Sustainable Development Policy, Economics, and Governance Ph.D.

All students must meet the Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree


The Sustainable Development Policy, Economics, and Governance (SDPEG) Ph.D. program offers a transdisciplinary doctoral education in the policies, practices and theories of sustainable development. By offering a core curriculum that includes applied policy and economic analysis, governance and process design, social science methods, and professional skills development, the program produces graduates capable of conducting original, applied research that is designed to support sustainability and resiliency across social, ecological, and technical systems. 

This degree will prepare students to assume positions as policy leaders in government, higher education, public and private sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, and research institutes with the expertise and vision to inform local, state, national, and international policy.  

Specific Requirements

Requirements for Admission to Graduate Studies for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

  • Completion of a master’s degree in public policy, public administration, economics, natural resources, engineering, ecology, food systems, political science or a closely related field, including social sciences, professional fields, and STEM
  • Completion of 1 master’s level statistical methods course (or option to take CDAE 6590 Applied Econometrics in first matriculated year)
  • Completion of 1 master’s level course in research methodology (or option to take CDAE 6510 Research and Evaluation Methods in first matriculated year)
  • Completion of 1 master’s level course in economics (or option to take CDAE 6540 Advanced Microeconomics in first matriculated year)
  • Completion of 1 master’s level course in Policy Process Theory (or option to take PA 6060 Policy Systems in first matriculated year)
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae 
  • Applicants must submit evidence of experience and success in the research process such as writing sample(s), and/or evidence of research experience(s) (e.g., term papers, class projects, research reports and/or other descriptions of past research experience from academic or professional lives).
  • January 15th application deadline for funding consideration. Otherwise rolling admissions.
  • Prior to applying, applicants should take the admissions survey on the SDPEG web page.
  • The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is optional.
  • For international students whose native language is not English or who have not completed undergraduate or master’s degrees in English, scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the English Language Testing System (IELTS), or Duolingo must be submitted.

Minimum Degree Requirements

The degree requires a total of 75 credits. A minimum of 51 credits must be completed in residence. The residency requirement is completed by courses that are taken for graduate credit through the University of Vermont, and are taken after the student has been admitted to the Graduate College.

  • 15-credit core
  • Up to 24 transfer credits from prior master’s degree (12 out of 24 transferable credits must meet pre-requisite requirements in statistical methods, research methodology, economics and policy process theory)
  • 15 credits of a pre-approved Certificate of Graduate Study or a customized sequence of advisor-approved graduate level elective courses
  • 21 dissertation research credits

The program’s course of study includes a 15-credit core, the option to transfer in up to 24 credits of prior master’s degree credits and the pursuit of a pre-approved Certificate of Graduate Study (or 15 to 18 credits of electives that are approved by student advisor), and 21 dissertation research credits.

The 15-credit core includes:

CDAE 7710Sustain Dev Policy & Gov3
CDAE 7700Political Econ of Sustain Dev3
PA 6080Decision Making Models3
or PA 6110 Policy Analysis&Program Eval
or EDRM 6110 Qualitative Research I
CDAE 7991Internship3
Doctoral Seminar (CDAE 7000) must be taken 3 times3
Total Credits15

Doctoral students enrolled in the program are encouraged to pursue 1 of UVM’s certificates of graduate study including, but not limited to: Ecological Economics, Community Resilience and Planning, Agroecology, Public Health, Sustainable Enterprise, Complex Systems and Data Science, and any relevant new certificate programs; or any 15-credit sequence of electives with advisor permission.

Comprehensive Examination

A written comprehensive examination must be passed by the candidate at least 6 months before the dissertation is submitted. Upon submission of written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam is required within 1 months’ time of submission. The oral comprehensive exam defense must be passed as well as the written exam in order to officially “pass” the comprehensive exam. Success in the written and oral comprehensive examination is a prerequisite for standing for the Dissertation Oral Defense Examination and to officially reach “doctoral candidate” status.

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Students will advance to candidacy following completion of the core and elective curriculum, passage of a written and oral comprehensive exam, passage of the written dissertation and oral dissertation defense exam, and acquisition of teaching experience in the field of sustainable development policy, economics and governance. A GPA of 3.0 must be maintained.