Good public policy and good policy-making require excellent research.

They require research that is sound in its methods to identify and document the consequences of public policies and the prospects for their reform. They require research that is broad, taking into account the precedents, players and processes that affect the origin and design of policies and the ways they are implemented.

Our PhD in Public Policy prepares you to undertake such research, providing the conceptual and methodological tools needed to study public policies across a range of jurisdictions and fields.


Top analytical positions in government, NGOs and consultancies benefit from employees with doctoral training. Approximately half of our graduates hold such positions, directly linking the study of public policy to its practice. Others have taken up academic careers in schools of public policy, departments of political science or multidisciplinary programs — helping to shape the analytical frontiers of public policy in Canada and abroad.

The Program

The PhD will advance your knowledge of the literatures and approaches of policy analysis, the effects of markets and incentives in policy contexts and the research methods used to examine the origins and consequences of certain policies. It then enables you to apply that knowledge; first to frame a research question within a particular policy field, and then to address that question systematically through a faculty-supervised thesis. Our faculty have supervisory expertise across a wide range of policy fields—including sustainable energy production, the roles and regulation of the nonprofit sector, the reform of health care, Indigenous self-government, international policy coordination, or public sector management and ethics.

The Experience

Students enter the PhD from across Canada and abroad, having completed post-graduate degrees in the social sciences, natural sciences, management studies or humanities. They spend the first year primarily as a cohort, covering the literatures, research methods and  perspectives that are most relevant to policy analysis. The second and subsequent years become more individualized. Students select particular graduate courses that support their chosen research areas and methodologies, prepare and defend their thesis proposals, conduct their supervised research and then write and defend their dissertations.

Degree Structure

The PhD Public Policy comprises four single-semester required courses, three electives, a comprehensive exam, a research seminar and a thesis. It can be completed within five years of full-time study.


PhD Student Profiles

Please see the Graduate Calendar for detailed information on the degree structure.

Information on Admissions

Please see the Graduate Calendar for admission requirements.

For an estimate of tuition fees, please use the fee estimate calculator.


Current SPPA PhD Students

PhD Thesis Supervisor Form

PhD Directed Studies