Public policy may offer joint degree

Although it is still closer to a dream than reality, the Sanford Institute of Public Policy has narrowed its doctorate degree plans to joint degree programs with other graduate and professional schools in the University.

An internal committee, which has yet to meet, plans to have a full proposal ready by the end of the academic year, Public Policy Director of Graduate Studies Frederick Mayer said. An approved plan could come to fruition within two to four years.

Public Policy leaders have discussed having a doctorate program for the past decade. When the department was last reviewed more than five years ago, the former leaders of Sanford had proposed a stand-alone doctorate program that the review committee did not recommend. Currently, the institute offers a masters program and mid-career postgraduate diploma.

During the most recent external review, the institute recommended creating joint doctorate programs with other already existing programs. The external review committee gave its support to the plan.

The external review supported the development of joint Ph.D. programs with other Duke graduate departments and believed it was an appropriate initiative for Sanford to pursue.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe said a joint degree program was a plausible, appealing option, but that it is not one of Sanford's top priorities.

Earlier this month, Sanford leaders spoke with Lewis Siegel, dean of the Graduate School, and other graduate department directors about the possible joint degree program.

"We threw up our hands and told them they had to come up with a proposal before we could consider it," Siegel said. "They were very vague-I got the suspicion there must be some significant disagreement among their own faculty as to what [the joint program] would be."

Mayer predicted the program will be more policy- than theoretically-oriented, and that Sanford will likely pair primarily with other departments in the Graduate School, like economics and political science, rather than with professional schools.

Although they have not yet been involved in joint degree talks, representatives from various schools across campus said they would be interested.

"A lot of the stuff is already in place so having a joint Ph.D. program with Sanford would not be that different," Nicholas School of the Environment Dean William Schlesinger said.

Institute directors have also not decided yet whether the joint program would give two degrees or one joint degree. Currently, the Graduate School does not allow students to receive doctorates in two departments, though there are interdisciplinary degrees awarded.

Although the institute does not yet know what type of students it will recruit, Mayer said a new program might not only enhance the experience of students already at Duke, but also attract students who would not otherwise attend the University. "It could recruit students who want to do a joint degree, who would perhaps hesitate to go into a straight public policy doctorate program," Mayer said.

The joint degree plan is more advantageous than a stand-alone doctorate plan because it requires less resources, gives students the benefits of both departments and provides students with a deeper understanding of another area of discourse, Mayer said.

"The difficulty with a stand-alone Ph.D. in public policy is that in the marketplace you almost always have to show you have a deeper understanding in one of the traditional disciplines," he said.

However, most of Sanford's graduate students will likely remain masters students, Sanford Director and Professor of Political Science Bruce Jentleson said. "Public policy is a field in which the masters degree will always be the principle degree," he said.


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