Doctoral Program in Political Development

Online Application

Program Overview

The new interdisciplinary PhD program in “Political Development” (PD) focuses on the development of political institutions over time and the ways in which they facilitate or impede adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances under the impact of globalization. The formation of political institutions, their evolution, their sources of change, their distributional effects, how they organize cooperation, and how they resolve or fail to resolve conflict have stimulated some of the most prominent theorizing in the study of politics. The emphasis on the development of political institutions invites multidisciplinary approaches. By their very nature political institutions affect the organization of the economy, the distribution of life chances in society, and cultural values; which are, of course, the concern of economics, sociology and anthropology. Because political development has a time dimension and its conceptualization and normative orientation are open to contestation it is of great interest to historians and philosophers.

Based on the strengths of the faculty in the Department of Political Science, and in collaboration with faculty from other units, the PhD in PD will train students in two broad, integrally connected areas of research: the quality of government institutions and the policy process more generally in the search for solutions to pressing public policy issues; and the design of political institutions for the protection and exercise of rights and the politics that go into their making, including pressure from civil society. In addition to the standard quantitative training offered by most programs, Tulane also focuses on qualitative methods of political science. This training centers on a foundational course on scopes and methods followed by a sequence of three courses that allows students to delve into different approaches. This equips our students to pursue innovative research projects and support their arguments with a broader range of theoretical and empirical perspectives.

The program will develop these skills in two core substantive fields: (1) the political economy of political development; (2) the politics of the institutionalization of rights.

Collaboration with Other Tulane Programs

The PhD in PPD offers rich opportunities for collaboration with faculty from other units. They will be critical resources for the specialization of students in the PD program.

The PhD in PD builds on Tulane’s outstanding resources and tradition of scholarship on Latin America, embodied in the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research. The Murphy Institute's seminars with an emphasis on political economy, rights and policy will enrich our student's experience and vice versa. Students interested in urban politics can draw on the recently established interdisciplinary PhD program in City, Culture and Community (CCC) with its focus upon “interdisciplinary research aimed at understanding the causes and consequences of urban social problems, relationships between global processes and local change, and the challenges of sustainable development” as well as its concern with urban policy and the post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans. Students interested in global community health and global environmental health may work with faculty from the Institute for Global Health. The PhD in PD's concern with political institutions for rule of law and institutional organization offer opportunities for interaction with the Law School and the Business School.

Applying to the Program

Admission Dates

Application Open : September 1st

Application Due : February 15th

Decisions Sent By : March 15th

Application Process

Online applications will be accepted for the PhD program through Tulane School of Liberal Arts Graduate Studies web page on a biennial schedule.

Applicants will be evaluated on their undergraduate GPA, submitted GRE scores, statement of purpose and (three) letters of recommendation. International students whose native language is not English are required to have a TOEFL score of at least 600 (paper-based test), 213 (computer-based test) or 90 (internet-based test). This is a small, selective program with a high student-faculty ratio that facilities close interaction between students and faculty who are active researchers in their fields. Collaboration on research and publishable papers is encouraged. Generous fellowships are available and are awarded on the basis of academic merit and potential for scholarship. They are renewable conditional on satisfactory progress through the program.


Unofficial transcripts should be uploaded with your online application.  Upon acceptance official transcripts will need to be provided.

Writing Sample:

An analytical writing sample of approximately 20 to 30 pages is required.  Clearness of thought, analytical ability, research capabilities, and clarity of writing will all be considered.

Statement of Purpose:

A 500 to 1000 word statement of purpose is required.  The Statement of Purpose should convey your commitment to the study of Political Science, specific topics you wish to pursue, why you are applying to Tulane, and what faculty you would like to work with if..

Letters of Recommendation:

Three letters of recommendation are required.  At least two of these letters must should be written by a professor who has had the chance to evaluate your academic interests and skills.  

The GRE:

Only the standard GRE tests are required.  We do not have a GRE cutoff for applicants.  


Program Requirements

Courses (24 credit hours)

All students must pass all of the foundational and advanced core courses in the politics of political development as well as the research methods courses. The sequence begins with two foundational courses in the politics of political development and a methodology course, all taken within the Political Science Department. A series of three “advanced topics” courses in each of the areas of substantive concentration as well as the overarching theme of PD begins in the second semester and they are again taught in the Political Science Department.


During their fifth semester, students will take qualifying exams in the two areas of substantive concentration. Each exam will consist of two parts: a “field exam”; and an interdisciplinary “substantive concentration exam.” Exams will be written and by the end of the sixth semester both exams must be passed.

Specializations (15 credit hours)

Starting in their second year, students will begin a sequence of five specialization courses, selected from elective options approved by the DGS. At least three of these five courses must be taken outside the Department of Political Science.


During their graduate training, students may be required to teach for at least two semesters, at least one of which will be an introductory course on Political Development.


Dissertation committees will include three or, at most, four professors, with a chairperson from Political Science and at least one member outside of the Political Science Department. Students are required to take seminars on grant writing (the Professional Skills Seminar) and dissertation prospectus preparation during their fifth semester; and, by the end of their third year, students will present a written prospectus for dissertation research and conduct an oral defense before their committee. On defending their prospectus, students will advance to candidacy, and will have three years in which to complete their dissertation.

SLA Grad. Catalog

Course Sequence

1st Semester (9 hours)

·Foundation course in the Politics of Political Development I

·Foundation course in the Politics of Political Development II

·Scope and Methods of Political Science

2nd Semester (12 hours)

·Advanced Issues in Political Economy of Political Development

·Advanced Issues in the Politics of the Institutionalization of Rights

·Research Methods I

·Independent Study

3rd Semester (9 hours)

·Advanced Issues in the Politics of Political Development

·Research Methods II

·Specialization Elective 1

4th Semester (12 hours)

·Specialization Elective 2

·Specialization Elective 3

·Specialization Elective 4

·Research Methods III

5th Semester (6 hours)

·Qualifying Written Exams

·Specialization Elective 5

·Professional Skills Seminar

6th Semester

·Interdisciplinary Seminar in Politics of Political Development


7th Semester


·Interdisciplinary Seminar in Politics of Political Development (monthly - non-credit)

8th Semester


Funding Opportunities

As part of graduate assistantships, tuition waivers and stipends will be awarded to incoming students based on merit. Students receive funding for five years to ensure that they have adequate financial support during dissertation writing and research.

Funding for conference attendance, presentations, and research travel is available through several sources. The Political Science Department offers summer research fellowships on an annual basis by application. Students have utilized the funds to attend training and conduct fieldwork in Brazil, China, Rwanda, and Mexico. The Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS) in coordination with the Graduate Studies Student Association (GSSA) also offers awards for conference attendance and presentations. Tinker Foundation Field Research Grants are also available for students through the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

For information on recent award recipients and updates on current graduate research click here.

Contact Information

For questions and application information, please contact Professor Mark Vail, Director of Graduate Studies, or Political Science staff members, Gregory LeBlanc, Executive Secretary, or Tasia Kastanek, Administrative Secretary. 

If you are planning to visit Tulane, please do not hesitate to contact the department as our staff would be happy to facilitate your visit by coordinating meetings with faculty and other campus representatives. Upon offers of admission, a select number of students will be eligible for travel funds for a campus visit.

If you are an international applicant, please visit Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) for more information on Tulane's immigration support services, programs for the Tulane international community, and general information for Tulane's international students, scholars, and faculty.

Tulane University, Political Science Dept, 316 Norman Mayer Bldg, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5166