Doctor of Philosophy in Urban and Public Affairs

Major: UPA
Degree Awarded: Ph.D.
Unit: GA
Program Webpage:

Program Information

The Ph.D. program prepares students for careers as professors, researchers, policy analysts, and public servants in the fields of Urban Policy and Administration and Urbanism and Sustainable Development.  Students are required to complete 48 credit hours of study. This requires a sequence of core courses consisting of 18 credit hours. Students must complete 18 credit hours in an area of specialization. Twelve credit hours of dissertation research are also required. Students must pass a qualifying examination before conducting dissertation research.  Students should consult the Program Guidelines for details.

Admission Requirement


  • Bachelor’s degree (normally) with at least a 3.0 GPA (on 4.0 scale);
  • Master's degree (normally) with at least a 3.5 GPA (on a 4.0 scale);
  • Minimum GRE score of 300, with minimum individual scores (in the range) of a 154 Verbal/146 Quantitative, as well as 4.0 Analytical are (normally) required
  • TOEFL: Applicants whose native language is not English and who do not hold a degree from a university where the language of instruction is English must also submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language, with a minimum score (in the range) of 100 on the internet-based test, or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with a minimum score of 7.5.
  • A personal interview with members of the Ph.D. Admissions Committee also may be required for applicants not fully satisfying (normal) admissions requirements. Interviews will be conducted in-person when feasible or via internet video when in-person interviews are not feasible.


The program gives preference to applicants who intend to study full-time and who can be supported with financial aid (a Graduate Research Assistantship or a Fellowship). A few (exceptionally qualified) part-time students may be admitted if they can demonstrate they have very flexible schedules and can attend daytime courses. Students should consult the Program’s Student Guide for additional details and requirements.

Fall Admissions deadline- July 15 (late January for a University Fellowship or a Graduate Assistantship)
Spring Admissions deadline - November 15

Academic Policies

Waivers And Prerequisites

Students who have recently and satisfactorily completed equivalent courses elsewhere may request that up to nine hours of course work count towards their 48 hours of required Ph.D. study. Students who are not prepared for advanced study or do not hold the prerequisites for a particular course will be required to complete remedial work. Students should consult the Program’s Student Guide for details.

Dismissal and Academic Standing

Any student with a point standing below 3.0, or experiencing similar academic problems, will be placed on probation by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  Students not rectifying these academic problems after one semester will be recommended for dismissal if academic problems are not corrected.  In addition, students receiving more than two course grades below a “B-” (C+ or lower) in any graduate-level course (600-level or above) will be dismissed from the program. No grade below a C- will be counted towards the fulfillment of degree requirements. The Program Director will review the performance of students each semester to ensure students are making satisfactory progress.  Students not making satisfactory progress are subject to dismissal from the program.  Time Limit:  Students not completing all program requirements four years after reaching doctoral candidacy status will ordinarily be dismissed from the program.

Qualifying (Comprehensive) Exam

To qualify for Ph.D. candidacy, students must satisfactorily complete a Comprehensive (or Qualifying) Examination. Students must sit for this exam as soon as they are eligible.  The Comprehensive (Qualifying) Examination is held in May each year. Consult with the Program Director and refer to the Program's Student Guide for details.


The Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs consists of 48 credit hours of study including 18 credit hours of core courses, 18 credit hours in a field specialization, and 12 credit hours of dissertation research.

Core Courses (18 Credit Hours)

UPA 602 Urban Policy and Governance

UPA 603 Urban Economics

UPA 680 Advanced Urban Studies

UPA 606 Research Methods ***

UPA 610 Urban Theory and Public Affairs

UPA 680 Regression Analysis ***

Note: Students with no prior study of statistics are required to take PADM 601/PLAN 602 (Statistics for Public Affairs) prior to enrolling in UPA 680 (Regression Analysis).  This course does not count toward the 48-semester-hour requirement.

Field Area Courses (18 Credit Hours)

Note: Students must pursue one of the two specialty areas, including 9 hours of required courses and 9 hours of elective courses. Elective courses must be compatible with track and must be approved by the Program Director.

Urbanism and Sustainable Development Option
Required Courses (9 Credits)
*UPA XXX Urbanism Course: Sustainable Urbanism; Infrastructures of Urbanism; Urbanism in the Global South
*UPA XXX Sustainability Course: Sustainable Development and Planning; Behavioral Dimensions of Urban Sustainability; Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems; Environmental Policy
*UPA XXX Development Course: Economic Development; Housing and Community Development; Land Use Planning


Elective Courses (9 Credits)


Urban Policy and Administration Option
Required Courses (9 Credits)
UPA 621 Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation
UPA 680 Urban Policy and Administration
UPA 661 Public Administration and Organizational Behavior (can be waived; see student guide)


Elective Courses (9 Credits)


Dissertation (12 Credits)
UPA 700 Dissertation Research


Doctoral Candidacy

After completing all required coursework, including 12 credits of dissertation research, and passing the qualifying exam, each student is required to maintain continuous enrollment in DOCT 600 Doctoral Candidacy until he or she graduates.



Tony Arnold


Mark Austin

Associate Professor

Lisa Bjorkman

Assistant Professor

Daniel DeCaro

Assistant Professor

Carrie Donald


John I. Gilderbloom


Frank Goetzke

Associate Professor

David Imbroscio

Director of Ph.D. Program in Urban and Public Affairs

Janet Kelly


Kelly Kinahan

Assistant Professor

Steven G. Koven


Cynthia Negrey


Aaron Rollins

Assistant Professor

Mathew Ruther

Assistant Professor

Hank Savitch

Professor Emeritus

David M. Simpson

Chair of Department of Urban and Public Affairs

Wei Song

Associate Professor

Margath Walker

Associate Professor

Sumei Zhang

Associate Professor