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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, and public servants in the fields of Urban Policy and Administration and Urban Planning 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 including three required courses. Two field specializations are offered: Urban Planning and Sustainable Development and Urban Policy and Administration. 12 credit hours of dissertation research are also required. Students must pass a qualifying examination before commencing formal dissertation work. Students should consult the Program Guidelines for details.

Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA (on 4.0 scale);
  • Master's degree in an appropriate field 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 (normal) minimum score of 100 on the internet-based test, or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with a (normal) 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.

Applications must include:

  • all transcripts from all institutions attended;
  • supplemental application (available from department web site);
  • at least two letters of recommendation (preferably from former professors).

Part-time students:

Admission deadlines: 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 part-time students may be admitted if they can demonstrate they have very flexible schedules and can attend daytime courses and fully participate in program and department functions.  Students should consult the Program’s Student Guide for additional details and requirements.

Fall Admissions deadline - July 15 (January 29 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 (9) hours of course work count towards their 48 credit 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. Such courses do not count toward degree credit.  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 are ordinarily not permitted to continue on academic probation for more than one semester.  Students not rectifying these academic problems after one semester will be recommended for dismissal if academic problems are not corrected after one semester.  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 about the examination.


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 606 Research Methods ***
  • UPA 610 Urban Theory and Public Affairs
  • SOC 610 Seminar in Statistics II ***
  • UPA 680 Advanced Urban Studies (on Comprehensive Exam Reading Lists/Comprehensive Exam Preparation)

Note: Students with no prior study of statistics are required to take PADM 601/PLAN 602 (Statistics for Public Affairs) and SOC 609 (Seminar in Statistics I) prior to enrolling in SOC 610.  These courses do not count toward the 48 credit hour requirement.

***UPA 606 and SOC 610 require a grade of a full "B" or better (not a B-) to demonstrate proficiency.  Students may repeat either of these courses only once.


Field Area Courses (18 Credit Hours)

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

Urban Planning and Sustainable Development Option

Required Courses (9 Credit Hours)

  • UPA 623 Comparative Urban Development
  • UPA 683 Land Use Planning
  • UPA 684 Planning Theory

Elective Courses (9 Credit Hours)

Urban Policy and Administration Option

Required Courses (9 Credit Hours)

  • UPA 621 Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation
  • UPA 630 Politics and Urban Policy
  • UPA 660 Advanced Organizational Behavior

Elective Courses (9 Credit Hours)

Dissertation (12 Credit Hours)

  • UPA 700 Dissertation Research

Doctoral Candidacy

After completing all required coursework, including 12 credit hours 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. 

Departmental Faculty

Tony Arnold


Mark Austin

Associate Professor

Lisa Bjorkman

Assistant Professor 

Carrie Donald


John I Gilderbloom


Frank Goetzke

Associate Professor

David Imbroscio

Director Graduate Studies

Janet Kelly


Steven G. Koven


Cynthia Negrey


Aaron Rollins

Assistant Professor

Mathew Ruther

Assistant Professor

Hank Savitch

Professor Emeritus

David M. Simpson

Department Chair

Wei Song

Associate Professor

Margath Walker

Assistant Professor

Timothy Weaver

Assistant Professor

Sumei Zhang
Assistant Professor

Contact Information

Urban and Public Affairs - Ph.D.

Department of Urban and Public Affairs
University of Louisville
426 West Bloom Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40208

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