Oct 24, 2021  
USC Catalogue 2019-2020 
USC Catalogue 2019-2020 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Urban Planning and Development (PhD)

The Price School offers two PhD programs. Both the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Policy and Management and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Urban Planning and Development degree programs are under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Students should also refer to Graduate and Professional Education  and The Graduate School  sections of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degrees must be courses accepted by The Graduate School.

The PhD programs in the Price School both emphasize rigorous programs of advanced study and research, stressing qualitative or quantitative analysis and the theoretical foundations of their field of study. The programs are designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop their own specialization and expertise in either major field — public policy and management or urban planning and development — while also offering them a breadth of knowledge in an especially rich intellectual environment.

Curriculum Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Management and the Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Planning and Development are administered by the doctoral committee of the school. The PhD program in Public Policy and Management requires the completion of 64 units of course work, comprising the following elements outlined below:

PhD, Urban Planning and Development

Core Curriculum

Methodology (20 units)


Students may petition to substitute PPD 708 , PPDE 668  with different methodology courses with the approval of the faculty advisor or qualifying exam chair (if applicable), and the PhD director. Students with master’s degrees and who have taken an equivalent course to PPD 558  may petition to substitute this course requirement with another methodology course.

Specialized Field Courses (16 units)

Students take a minimum of four courses to develop their specialized area of study. Courses may be taken in the Price School or other USC units. Students, working with their qualifying exam committees, have considerable flexibility in forming specializations.

Directed Research (2, 2; 4 units total)

Students will enroll in four units of directed research during their first year (2 units fall and 2 units spring). This will ensure they get involved in a research experience during their first year with faculty mentors.

Research Seminar (4 units)

Students will take PPD 710a , PPD 710b  (2 units each, 4 total units), the Price School research seminar course.

Teaching Seminar (2 units)

Students will take one semesters of the teaching seminar:

  • PPD 700  Teaching Seminar Units: 2

Students entering the doctoral program without a relevant master’s degree in urban planning or a related field will be required to complete prerequisites (10 units) relevant to their program.

Additional Requirements

Admission with Advanced Standing

Students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree from an accredited institution in public management/administration, public policy, planning, or urban development or related field may be admitted with advanced standing to either PhD program. In the Public Policy and Management program, students must complete a minimum of 53-54 units of doctoral classes beyond that graduate degree, exclusive of PPD 794a Doctoral Dissertation  PPD 794b Doctoral Dissertation  PPD 794c Doctoral Dissertation  PPD 794d Doctoral Dissertation  PPD 794z Doctoral Dissertation  units, for a minimum of 57-58 semester units. In the Urban Planning and Development program, students must complete a minimum of 54 units of doctoral classes beyond that graduate degree, exclusive of PPD 794a Doctoral Dissertation  PPD 794b Doctoral Dissertation  PPD 794c Doctoral Dissertation  PPD 794d Doctoral Dissertation PPD 794z Doctoral Dissertation  units, for a minimum of 58 semester units. Additional course work may be required if deemed necessary by the student’s faculty following the screening examination.

A maximum of 6 units of transfer credit may be applied toward a doctoral degree with advanced standing and with the approval of the faculty advisor or PhD director. Only course work not used to complete the master’s degree described above is available for transfer credit. No exceptions are allowed.

Qualifying Exam Committee

Students will form an initial qualifying exam committee by the end of the first fall semester, which officially oversees the development of the student’s academic program through the qualifying examination. Students should refer to the Graduate School  section regarding the qualifying exam committee and the outside member. The complete qualifying exam committee must be in place no later than the third semester.

Screening Procedures

Students must have a 3.3 overall GPA in first-year courses to continue in the program.

Work Plans

At the end of each spring semester, the student submits an academic work plan for the coming year to his or her qualifying exam committee chair. The plan should include courses, degree progress, seminar attendance and what was learned from those, and a research plan that articulates the major research questions being explored. At the conclusion of year one, the chair reviews and approves the work plan and at the end of year two, the chair reviews the work plan and the second year paper.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying exam committee prepares a comprehensive written examination covering the fields of study. Following completion of the written portion, the entire committee conducts an oral examination of the student, focusing on material both complementary and supplementary to the written examination but relevant to the field and overall program selected by the student. Upon passing both portions of the qualifying examination, the student becomes a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The qualifying exam will occur in the fall semester of year three.

Proposal Defense

Students are expected to have a proposal defense by the end of their third year after passing the qualifying exam.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation is based on original research. The research is supervised by a dissertation committee of three or more regular USC faculty, at least one of whom must be from outside the Price School of Public Policy. A two-semester minimum registration in PPD 794a PPD 794b PPD 794c PPD 794d PPD 794z  is required of all candidates. Students must maintain continuous registration until completion of the dissertation.

Defense of the Dissertation

Oral defense of the dissertation before the dissertation committee is usually made on a preliminary draft.

Format for Theses and Dissertations

All theses and dissertations submitted in fulfillment of requirements for graduate degrees must conform to university regulations with regard to format and method of preparation. Regulations for Format and Presentation of Theses and Dissertations is available from the Graduate School, Student Union 301, or online at the Graduate School Website.

General Requirements

Refer to the Graduate School  section in this catalogue for policies regarding time limits, leave of absence, scholarship standing and probation.