UNC Public Policy offers the Ph.D. degree to students who aim to contribute new knowledge and address major domestic and global policy problems. The Ph.D. in public policy combines core foundations in theory, empirical and normative analysis and a policy field area. The curriculum is designed to help each doctoral student develop and use appropriate theoretical and analytical approaches to solve problems in policy areas such as education, innovation and entrepreneurship, labor markets, health and social policy, immigration, environment, national security, international development and global health and environment.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a distinguished tradition in public policy and is a charter member of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Our Ph.D. program currently hosts approximately twenty-five students actively pursuing a Ph.D. with a variety of policy interests. Our graduate students work closely with faculty on policy-relevant research within our department and throughout the University and Research Triangle. Graduates from our program have gone on to employment at a variety of organizations. Click here for detailed information about all our graduates.

Research and Faculty Expertise

UNC Public Policy has developed particular strengths in six broad areas of policy research and application:

Education and Child Policy

The Department has a strong and highly productive cluster of faculty research expertise in the area of education policy, including evaluation of federal and state policies for K–12 education, pre-kindergarten education, and higher education. In addition, the faculty is interested in questions concerning the returns to education and the impacts of external events on educational achievement and attainment (Related faculty: Gitterman, Handa, Hemelt, Lauen, Perreira)

Environmental Policy (Domestic and Global)

Recent faculty and doctoral student research includes particular emphasis on climate change, energy policy, environment and human welfare, and environmental and natural resource management policies in state, national and developing country contexts, and on environmental management policies and procedures in business supply chains (Related faculty: Jagger, MacKay).

Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Economic Development, and Science and Technology Policy

The Department’s faculty includes particular research expertise in the regional clustering of scientific knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship, the commercialization of academic research, and factors that promote technological change and economic growth. The Research Triangle region is itself internationally recognized as a premier example of knowledge-based economic development (Related faculty: Feldman; Gitterman).

Social Policy, Including Social Safety Net Policies and Low-Income Communities

The Department’s faculty includes particular research expertise on social policy, including U.S. social safety-net policies for low-income families and retirees, needs and outcomes for immigrant youth and their families, issues in inequality, and innovative policy incentives such as contingent cash transfer incentives in developing countries. (Related faculty: Gitterman, Handa, Hemelt, Kreitzer, MacKay, Moulton, Perreira, Smith)

Health Policy (Domestic and Global)

Faculty in public policy study issues relating to mental health and substance abuse, AIDS, environmental health, health insurance and managed care, and health issues in developing countries, all with a focus on achieving better health outcomes, health as a human right, and on the economic and institutional basis of effective policies (Related faculty: Durrance, Gitterman, Handa, Kreitzer, MacKay, Meier, Perreira).

Global Policy Issues

Many of our faculty members study issues with causes and consequences that extend across borders. Because these issues do not respect political boundaries, they can be the source of conflict between countries. At the same time, they are often most effectively addressed by policy responses that require international cooperation. Specific areas of expertise include the impact of international economic integration on labor standards, the utility of military force as a foreign policy instrument, the effects of foreign aid on national policies and outcomes, how international law affects public health, and international cooperation to address critical environmental issues (Related core faculty: Gitterman, Handa, Jagger, MacKay, Meier, Sullivan, Zimmerman).


The Philip and Jane Hammer Fund for the Enrichment of the PhD Curriculum in Public Policy was established in 1991 by Jane R. Hammer. The fund aides in the recruitment and support of exceptional graduate students in the PhD program in public policy.  Click here for further information.