PhD Public Policy


The purpose of the PhD in Public Policy is to create a generation of scholars and professionals that are equipped to deal with some of the most crucial problems confronting Pakistan and the world today. By combining elements of a traditional graduate education in social sciences, particularly political science, sociology and economics, with a significant component of training in policy sciences and information technology, the program’s graduates will be uniquely situated to undertake serious research and policy assessments with the goal of contributing towards formulation, interpretation and implementation of public policies. The program includes a set of rigorous core requirements, but also provides students with the flexibility to pursue in depth research in a broad variety of critical policy issue areas.

Who It’s For

The doctoral program caters to both academics in the field of social sciences as well as seasoned practitioners in public services, and international & community development. Through in depth policy research, scholars can produce new conceptual knowledge that can be applied towards concrete policy programs including regulatory, institutional and other policy reforms.

Class Profile


Average Class Size



Average Age


Why Do It

The Centre of Public Policy and Governance (CPPG) has produced a significant number of policy makers and policy practitioners in its more than a decade long history. However, the purpose of a doctoral program is not just to produce expert policymakers and policy analysts but also academic experts that can conduct empirically backed policy analysis of various socio economic challenges facing Pakistan and the region.

The PhD program is 3 years (1 year course work, 2 years research) in duration. The first year comprises of 2 semesters, and 3 courses are taught every semester. Classes are held 3 days a week and are in the evening. Following successful completion of course work, scholars have to pass a comprehensive examination before they can begin their research. The research dissertation may take two or more years.

The distinctive and innovative nature of this program requires a core and an elective set of courses that provide an inter-disciplinary grounding for each cohort of students. Each of these courses is taught on the level expected of first – or second year PhD students in a set of specific disciplines.

  • Completion of Course Work – 6 courses in 2 semesters
  • Passing Comprehensive Examination, which is based on the latest developments in the public policy field. Failing the exam twice will lead to discontinuation of the PhD program.
  • Presentation & Approval of the PhD proposal by the DPC
  • Completion of PhD Dissertation
  • Pass Plagiarism Test
  • Approval of Foreign Expert Evaluation
  • Publishing of Research Paper in an HEC recognized journal
  • Giving Departmental Seminars
  • Open Defense of PhD Dissertation
  • Copy of PhD Dissertation to HEC
  • CGPA not less than 3.0 (First division in the Annual System) in M-Phil or MS in areas broadly within Social Science and Humanities. 
  • Admissions Test
  • Research Proposal (1500 – 2000 words)

Sample Program

Year 1 (Fall)
700: Public Policy: Theories and Analysis
701: Public Policy, Politics and Society in Pakistan
702: Technology and Public Policy
Year 1 (Spring)
703: Human Development
704: Political Economy and Public Budgeting
705: Research Methodology
Year 2
Comprehensive Examination
Completion of Research Proposal
Year 3
Field Work & Data Collection
Year 4
Writing PhD Dissertation

Course Descriptions

Core Courses

Public policy is in a new and exciting phase of its journey. New schools of public policy are opening, a testament to the fact that public policy is recognized as a separate discipline. New journals are also being published and it is difficult to keep up with all the recent developments. Another development, relevant to developing countries like Pakistan, is that public policy scholars have started giving more importance to what has been happening outside their comfort zone of Europe and North America. 

Although political science and sociology still form the basis of the understanding of public policy, during the last two decades, public policy scholars have come up with theoretical models and frameworks that help one appreciate the “wicked” processes of policy formation and change at a deeper level. The interdisciplinary nature of the subject has allowed these theoreticians to borrow ideas, concepts and arguments from far and wide to enrich and expand our comprehension of the complexity of public policy activity. 

This course is a broad overview of the theories of policy process. We will discuss all the major public policy theories and learn to do policy analysis.

The aim of this course is to provide participants with a clear understanding of the key issues confronting Pakistani society. Historical narratives will be discussed in an attempt to evaluate the current socioeconomic, political and cultural challenges Pakistan faces. Interdisciplinary readings will help students to evaluate the Pakistani scenario in parallel with other developing states with similar historical, cultural, social, economic and political settings. Some of these countries include India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Turkey.

This doctoral course focuses on adoption of technological innovations by governments. The students participating in this seminar style course would discuss novel interventions that have brought technological reforms in governments around the world. Student would learn about actual web-based and android applications that governments within Pakistan have attempted to adopt in recent years.  

In this course, various developments that link public policies with information and communication technologies (ICTs) will be studied as case studies such as software modules that Government of Punjab has developed in preceding years to enhance its service delivery. These case studies would not only enhance students’ comprehension of actual technologies being deployed to improve governance, but would also stimulate discussion on additional technological innovations that can automate other services of government. 

Human development was once a topic discussed only by doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. It was concerned with the development of human abilities, from birth to old age. Since the 1990s, however, human development has gotten much more attention and morphed into a much bigger phenomenon. Dissatisfaction with purely economic measures of development (such as GDP growth) drove scholars to develop the concept of human development and the human development index to highlight the importance of social sectors for long-term economic goals at the national level. 

The publication of first Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Program in 1990, under the guidance of Pakistani economist Mahbub-ul-Haq, underscored the fact that economic development will not happen only by getting the prices right but will also require focus on education, health and gender. During the last three decades, human development index has become widely accepted and is quoted, along with GDP per capita and GDP growth, as a measure of national growth and development. The erstwhile Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have further increased the emphasis on human development. 

This course is a broad overview of the concept, practice and measurement of human development. The last past focuses on human development in Pakistan.

This course is intended to equip students with knowledge of key theorists in the realm of political economy. Apart from being a theoretical course, it also develops administrative capabilities among the participants by allowing them to study and propose cuts to national and provincial budgets. The course would start by providing an overview of the way monetary and fiscal policies works in Pakistan and then would dig deeper into country’s fiscal administration by studying Pakistan’s revenue receipts and planned expenditures. Prior to delving into specifics, these students would be exposed to the works of key theorists such as Stiglitz, Rodrik and Evans, who have significantly contributed to the development of the academic discipline of Political Economy. 

This course would equip the students on analysis of existing economic policies and prescription of new policies based on understanding of the works of economic theorists and analysis of economic data. This is a seminar style, discussion based course encouraging constructive exchange of ideas on various case studies. It starts from discussing how economic orientation of policy makers have shaped the business life in Pakistan at different times. It moves on to discuss monetary and fiscal policies, as well as policies related to international trade, such as lowering of tariffs or exchange rate manipulation. After developing a base of key economic concepts, the course would shed light on China Pakistan Economic Corridor and prospects of Pakistan in current world of international trade. The course concludes on elaborate discussion of rapid economic growth model of East Asian states, and its implications for environment, redistributive pressures etc. Models of economic growth would be discussed in relation to the work done on them by major theorists of Political Economy. 

Research is a systematic search for new and useful information and/or a improved understanding about a particular topic. It is not some random attempt to seek truth. Research is important to find causes, solutions, and explanations of phenomena. Research methodology is an organized way to do research. Without a methodology, research will be less effective and less efficient. Research methods are the various ways, procedures, and schemes used in research. Methods may prioritize quantitative (numeric data) or qualitative (observational or interview data) research. All the methods used by a researcher should be planned, scientific and value-neutral.

This course will get students ready for doing their doctoral thesis research. They will be asked to come up with real world research problems that they find interesting and plan research for better understanding or finding solutions for these problems. They will be asked to prepare research designs and do literature reviews. Ethical issues that bedevil social science researchers will also be discussed.

This course explores the link between population dynamics and security challenges. It addresses how best to manage large ethnically, linguistically and culturally heterogeneous communities. Participants will learn about the best practices of managing conflict and promoting peace.

Large populations can be challenging to manage in an environment of political instability, ethnic conflict and security threats. Pakistan faces a complex set of security concerns that are exacerbated by its rapidly growing population. While terrorism and religious extremism have emerged as salient features of Pakistan’s modern history, there are additional concerns that fall under the heading of ‘security.’ These concerns stem from a combination of unequal public service delivery, overcrowding of resources, and the presence of a large volume of unskilled and uneducated communities. The latter makes poverty traps harder to escape.

Elective Courses

This course examines the intersection of education and development in the Muslim world. Countries of the Muslim world today stretch across hugely diverse geographical and cultural regions including Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Many countries in the Muslim world face shaky economies, high unemployment, pervasive poverty, chronic illiteracy, entrenched gender inequalities, and growing socio-political insecurity and instability, and are therefore seeking to reform their educational policies and institutions and advance their national agendas of economic growth and social development. The course will primarily make a survey of education and development in the Middle-east, South Asia and Central Asia.

This course aims to contribute towards re-conceptualizing ‘area studies’, as the existing frameworks of South Asia, Central Asia and Middle East are becoming increasingly amorphous. It focuses on drawing attention to the geo-strategic significance of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, providing an overview of their contemporary history, culture and politics. Based on this understanding, we shall analyze how domestic factors influence the security, foreign policy concerns, and the goals of these three states. All three have a common religious and cultural heritage. Recognizing these commonalities, we will look at the distinctive institutional setting of each state and determine its effects on their respective securities and foreign policy agendas. The course will provide a comparative analysis of how Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan collaborate and compete to pursue their national interests.  In light of the pursuit of these goals, we will examine how these policy choices have evolved between the regional states and the Great Powers—particularly China.

This course looks at the challenges to urban development in Pakistan (broadly South Asia) and what policy options can be explored to overcome these. Special attention will be paid to the implications on governance and public service delivery. Core-periphery dynamics and the consequences for rural development will also be touched on. Examples of best practices from other similar countries will be discussed.

Migration is a global phenomenon and its implications are wide-ranging. Due to its huge population and widespread poverty, migration and urbanization has resulted in the movement of millions of people in Pakistan, impacting country’s education, health and environment management, security, economic development, and governance.  According to the UNFPA, in Pakistan, “since 1980, the number of people living in urban areas has tripled, from 22.4 million to 75.6 million in 2017.  It is estimated that urban population is likely to increase from 32 per cent as of the 1998 Census to 50 per cent by 2030. In addition, 12 per cent of the population is internal migrants, with about one-third of them having migrated in the past ten years.” It is, therefore, imperative to develop an understanding of the migration patterns and it impacts on the wider society. This course addresses various questions with respect to internal migration such as what are the primary reasons for the internal migration in Pakistan and how the people and the governmental institutions respond to such large-scale migration. Other questions that will be addressed are what will be the impact of such migration on the infrastructure, resource base and governance capacity of the urban centres and how will migration impact rural areas and their economies and socio-cultural settings? In the case of China, a recent study shows that since the late 1970s, 250 million rural Chinese have moved from away from rural to urban centres. It is estimated another 100 million are expected to move from rural areas to cities. The course will also focus on what Pakistan can learn from Iran, Indonesia and Chinese experience.

The course will explore how the city really functions under the veneer of formal policies and systems which may be considered an adhoc construction of different knowledges, practices and institutions with little internal consistency. It will explore how street vendors or xinchi rickshaw drivers ply their trade when they are considered illegal according to municipal laws? How informal housing market caters for the drastic shortage of low income housing? How informal transport manages the load in the absence of a working public transport system? The course will thus aim to re-theorize the urban and urbanization as a process by assessing whether policies undermine or substantialize the livelihoods of expanding urban populations. By transcending the binaries of powerful-exploited, elite-excluded and formal-informal, it will explore localized systems of urban sustainability concentrating on interwoven relations, services and networking needs, consumption practices, recycling and the impact on local ecologies.  

The course will begin with the theoretical discussion on the relationship between formal and informal sectors and explore changes in academic thinking over the last few decades. It will explore the reasons for informal economic activity within the context of developing countries: from being a natural phenomenon based on social economy to an outcome of neo-liberal dispensation. Thus, putting the informal economy in context of black, illegal or sub-contracting economy as part of the global value chain. Based on the general landscape of labour laws, policy, regulation and their implementation, it will assess the costs and benefits accrued to formal labor. Further, from a rights and welfare based perspective, the course will discuss case studies of street vendors, home based workers, domestic workers, enterprise workers, daily wage workers and agriculture workers to understand implications and extension of state policies such as wage laws and social safety nets to informal workers. Lastly, it will assess social movements for worker rights for progress made in changing state policies or in provision of worker welfare through non-governmental and the private sectors.

Climate change is real, yet its understanding particularly in the developing countries remains scanty. Therefore, its relationship and possible impact on population and food security demands attention. Poor and rural populations are the most vulnerable to negative impacts of the climate change and food insecurity. The recent floods in Pakistan (2010 and 2014) had devastating impacts and yet we were ill prepared for these calamities. In this age of information technology, satellite connectivity and mobile phones, early warning systems are possible and could have mitigated the impact of these floods. Similarly, earthquake prone zones are identifiable and precautionary measures can be taken (such as popularizing earthquake-resistant structures) but few lessons were learned from the vast devastation in the wake of the 2005 earthquake. Furthermore, in Pakistan and across South Asia, air pollution, environmental degradation, deforestation are some of the causes of smog that has become a health hazard, particularly for the poor, elderly and children. As a largely agrarian economy, Pakistan’s high vulnerability to climate change also has very serious consequences in terms of unemployment, production, trade, food security, nutrition and public health.

South Asia historically has been impacted by the influence of countries in Central Asia, East Asia, Middle East and the Western world. Interaction between South Asia and these countries has determined the evolution of interstate relations and importantly, relations with the US, a global superpower. The course evaluates the linkages between domestic and international politics of South Asia and explores the effect of power rivalries and security concerns on countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh. China’s continual rise and perceived threat by the United States is also of major concern to the international relations of South Asia. Indo-Pak rivalry finds new motivations within this context as well.

The Middle East region is one of the most volatile and most important regions of the world in terms of international political economy and security. It was part of the Ottoman Empire for a few centuries before European colonists took over after the First World War. The division of Arab countries by the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement (1916) and the League of Nations’ mandates define the politics of the region today, a century after the Great War. The creation of Israel, control of ibn-Saud over (almost) the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, imposition of Hashemite monarchs over Jordan and Iraq, establishment of tiny sheikhdoms around Persian Gulf, and the division of Lebanon and Syria cannot be explained without the European intervention. After independence in the wake of the Second World War, almost all of the Middle Eastern countries were monarchies. The tussle between monarchs and Arab nationalists (democrats and anti-democrats) that was the hallmark of the first decade after independence have now given away to a three-way struggle between military, democrats and Islamists. In some countries, monarchies still exist but they are feeling increasing pressures to reform and democratize. This region and North Africa were unique in terms of not being affected by any of the previous waves of democratization that swept the world. The Arab Spring uprisings appeared to lessen the democratic deficit of the region but seven years after these uprisings there are no stable democracies and Arab Spring has turned into a long Arab winter. 

This course will mostly focus on regional dynamics but will also focus on politics of important countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Iran. It will start with the collapse of Ottoman Empire and move to mandates, independence movements, creation of Israel, Arab nationalism, rise of political Islam and military strong-men, and finally to Arab Spring and its aftermath. 

This course is for students pursuing specialization in global politics or international relations. Building on international relations’ school of liberalism, it refines students’ understanding of international agreements and projects that promise mutual development for two or more countries. International agreements such as Economic Cooperation Organization, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), etc. would be discussed at length keeping in mind their economic costs and returns. 

In additional to overarching agreements, the course would also delve into the potential of multi-country projects such as Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India gas pipeline (TAPI) and Iran Pakistan India gas pipeline. China’s growing demand of energy imports and Pakistan’s role as a conduit for Chinese imports would also be further elaborated under the topic of CPEC

Is religious nationalism on the rise or is it just media hype? Daesh (Islamic State) until recently controlled thousands of square miles of territory in the Middle East. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel define their nationalism primarily on religious/sectarian basis. However, it will be erroneous to limit religious nationalism to the Middle East. A substantial group of President Trump supporters believe in White Christian nationalism and the primary role of the Judeo-Christian heritage in the establishment of the United States. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron called Britain a Christian country and constitutionally secular states, like Turkey and India, have seen their secular order increasingly questioned. Though, since the 1990s, religious nationalism has declined in some European and Latin American countries, it has reared its head again in Eastern Europe and Russia during the same period. Clearly, it is difficult to deny that the significance of religious nationalism in international affairs has increased in the 21st century.

In this course, we will first focus on nationalism and develop an understanding of the concept, power, and ubiquity of nationalism. After briefly discussing the increasing sacralization of politics, the theoretical underpinning of religious nationalism will be analyzed and it will be differentiated from ethnic, linguistic and civil/civic nationalism. We will also consider situations where religious and other forms of nationalism compete for the primary allegiance of people. The second part of the course will consist of five ‘country’ case studies. We will examine how religious nationalism rose to prominence in diverse countries utilizing disparate religious traditions. We will also study its evolution over time and analyze the conditions in which it dominates other forms of nationalism. Finally, we will discuss its downstream effects on laws and policies. 

By the end of the course, students will have a better understanding of the phenomenon of religious nationalism, its successes and failures as well as its promises and risks.