Doctoral Programs

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Planning and Public Policy, offered through the School of Graduate Studies, is an advanced scholarly degree appropriate for students seeking a career in university teaching and research or a leadership position in planning and public policy in the public, private or non-profit sector.

Admission to the Ph.D. program requires a formal application with supporting documents, a full resume, and evidence of research ability. All applications are reviewed by the faculty of the Doctoral Program. In most cases, only applicants who have completed a master’s degree or its equivalent are considered for admission. In rare instances, exceptional students may be considered after they receive their bachelor’s degree or, for students enrolled in Bloustein School master’s programs, after completion of twelve credits of graduate coursework.

The number of students admitted to doctoral study is dependent on 1) the number of applicants who display a high level of performance and 2) the faculty’s capacity to provide high quality supervision in the students’ areas of interest. Completion of the doctoral degree generally takes a minimum of four to five years. Student progress toward the degree is reviewed each semester by the doctoral faculty as part of a broad program of student advising, networking, and mentoring between faculty and students and among doctoral student peers. There is no requirement for full-time residency and no language requirement, except at the discretion of the student’s dissertation committee. However, each semester prior to their qualifying examinations, students must register for at least six course work credits (usually equivalent to two classes).

Bloustein School doctoral students have received a wide variety of awards and fellowships and graduates have obtained senior positions in universities, research centers, governments, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.

Graduate courses completed at other institutions may be accepted for credit toward the doctoral degree, subject to conditions outlined by the Graduate School-New Brunswick and the judgment of the doctoral program director (see Program of Study below). Such credits would not normally include studio courses, independent or directed studies, or master’s thesis research.

Program of Study 

16:970:624 Planning, Public Policy and Social Theory (3)

Contemporary social theory applied to planning and policy; the role of the state in globalization, space, and scale; gender, race, and culture; citizenship, ethics, and social justice.

16:970:626 Advanced Scholarly Research (3)
Doctoral-level study of scholarly exposition, peer research review and the preparation of research proposals. Students prepare proposals encompassing doctoral-level synthesis of theory and analytic methods.

Additional methods course (3)

34:833:628 Advanced Qualitative Methods (3) 
Students apply techniques of qualitative research, including interviewing, ethnography, and phenomenology, to help them gain an understanding of which techniques are appropriate for what specific research needs.

34:970:630 Discrete Choice Methods (3)
This course begins with a review of linear regression and focuses on categorical dependent variables. Methods include linear probability, logit, probit, multinomial, and conditional logit models.

Additional methods elective (3)

General elective coursework * (30)

Coursework Total (48)

Research credits (minimum) (24)

Total Credits for the Ph.D. (minimum) (72)

* Up to 24 of these credits can be transferred in from a prior graduate program of study. Must be approved in advance by the doctoral program director.

Students holding a master’s degree must complete a minimum of 48 credits of coursework and an additional 24 credits of thesis research, yielding the graduate school minimum requirement of 72 doctoral credits. Up to 24 of the 48 coursework credits may be transfer credits (subject to approval of the doctoral program director); however, these must not exceed half the credits applied toward the master’s degree.
Students who enter the program without a master’s degree must complete a minimum of 63 credits (calculated as 45 credits for a master’s degree, less 6 credits for the master’s thesis, plus the 24 additional didactic credits required of a student already holding a master’s degree) plus an additional 24 credits of thesis research (minimum of 87 credits).

Students in the doctoral program are required to take three courses in theory (9 credits) and three courses in methods (9 credits) that exceed the requirements of coursework taken in completion of a master’s program in urban planning or public policy. Relevant theory and methods courses include Planning, Public Policy, and Social Theory (16:762:624); Advanced Scholarly Research (16:762:626); Advanced Qualitative Methods (34:833:628); and Discrete Choice Methods (34:970:630). This specific coursework in theory and methods, and more generally the classes taken by each doctoral student, must be approved by the course of study (COS) committee. (See below.)

To assist the selection of appropriate courses, first- and second-year doctoral students are required to submit a course of study (COS) form in the fall semester. The COS is reviewed by the doctoral program director and other faculty members (COS committee) with the doctoral student in order to develop an individually crafted program. That program should guide the student’s course selection.

First-year doctoral students are required to attend a doctoral seminar. Attendance at this seminar is expected for all doctoral students in the program.

All doctoral students have the opportunity to present a formal paper on their research at doctoral conferences periodically held at the Bloustein School.

Student progress is evaluated by the doctoral program faculty at the end of each semester. Failure to maintain a semester average of 3.5 or a cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 is cause for a student to be considered for dismissal. In the event of insufficient progress toward the degree, a conference will be called which will include four persons: the doctoral program director, a member of the faculty of the doctoral program (usually the student’s adviser), the coordinator of student and academic services, and the student. The student will be frankly told of his or her strengths and weaknesses and the opinion of the faculty and staff present as to his or her prospects for completing the doctoral program. The doctoral program director will provide the student with a written statement of the assessment. If a student wishes to continue after being advised of his or her limitations, the doctoral program director has the right to prescribe courses or other remedial action for the student to take in the following semester. Failure to demonstrate an ability to meet the criteria for continuation in the next semester is just cause for dismissal.

A grade of Incomplete (IN) is given only when circumstances beyond the control of the student merit granting extra time for completing course requirements. Students must apply for an IN grade in writing. The application must include a statement of the circumstances meriting the IN grade and a contract that defines the nature of the work missed and the date it is due. The contract must be signed and dated by the student and the faculty member before the IN grade is assigned. Should a student require an extension of the contract, he or she must obtain permission for the extension from the doctoral program director. After one year, the IN grade automatically converts to a PIN (Permanent Incomplete). When this happens, a student will not receive a grade or credit for the course in question. Two IN grades will be allowed to stand for one semester only. If at least one is not converted to a final grade, the student will not be allowed to register for the following semester. Students who receive more than one IN within the first 12 credits of coursework in the program will be given a written warning and must meet with the review committee to discuss the problem (see Evaluation of Doctoral Students).

Student complaints about grades in any courses offered by the school are treated by the process outlined in the Academic Policies and Procedures section of the Bloustein School Catalog. It reads as follows:

Students wishing to file a complaint about a course grade, or a grade received for a particular piece of work in a course, should first attempt to resolve the matter through discussion or writing with the instructor of that course (her/his preference) no later than two weeks after notification of the grade. If the issue cannot be satisfactorily resolved between student and instructor, the student may specify in writing the basis for the complaint and request a review by the appropriate program director. A written complaint about a grade for work completed while the course is in progress must be submitted to the program director no later than two weeks after final determination by the instructor. A student must submit a written complaint about a final course grade to the program director no later than four weeks after final determination by the instructor.

A student who wishes to appeal the decision of the program director should appeal once again in writing to the office of the dean, through the Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Services.  Students should be directed to address that written appeal to Stephen Weston, Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Services, Bloustein School Deans Office, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ, CAC. Email is preferred at That second level appeal must be filed within two weeks of the date of the receipt of the initial Grade Appeal Outcome Statement.

Written notification of the action taken by either the program director or by the assistant dean will be sent to the student no later than four weeks of the filing of the appeal, excluding those weeks in which classes are not in regular session.  With reference to the actions above, the program director or assistant dean may consult with other faculty, directors, etc., that may be relevant to a student’s complaint.

Students who contact the Dean’s office without following the above procedure will be referred back to the instructor or program, in order to preserve the integrity of the process and an independent student appeal review.  Some things to keep in mind when appealing your grade with the instructor, director or dean include:

  • Watch grade appeal timeframes; being busy is not a legitimate excuse.
  • Raise issues when they happen, not at the end of the term.
  • Stick to the facts of the situation; discuss formally your appeal and keep it professional.
  • Avoid emotional language and personal attacks.
  • When asking for a second chance, admit where you have been culpable.
  • Mentioning your grades in your other classes is not relevant.
  • Be leery of end of semester/year grade appeals as they impact graduation deadlines.

For questions about the grade appeal process, students, faculty and/or others are encouraged to speak to their instructor, program director or the assistant dean of the school for clarification.

The student may select his or her own adviser among members and associate members of the Bloustein School graduate faculty, upon mutual agreement. In addition, students will meet periodically with the director of the doctoral program, who may suggest additional coursework or other preparation for program completion.

At least one semester (preferably more) before students present themselves for the qualifying examination, they must select (in consultation with their advisers and approval of the doctoral program director) an examination committee of four members. This committee must include one faculty member specializing in research methods, another Bloustein School faculty member specializing in theory, and two Bloustein School members from the student’s special examination areas (see The Qualifying Examination). The student, in consultation with his or her adviser, may change the composition of the committee, subject to approval by the doctoral program director. The exam committee will come to a mutual agreement with the student as to the material to be covered by the qualifying examination.

The student may select a dissertation chair among members of the Bloustein School graduate faculty, who may or may not be the student’s former faculty adviser. Before presenting himself or herself for the qualifying examination, the student must procure a letter from a member of the faculty of the doctoral program expressing willingness to chair and supervise the student’s dissertation. This letter is to be submitted to the director of the doctoral program and the Bloustein School’s Office of Student and Academic Services.

The qualifying examination comprises written and oral components in the following areas:

1. Theory: of and in planning and public policy.

2. Methods: including research design, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and advanced methods in the student’s field(s) of specialization.

3. Major field: a primary topical specialization within planning and public policy, requiring broad familiarity with a substantive literature that is central to the student’s anticipated dissertation research.

4. Minor field: a second topical or substantive specialization closely related to the student’s anticipated dissertation research and defined so that the subject matter does not overlap with the major field (above); or a related field other than planning and public policy (e.g., civil engineering, computer science, economics, geography, political science, sociology, or another field) that the student can show is relevant to his or her degree program. Selection of primary and secondary specializations comprising the major and minor field examinations is the responsibility of the student together with his or her examiner, in consultation with and approved by the doctoral program director (see Preparation for the Qualifying Examination).

5. The oral component of the qualifying examination will be scheduled by the student in consultation with all members of his or her examination committee, upon satisfactory completion of the written component(s).

Students may take the written and oral qualifying examination in methods at any time after completing the required coursework in methods (see Coursework Requirements). To take qualifying examinations in theory, major field, and minor field, students must have completed 48 coursework credits (including transfer of credits), have a minimum GPA of 3.5, and have no outstanding IN grades.

The doctoral program offers qualifying examinations in theory and in methods twice a year, once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester. The student must complete written examinations in theory, major field, and minor field, and a combined oral examination covering the three areas, within a single semester.

Should the student fail any part of the examination, the examination committee will advise the student to pursue one or more of the following options: (1) take additional courses or submit additional written and/or oral work; (2) retake part(s) or all of the exam at a specified time; (3) resign from the doctoral program.

Passing the qualifying examination constitutes formal admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Following successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student prepares a thesis proposal in consultation with his or her dissertation chair (see Selection of Dissertation Chair). The proposal shall be formally presented for approval at a public meeting of the dissertation committee within no more than four months of passing the qualifying examination. Immediately following the proposal presentation, the student’s dissertation chair, in consultation with the rest of the student’s dissertation committee, will provide the student with a written evaluation of his or her proposal, providing specific suggestions on how the student can improve his or her dissertation research.

Doctoral (Ph.D.) dissertations should make an original contribution to planning and public policy through the rigorous analytical examination of theory and evidence supporting a significant argument or testing a relevant hypothesis. The dissertation may draw from a broad array of quantitative and/or qualitative methods reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the field.

Upon approval of the thesis topic (see Dissertation Proposal), a candidate, in consultation with the chair of the thesis committee and the doctoral program director, shall form a dissertation committee of four faculty members, including one member from outside of the Bloustein School. The members need not be the same as the comprehensive examination committee. Once the committee is constituted, the student should write a memo to the doctoral program director specifying the committee membership. This memo must be approved by both the faculty member who is denoted as chair of that thesis committee and the doctoral program director, and will then be placed in the student’s file.

Upon completion of the first draft of the dissertation, and with the approval of the dissertation committee chair, the manuscript shall be circulated to the members of the dissertation committee for review. The student’s dissertation committee chair will make the decision as to when the dissertation is ready for defense.

At that time, the dissertation shall be publicly presented and defended in an open public forum to be held at the Bloustein School. Scheduling information regarding dissertation defense must be submitted to the Office of Student and Academic Services no less than two weeks prior.

The dissertation shall be defended before the dissertation committee at a time and place approved by the committee members and the director of the doctoral program.

A final copy of the successfully defended thesis will be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, and this shall complete the doctoral process.

The Rutgers School of Graduate Studies assesses and evaluates all doctoral programs on a regular basis. This is done to ensure that each program adheres to the high standards required of the graduate school. As such, we are required to report to the graduate school various data on your scholarly progress. These metrics encompass detail on awards, fellowships, grants, conference or workshop presentations, publications, and other scholarly activity each doctoral student and candidate achieves during that academic year. Each spring semester, the doctoral program director or the Bloustein School assessment coordinator will send the questionnaire, completion of which is mandatory, in late April to all students and candidates at their email account on file.

PhD Handbook

Members of the Graduate Faculty

Recent PhD Graduates

Graduates of the Doctoral Program

Annual Academic Conferences

Research Credits

Selection of Committee Chair Form

Selection of Committee Members Form

Approval of Third Methods Course Form

Program of Study Form – 1st year students

Program of Study Form – 2nd year students


Bloustein Faculty Pages & Areas of Expertise | PhD Faculty List (Graduate School – New Brunswick)

By laws of the doctoral program