Join the next generation of promising international leaders. Earn a Master of Arts degree from Harris Public Policy and receive a one-of-a-kind scholarship that includes access to exceptional experiences in partnership with the Obama Foundation.

The Master of Arts in International Development and Policy (MA-IDP) is a one-year degree program that provides an introduction to policy design and analysis with particular emphasis on international development and policy.  It applies evidence-based analytical approaches, cutting-edge tools, and practical policy innovation to address the world’s most pressing problems.

The Graduate Degree for Promising International Leaders

We’re looking for people from around the world who are already making a difference – in civil society, in government, in the private sector, or as entrepreneurs; people who are ready to take the next step forward in expanding their horizons and advancing their work, and who have a commitment to giving back to their community.

Modeled after our core curriculum, a hallmark of the Harris education, the Harris MA-IDP has been tailored with your experiences and goals in mind. You’ll have the opportunity to study topics based on your background and interests, including international development, global conflict studies and resolution, energy and the environment, health, human rights, and more – all from Harris’ and UChicago’s leading faculty.

Obama Scholars: An Extraordinary Opportunity for Extraordinary Leaders

When you apply for the Harris MA-IDP, you are simultaneously considered for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program.

As an Obama Foundation Scholar, you will receive a one-of-a-kind scholarship that includes full tuition, living expenses, books, and access to exceptional programming outside the classroom in partnership with the Obama Foundation. You'll also be part of a network of rising leaders.

It's an experience that is sure to change you—and will help you change the world.

"Students in the program will have access to the University of Chicago's world-class faculty and the Obama Foundation's network of leaders around the world. When you put those two together, it's an amazing opportunity to really make a difference."

Katherine Baicker, Dean & Emmett Dedmon Professor, Harris Public Policy

Program Details

Application Process

Applicants will submit a single application for the Harris MA-IDP and the Obama Foundation Scholarship.

Details about the application process, admissions requirements, and timelines are available online.

The GRE is NOT required.


The nine courses in the Harris MA-IDP curriculum can be completed in one academic year and cover three categories: foundational skills for policy analysis, international development and policy, and electives.

Foundational Skills

Modeled after our core curriculum, a hallmark of the Harris education, the Harris MA-IDP program includes three foundational courses in data analytics, analytical politics, and economics tailored specifically for promising international leaders like you. While the powerful toolkit imparted by these foundational classes is flexible enough to apply to a wide range of policy problems, these courses will emphasize applications in international contexts.

  • Microeconomics

    • The emphasis of this course is on understanding markets, market failures, and welfare analysis. The course covers material such as consumer and producer surplus, market power, and deadweight losses from taxation or externalities.

  • Analytical Politics

    • You will be exposed to political philosophy, game theory, foundational problems in governance, and how institutions shape and constrain policy-making. Examples will focus on applications in international settings.

  • Data Analytics

    • This course provides an introduction to quantitative analysis. It's primary focus is conceptual rather than technical. As such, it focuses on the critical thinking skills needed to evaluate quantitative claims and think about how to generate more credible evidence, especially with respect to causal inference.

    • You will be exposed to the basic toolkit of policy analysts, including hypothesis testing, Bayesian inference, regression and experiments. You will learn how to organize and analyze data using statistical software.

International Development and Policy

You will take a two-course sequence focusing on governmental policies and their impact on economic development and improving population outcomes. The first course addresses economic issues, and the second focuses on political questions. You'll learn how a country's economy, distribution of resources, and population are affected by government structures, policies, labor markets, conflicts, trade agreements, infrastructure, and other policy levers -- and how to use those levers most effectively.

  • Economic Development & Policy

    • This course surveys what factors and policies drive industrialization, productivity, income growth, poverty and inequality.

    • The course is divided into roughly two halves.

      • The first half covers topics in macroeconomic development: the measurement of economic performance, poverty, and inequality; economic growth and structural change; industrialization and industrial policy; international trade and trade policy; and inequality.

      • The second half surveys several microeconomic topics, such as: migration; land; labor markets and home production; and market and other failures that lead to poverty, such as missing credit and insurance markets. A handful of final topics draw on both macro and microeconomics, such as education and health.

  • Political Development & Policy

    • This course focuses on the central themes of political development: the establishment of security and order (versus conflict), the state and state capacity, the organization of civil society, and political openness and accountability.

    • The first half of this course examines major theories of these different forms of political development, their relationship to economic development, and the historical origins.

    • The second half of this course considers contemporary political reforms and interventions, whether they are effective, and why. This includes foreign aid, democratization and democracy promotion, peacekeeping and military intervention, reforms to the capacity for taxation and public sector, and so forth.

    • The course draws primarily from comparative politics, international relations, and the political economy development literature, but includes development economics, sociology, and geography, among other disciplines.


The curriculum allows you to choose four electives at Harris or from across the University of Chicago.

Participate in Policy Labs with real-world clients or choose from among a wide range of elective courses while engaging with the broader student community at Harris and UChicago. Explore courses in international development, governance, leadership, energy and the environment, education, health, conflict resolution, regional studies, law, or human rights – or pursue other topics in international policy.

Other Requirements
  • Successful completion of 9 graduate-level courses (900 units of credit).

  • A cumulative grade point average of 2.7 for all courses used toward the degree, based on a 4.0 scale.

  • No more than 2 courses taken pass/fail.

  • Courses with grades of F, I, W, or with no reported grade do not apply toward the 9-course requirement for the program.

Course Sequence

Master's in International Development and Policy Course Sequence


Insurgents Are Learning to Be More Effective on the Battlefield

A new study by Austin L. Wright, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and three co-authors shows that many more lives would be lost if military innovation were stopped.


MA-IDP comparison to Joint Degrees

How does the MA-IDP compare to the joint degree in Public Policy and International Relations or the joint degree in Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies?

The Master of Arts in International Development and Policy is a one-year Master of Arts degree, tailored for the needs and goals of promising international leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to making a difference in their community and want to accelerate their impact in the world. Drawing on the core strengths of a Harris education, the MA-IDP provides a solid foundation in policy design and analysis, with particular emphasis on international development and policy, combined with the opportunity to study topics based on your background and interests. In addition, if you are accepted as an Obama Foundation Scholar, you will receive a full scholarship and participate in one-of-a-kind programming outside the classroom with the Obama Foundation.

In contrast, the joint degree in Public Policy and International Relations is for those looking to specialize in international relations and policy in order to go on to careers in government or an international policy organization. The two-year program combines training in public policy analytical tools with a substantive emphasis on international affairs. It culminates in two Master of Arts degrees—one in public policy and one in international relations.

The joint degree in Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies addresses the needs of students wishing to acquire a background focused on modern Middle Eastern languages, history, and civilization while developing their abilities in policy analysis in preparation for professional careers in scholarly, educational, governmental, non-governmental, and business environments in the United States and abroad. Students graduate with both a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from Harris and a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago.

Obama Scholars Programming

What type of programming will be offered outside the classroom as part of the Obama Foundation Scholars Program?

The Obama Foundation will offer a robust program of leadership development and service activities throughout the academic year to help Scholars gain the real-world skills, tools, and experiences to expand the impact of their work when they return home.

These programs may include leadership development conferences; experiences in New York, Washington, DC, and Chicago and its South Side; speaker series with innovators across a variety of international policy sectors; individual and group service projects; mentorship programs through the Obama Foundation network; internships; and the development of an action plan for post-program activities.

By engaging with the local community, students will have the opportunity to complement what they learn in the classroom and bring their unique perspectives to Chicago.  

Obama Scholars - Can Existing Students Apply

Can existing students apply to be part of the Obama Foundation Scholars Program?

The Obama Foundation Scholarship will only be eligible for newly admitted students enrolling in the MA-IDP. Degree transfers will not be available for current students enrolled in other Harris degrees.

Obama Scholars - Can I apply if already accepted?

Can I be a candidate for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program if I’ve already applied or been accepted to Harris Public Policy?

Yes! Prior to matriculation, you can request that your application be considered for the MA-IDP and the Obama Foundation Scholars Program. Please note that you must meet the requirements of the Obama Foundation Scholars Program.