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Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy

The core courses in the Public Policy Program develop the skills necessary to assess the performance of alternative approaches to policy implementation, evaluate the effectiveness of policies, understand the political objectives and constraints faced by policy makers, and appreciate the conflicts in fundamental human values that often animate the policy debate. After completing the core, students apply these skills by focusing their studies in one of several areas of concentration. The areas of concentration address specific fields of public policy, types of institutions, or a deeper development of the tools of policy analysis. Students design their own concentrations with the help of their faculty advisers and the approval of the program director. Students must submit a list of their proposed concentration course work and a brief written defense of its coherence in advance of taking concentration courses. Areas of concentration are not declared on Axess. They do not appear on the transcript or diploma.

Recent areas of concentration include, but are not limited to:

Completion of the Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy requires a minimum of 87 units of course work.

  1. Preparatory courses (44 units)—POLISCI 2 or equivalent; ECON 1A, 1B, 50, 51, 102A, 102B; MATH 51; MS&E 180 or PSYCH 138. The U.S. Government and politics requirement can be fulfilled by taking POLISCI 2, by passing a diagnostic exam offered by the Public Policy program, or by receiving a score of at least 4 on the Advanced Placement exam in U.S. government and politics (which appears on the student's Stanford transcript). ECON 50, 51 and MATH 51 must be taken for a letter grade. A maximum of 10 units of the other preparatory courses may be taken as credit/no credit.
  2. Core courses—A 25-unit sequence of 5-unit PUBLPOL courses (101, 102, 103B, C, or D, 104, and 106), which students should plan to complete by the end of the junior year. All core courses must be completed for a letter grade.
  3. Concentration—Majors must complete at least 15 units of course work in an area of concentration. This post-core course work must be approved by a faculty adviser and the director. Concentration courses must be completed for a letter grade.
  4. Capstone research requirement—Seniors are required to demonstrate competency in applied policy research. This requirement is fulfilled either by an honors thesis or by participation in a research project (Practicum) in which small student teams analyze real world policy problems faced by Bay Area agencies and produce a report for use by the client. A seminar for honors students is offered Autumn Quarter (PUBLPOL 200A, 3 units). The Practicum is offered both Winter and Spring quarters (PUBLPOL 200B and C, 5 units). The capstone research requirement must be completed for a letter grade.
  5. Students must complete the Public Policy core, concentration and the senior capstone requirement with an overall grade point average (GPA) of 2.3 (C+) or higher.
  6. It is recommended that the major be declared by the end of sophomore year but no later than the end of Autumn Quarter of the junior year. Major declaration forms are available in the Public Policy Program office and on the web site.

The Public Policy Program encourages students to attend the Bing Stanford in Washington Program and to participate in appropriate Stanford internship programs, especially those available through the Haas Center for Public Service and Stanford in Government.


The Public Policy Program offers students the opportunity to pursue honors work during the senior year. To graduate with honors in Public Policy, a student must:

  1. Apply for admission to the honors program no later than the end of Spring Quarter of the junior year.
  2. Complete the requirements for the B.A. in Public Policy and achieve an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in the following courses: the Public Policy core; concentration; Senior Capstone; PUBLPOL 199, Senior Research; and a course in applied econometrics (ECON 102C, ECON 103, ECON 104, STATS 202, PUBLPOL 303B, or PUBLPOL 303C). Students are encouraged to complete the applied econometrics course by the end of Spring Quarter of the junior year and take PUBLPOL 200A during Autumn Quarter of that year. Courses not taken at Stanford are not included in calculating the GPA.
  3. During Senior year, enroll in at least 8 but no more than 15 units of PUBLPOL 199, Senior Research, with the thesis adviser. Students need to contact the program office to have their thesis adviser listed as a 199 instructor. An 'N' grade will be given by the adviser in quarters prior to Spring, when the thesis is completed and presented. All PUBLPOL 199 units must receive a final grade of at least a 'B+.' The honors thesis must demonstrate mastery of relevant analytical tools and address a policy issue.
  4. The honors thesis must be submitted to both the thesis adviser and the Public Policy Program office. In order to be considered for University and department awards, the final thesis must be submitted to the program office no later than the third Wednesday in May in both printed and electronic forms. All other theses must be submitted by the last Friday in May in both printed and electronic forms.

Students who intend to pursue honors work should plan their academic schedules so that most of the core courses are completed before the beginning of the senior year, and all of the core and concentration courses are completed by the end of Winter Quarter of senior year. This scheduling gives students both the time and the necessary course background to complete their honors thesis during Spring Quarter. In addition, prospective honors students are encouraged to enroll in PUBLPOL 197, Junior Honors Seminar, during Winter or Spring Quarter. This course focuses on developing a research plan and the research skills necessary to complete an honors thesis.

To apply for honors, a student must submit a completed application to the Public Policy Program office with a brief description of the thesis. Applications are found online or in the program office. The student must obtain the sponsorship of a faculty member who approves the thesis description and agrees to serve as a thesis adviser. Students intending to write a thesis involving more than one discipline may wish to have two advisers, at least one of whom is affiliated with the Public Policy Program.

Graduation with honors requires that the thesis be approved by both the adviser and the program director. The role of the director is to assure that the thesis deals with an issue of public policy and satisfies the standards of excellence of the program. However, the grade for the honors thesis (PUBLPOL 199 units) is determined solely by the adviser.

Members of the affiliated faculty in Public Policy are available to provide assistance in selecting a thesis topic and adviser.

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