In recent years, several PPOL students have won Harvard Traveling Fellowships, summer scholarships, and term-time dissertation completion awards. It is a good idea to initiate inquiries about fellowships in the fall for the following year.
     
  4. Students who are going on the job market may apply to the Doctoral Programs
    Office for travel reimbursement. Submit petitions before you depart and retain all
    receipts for submission after you return. Job Market students are eligible to up to
    $400 per student to attend one job market conference.
     
  5. The doctoral committee supports one professional membership per student in an
    organization close to the student’s area of research. Maximum reimbursement for a
    basic membership is $45.

In May, the Doctoral Programs Office convenes a meeting for students on the job market and the Placement Chairs. In addition, the Doctoral Program Office hosts a series of events for preparation for the job market and posts CVs of students on the job market on the HKS website with links to students’ websites.

The PhD degree is conferred by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. All PhD recipients
are invited to attend an early morning breakfast with the Harvard Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. After Morning Exercises in Harvard Yard, PPOL students are invited to participate in the HKS Diploma Ceremony, the Harvard Griffin GSAS diploma awarding ceremony in Sanders Theater, or a Resident House diploma awarding ceremony. Commencement information is available online during the spring term.

Students must order tickets through Harvard Griffin GSAS in the spring for Morning Exercises and the Harvard Griffin GSAS diploma awarding ceremony in Sanders Theater.

The Doctoral Programs Office also hosts a reception for graduates during Commencement Week.  More information is sent by the Doctoral Programs office ahead of Commencement.

The Doctoral Programs Director will answer any additional questions regarding Commencement.

Given that many students spend significant time in other departments, they should
inquire with the Graduate Student Coordinator about the listserv for each department (i.e., Government and Economics).

Access to HKS computer facilities is free of charge; however, there is a fee to use the black
and white laser printers in the computer lab. Check the HKS intranet for details. Harvard Griffin GSAS students have access to the Science Center computer labs. Learn more about this facility and the printing options.

The Harvard Griffin GSAS Student Center (formerly Dudley House) has a student-run computer room that is managed by the Graduate Student Council and open to GSAS-enrolled students. For students to access the computer room, they will need to obtain the door lock combination by showing their current Harvard Griffin GSAS ID card to the Office of Housing Services and completing the authorization form.

Consistent with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Harvard University does not discriminate against students, faculty, or staff based on sex in any of its programs or activities, including but not limited to educational programs, employment, and admission.

Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is a kind of sex discrimination and is prohibited by Title IX and by the University. The Harvard Griffin GSAS policies addresses sexual and gender-based discrimination as part of the regulations and standards of conduct. Please review the Harvard Griffin GSAS policies for details, and visit the Office for Gender Equity’s web site for more resources and information.

Title IX Coordinators

In July 2020, student workers (primarily teaching fellows and research assistants) entered into a collective bargaining agreement.

Details may be found on the Harvard Graduate Students Union website.

For any questions on where to go, please contact the Doctoral Programs Director.

Advising Guidelines

SCHEDULING MEETINGS

  • It is your responsibility to schedule meetings with your advisors. Check with your advisor if they schedule meetings via an online scheduler, administrative assistant, or via email.
  • All G1 students are assigned an advisor prior to matriculation. You should meet with this advisor at least once per semester during your first year. If at any point this relationship is not working out, please reach out to Rob or Nicole for reassignment.
  • Aside from your assigned advisor, identify and ask to meet with other faculty you think you might want to work with early on (G1/G2) year to ask for guidance and/or RA opportunities. It is common to shift or add advisors by your G2 year as you build relationships outside of your initially assigned advisor.
  • Start getting in the habit of regular meetings during G2 summer / G3 fall, even when ideas are very early. Discuss with the faculty a mutually acceptable arrangement for the frequency and method for meetings.
  • If you are starting to struggle with a project, go to your advisor sooner rather than later. If a meeting cannot be set up quickly, email your advisor the problems you are encountering.
  • If advisors give you conflicting advice, particularly later on in a project, consider scheduling a meeting or emailing all of them collectively to agree on a path forward.

MEETING PREPARATION

  • You should set the agenda and drive the discussion for each meeting with faculty.
  • Be prepared to ask direct questions and receive honest feedback.
  • Have clearly defined goals for what you want to accomplish in each meeting, such as key questions you want answered or areas where you need feedback.
  • Discuss expectations for meeting preparation with your advisor, such as whether they expect you to:
    -  Email an agenda prior to each meeting
    -  Email a list of questions to discuss or a memo outlining your project status. Memos should be limited to a page—bullet points, charts, and tables are helpful.
    -  Follow up afterwards with a concise email summarizing your takeaways and prioritizing tasks to be completed prior to the next meeting. If you need your advisor to do something after the meeting, it is often helpful to note these tasks in an email.
  • Follow through on advisor’s feedback and suggestions prior to your next meeting.

MEETING TOPICS

Students are responsible for setting the agenda for meetings with faculty. Below are some
ideas for topics to bring up with your advisors, by year.

G1 Year

  • Early research ideas
  • RA opportunities
  • Course selection (though older students are often better resources for course advice)
  • Summer research opportunities
  • Suggestions of other faculty or older students with similar interests who you should meet
  • Research seminars, listservs, or other activities to integrate with your research field

G2 Year

  • Selecting fields
  • Oral exam preparation and reading lists
  • Funding and grant opportunities for year 3
  • Suggestions of TF positions for year 3 (lock these down in G2 year)
  • RA opportunities

G3 / G4 Years

  • Goals for each semester
  • Career objectives, and path to attain them
  • Prospectus scheduling and format
  • Funding and grant opportunities
  • TF positions
  • Conferences you should attend
  • Accessing data needed for projects
  • Feedback on slides prior to seminar presentations
  • Seminar feedback > ask your advisor to attend your presentations, and ask for feedback afterwards
  • Other faculty members to round out your committee
  • Submitting journal articles (which journals, how to respond to referee feedback, etc.)

G5 / Final Year

  • Career objectives, including outside academia
  • Job market plan and timeline
  • Job market paper framing, format, presentation, elevator pitch, etc.
  • Set dissertation committee by July prior to final year
  • Ask faculty to write recommendation letters by August 1 of final year; if going on an earlier market ask by July 1
  • Letters of recommendation > give advisors lots of advanced warning!
  • Interviews you receive, and any you didn’t but really wanted (see if advisor can reach out)
  • Dissertation defense planning and format

G1 YEAR

Program Requirements

  • API 901 (PPOL seminar) required in the fall
  • Work towards completing track requirements—if you need a list, please contact Nicole Tateosian

Fall Advising

  1. Meet with advisee at least once early on in this semester. Advisees are responsible for scheduling meetings with you, but reach out if you haven’t heard from them by October
  2. Establish expectations and norms for the advising relationship
  3. Discuss course planning and program requirements/milestones
    -  Discuss class selections with advisee, ensure they are aware of requirements, and recommend courses
    -  Encourage advisee to join study groups
  4. Discuss research interests
  5. Check in on how students are adapting to life as a PhD student, how they are handling remote learning, and what barriers personal or professional barriers may prevent them from succeeding (only if students seem interested in discussing)

Spring Advising

  1. Meet with advisee at least once
  2. Discuss planning for the summer
    -  Suggest other faculty with whom advisee should meet to discuss research interests
    -  Forward RA/fellowship opportunities that may be of interest
    -  Invite advisee to coauthor on a project, or recommend other potential collaborators


G2 YEAR

Program Requirements

  • Complete all required coursework
  • Conduct oral qualifying exam in two fields before the start of G3 year

Fall Advising

  1. Meet with advisee at least once
  2. Discuss summer research and new research ideas
  3. Discuss choosing courses/fields, preparing for orals
  4. Discuss/recommend research workshops for advisees to attend

Spring Advising

  1. Meet with advisee at least once
  2. Advise student on preparing for orals and choosing examiners
  3. Discuss summer plans/preparation for independent research
  4. Forward RA/fellowship opportunities that may be of interest
  5. Invite advisee to TF a fall course, or recommend other faculty/courses that may be a good fit
  6. Discuss funding plan for G3 year


G3 YEAR

Program Requirements

  • API 902 (PPOL seminar) required in the fall
  • Conduct prospectus defense before start of G4 year, some students may delay this—typically during the Fall of the G4 year

Advising

  1. Meet with advisee at least once per month. Advisees are responsible for scheduling these meetings.
  2. Establish expectations for research/check-in meetings
  3. Define research objectives each semester
  4. Attend advisee seminar presentations and provide feedback afterwards
  5. Convey information about fellowship/funding opportunities
  6. Invite advisee to TF courses, or recommend other courses/faculty that may be a good fit
  7. Ask about students’ other advisors, and recommend potential advisors to fill out a panel
  8. In the spring, talk to your advisee about format and timing of their dissertation prospectus
     

G4 YEAR

Program Requirements

  • Conduct prospectus defense if not already completed

Advising

  1. Meet with advisee at least once per month. Advisees are responsible for scheduling these meetings.
  2. Ask advisee candidly about their career ambitions and help them think about the path to get there
  3. Attend advisee seminar presentations and provide feedback afterwards
  4. Convey information about fellowship/funding opportunities
  5. Communicate with students’ other advisors to align on advice and expectations
  6. Recommend journals to submit finished papers, and discuss advisee responses to feedback from referees