Doctoral Program in Political Development

Program Overview

The new interdisciplinary PhD program in “Political Development” (PD) focuses 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.

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. 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. 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. Students interested in global community health and global environmental health may work with faculty from the Institute for Global Health. Those interested in international development may work with Tulane’s Payson Institute. The Murphy Institute's seminars with an emphasis on political economy, rights and policy will enrich our student's experience and vice versa.


Program Requirements

All students must complete a minimum of 48 credit hours of course work (16 courses), pass two qualifying exams, select a specialization, fulfill a teaching requirement and complete a dissertation. Core

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 will 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.

Course Sequence

1st Semester (9 hours)

  • Foundation course in the Politics of Political Development I
  • Foundation course in the Politics of Political Development II
  • Research Methods I

2nd Semester (12 hours)

  • Advanced Issues in Political Economy of Political Development
  • Advanced Issues in the Politics of the Institutionalization of Rights
  • Research Methods II
  • Independent Study

3rd Semester (9 hours)

  • Advanced Issues in the Politics of Political Development
  • Research Methods III
  • Specialization Elective 1

4th Semester (12 hours)

  • Specialization Elective 2
  • Specialization Elective 3
  • Specialization Elective 4
  • Independent Study: directed reading or Methodology Boot Camp

5th Semester (6 hours)

  • Qualifying Written Exams
  • Specialization Elective 5
  • Professional Skills Seminar

6th Semester

  • Interdisciplinary Seminar in Politics of Political Development
  • Dissertation

7th Semester

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

8th Semester

  • Dissertation

Application and Funding

The evaluation criteria for admission will be an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher (or the equivalent); a minimum combined score on the GRE verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning tests of 1250; strong statements of purpose and (three) letters of recommendation, and for international students whose native language is not English, TOEFL scores of at least 600 (paper-based test), 213 (computer-based test) or 80 (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.

For further questions and application information, please consult FAQ. If you do not find answers to your concerns there, please contact Professor Eduardo Silva, Graduate Studies Director


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