The program of study for the BA degree in Public Policy is designed to train visionary, inspired leaders in policy analysis and implementation; equip them with quantitative, theoretical, and critical-thinking tools; enhance their communication skills; and provide them with a thorough grounding in one or more specific policy areas.

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Summary of Academic Requirements

Students pursuing the Public Policy major complete various curricular essentials. All courses counting toward the Public Policy major must be taken for quality grades.

General Education

Core Public Policy Courses (500 units)

The core courses bring perspectives from political science, economics, and sociology to bear in developing a foundation for the critical analysis of public policies. With the exception of PBPL 20000, the courses can be taken in any order over multiple academic years. Most foundational courses are offered once per academic year and students should plan in advance to be able to complete all the requirements in time for graduation.

Area of Specialization (300 units)

Three related courses form an Area of Specialization with respect to a policy domain. Students can use advanced courses from multiple disciplines for their specialization.

Visit the Areas of Specialization page for sample Areas of Specialization indicating pre-approved courses, and for more information about how to declare your specialization.

Practicum (200 units)

The two-course practicum requirement is designed to help students learn research methods (e.g., demography, interviewing, GIS mapping, survey design) and then apply their methodological skills in a “real world” context, opening a “window” from the ivory tower to the outside world.

Visit the Practicum page for more details and information about how to declare your practicum.

BA Seminar (100 units)

All Public Policy students write a BA thesis. Registration for the BA Seminar PBPL 29800 is required in the Autumn of the final year of study in the major, though the BA thesis process continues through the Spring quarter. Successful completion of the BA involves passing PBPL 29800, while also meeting related thesis requirements, including timely submission of an acceptable polished draft and final BA paper, and presentation of the thesis at the PBPL Public Symposium.

Other Academic Opportunities

Special Honors

Fourth-year students are eligible for honors within the Public Policy major if their overall GPA is 3.4 or higher. Students with qualifying GPAs are recommended for honors if their BA papers are judged to be of superior quality.

Each year, the program awards three graduating students with the Richard P. Taub Thesis Prize in Public Policy for exceptional thesis research.

The Albert C. Svoboda Fellowship

The Albert C. Svoboda Fellowship provides summer research fellowships for rising fourth-year College students majoring in Public Policy to engage in faculty-guided research in the Chicago area on Chicago-based topics.

Awards are for various amounts, typically between $1,000 and $4,000, based on the research proposal and proposed budget. Svoboda Fellows are responsible for submitting a post-research report at the end of the summer.

Independent Study

Students can receive course credit for independent research conducted under the supervision of a faculty member: 

  • Reading and Research: Public Policy (PBPL 29700) is for independent study not related to BA research or BA paper preparation.
  • BA Paper Preparation: Public Policy (PBPL 29900) is for independent study related to BA research and BA paper preparation. 
  • Policy Internship: Public Policy (PBPL 29600) is for work undertaken in a qualifying position with a public body or a nongovernmental organization or in a policy-relevant private-sector internship. PBPL 29600 is graded only on a Pass/Fail basis.

Students must discuss their interest in pursuing an independent study with the Public Policy program and their college advisor prior to submitting the College Reading & Research Course Form for approval to enroll in any independent study courses.

Joint Degrees (BA + Master's)

The University of Chicago offers two options to earn a bachelor of arts degree and a Master's degree in public policy while enrolled in the College: 

  • Five Year Master in Public Policy with the College (BA/MPP)
  • Five Year MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy with the College (BA/MSCAPP)

Learn more about Joint Degrees (BA + Master's).

College Catalog

Review the College Catalog for details about every requirement and an overview of selected courses.

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