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Public policy PhD rankings


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I am hoping to apply for a PhD in Public Policy (potentially Social Policy), but I keep seeing how important rankings are to everyone and I'm not sure which list to use. Some schools change rather dramatically from list to list. They are also usually listed as Political Science, which isn't necessarily the same department. I'm looking at schools outside the US, which confuses the lists even more! Does anyone know what the definitive "list" is for Public Policy? I was considering the University of Leeds and McMaster (Canada) due to research interests, but neither program is very highly ranked. How much does that matter? Sorry for all the questions, I'm new to this.

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No one's responded yet? I figured I'd leave it alone if someone who knew more about it could answer. 

I'd used this analogy on a few other posts asking about rankings too, but based on my experience looking into and applying for PhD programs, it's a minefield. 

The question I always like to ask first is what you want to do with it. If academia, then this is a question for a professor (like one who you might have write a letter of recommendation, since you kind of need that). The reason I say that is because if it's anything like Political Science, there's certain schools which are just unquestioned "top" schools--where if you have to ask, it's probably not in that group. Then there's the group that I think most of us normal people fall into, which are the schools that may be lesser ranked ("lesser" by academia's standards, so outside the top 15 or so): those schools need to be well regarded within the specific area you plan on doing research. So for example, as an IR/Conflict prospective, I might be very interested in looking into Emory, though as a theorist... maybe not so much. These questions are best left to the professionals though. We could sit here and spitball all day about what we 'think'. 

If you're looking to go into non-academic work, based on what I know about policy in the U.S. I'd say it's more about the work experience/connections you make and less about the school itself. That is, unless you go to some powerhouse school (Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge...those major places that everyone drools over on a resume), focus on the experience you can get in the area you're interested in. Again, this might be an area where you'll have to ask current practitioners, both about the school recommendations but also about whether a PhD will do anything for you depending on your field of interest. 

Basically, what I'd say is that if you have to ask about it, you're at a point where "ranking" in principle won't make as much of a difference as the specific strengths the respective departments have. And in order to figure that part out, you gotta ask someone who's already a practicing professional in your field of interest.

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