Ph.D. in Education - Education Policy

With an emphasis on student-faculty mentoring and applied learning, our Education Policy Ph.D. program prepares graduates to directly impact educational policy through careers in academia or research organizations. This is a research-based, full-time program that is offered in Charlottesville only.

Policymakers at the federal, state and local levels are actively exploring strategies to improve educational outcomes for all students. Increasingly, these strategies include dramatic changes in the way schools are organized, in who teaches and how these teachers are prepared, and in how schools are held accountable for student outcomes. Unfortunately, there is little good evidence on which to base many of these important policy decisions. This has led to a growing need for careful, experimental and quasi-experimental and descriptive research to inform key education policy issues. Stay up to date with the Education Policy community by subscribing to our quarterly newsletter.

“The close mentorship and early immersion into research opportunities drew me to the Education Policy PhD program. The alumni I spoke to before deciding all underscored how well the faculty supported them as scholars and on the job market. To date, I've gotten involved in two research projects and I've enjoyed facetime with both faculty members and academics giving virtual talks amid the pandemic.”

– Todd Hall, Education Policy Ph.D. student

The Curry program in Education Policy provides students with preparation that draws on a theoretical foundation and employs appropriate methods to offer evidence on important education policy questions. The program is organized on four conceptual components:

  1. Strong preparation in methods that permit causal inference
  2. A grounding in a social science discipline
  3. An understanding of the working of schools
  4. Working knowledge of the existing educational policy landscape and literature

While coursework is important to student preparation, a close mentoring relationship with faculty is crucial to the design of the program. Students work closely with faculty on research projects to examine the impact of a variety of educational policies on student outcomes. Graduates are prepared to take positions in academia or research organizations. Should prospective students wish to engage with our community, we hold regularly scheduled Internal Policy Labs throughout the academic year where students and faculty present their work to receive constructive feedback. Please email if you wish to attend one of these sessions to get a feel for our work and our community. 

In addition to earning a Ph.D. in Education, many students pursue the MPP through UVA’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

Student Spotlights

Mindy Adnot Tackles Tough Teacher Evaluation Issues

"The interdisciplinary nature of EdPolicyWorks has exposed me to theories of human behavior from a variety of disciplines."

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5th Year Student: Anandita Krishnamachari

See why 5th year Anandita recommends the Education Policy program.

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PhD Graduate: Jessalynn James

See why recent graduate Jessalynn recommends the Education Policy program.

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Our Success Is Your Success

10 th

Best Grad School for Education Policy — U.S. News & World Report 2020

Program Details

  • Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

    CONTACTING FACULTY:  Identification of a core faculty member with interests similar to yours is strongly recommended. It is highly encouraged that you directly contact one or more faculty members to discuss your research interests.  Please contact faculty via email to set up a time to talk either over the phone or in person.

    APPLICATION FORMS: Application for admission is made to the Admissions Office of the Curry School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Application forms and other information may be obtained from the Curry School Admissions and the University of Virginia prospective student information.  For the dual degree program (Ph.D. in Educational Policy & Master's of Public Policy), separate application should be made to the M.P.P. at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.  (Alumni of our Summer Undergraduate Research Program receive a fee waiver when applying to Curry graduate programs; please contact us for details.)

    REQUIRED MATERIALS include the online application (which includes the statement of professional goals), current, unofficial test scores (official scores are required after acceptance of admission, unofficial transcripts (official transcripts are required after acceptance of admission), and two recommendations. Please also submit a resume.  When submitting a statement of professional goals, identify your specific interests in education policy, your rationale for applying to this program, and your long term goals. 


    • Applicants should demonstrate a background and interest in quantitative approaches to educational policy, as evidenced, for example, by appropriate social science undergraduate or master’s degrees or prior work experience. 
    • A master’s degree is not a prerequisite for admission.
    • In addition to the Ph.D., Curry offers a dual Ph.D. and Master's of Public Policy in conjunction with the Frank Batten School of Public Policy.  We strongly encourage applicants to apply to the dual degree program.
    • The faculty is especially interested in considering applications from persons of traditionally underrepresented groups in higher education.
    • More information is available from Curry Admissions and our Prospective Graduate Student page

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Application Due Date

    December 1st

    Application decisions will be released by February 15th.

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Degree Requirements
    • A set of rigorous METHODS COURSES, including at least 5 courses
    • COURSES in the following areas: (1) Foundations and Institutions in Education, (2) Social Science Tools and Approaches to Education, and (3) Educational Policy
    • An ongoing, personalized, intensive RESEARCH APPRENTICESHIP during each semester.
    • TEACHING EXPERIENCE at the undergraduate or graduate level.
  • Funding Opportunities

    The program faculty aims to provide financial support to all of its trainees so that they may focus their attention fully on their training experiences. A typical funding package includes (a) a minimum of $18,000 for 9 months in a combination of wages and stipends, (b) tuition and all mandatory fees, and (c) funds to cover student health insurance costs. Although the faculty cannot guarantee financial support, we work closely with students to identify means for funding that match their interests and goals. All applicants are automatically considered for funding. Possible sources include:

    1. Research Assistantships

    Applicants are automatically considered for research assistantships funded through faculty grants or the EDLF Department.  A typical package through the Curry School provides tuition, health insurance, and a biweekly wages in return for 20 hours of weekly work. 

    2. IES-VEST Fellowships

    In 2020, Curry was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences to fund the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) program to train future leaders in education research. A limited number of fellowships are available each year and application is very competitive.  All applicants to the Educational Policy PhD program are automatically considered for VEST Fellowships

    3. Federal Need-Based Financial Aid

    To apply for need-based financial aid, applicants should submit: 1) Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to the U.S. Department of Education by February 1 and 2) University of Virginia Financial Aid Application (UFAA) form to the UVA Office of Student Financial Services by February 1. Please also see Curry’s Financial Aid page.

    4. Additional Sources

    Students are encouraged to apply for funding from other sources.  A few options are listed below.  If you are already receiving IES-VEST or UVA support, please contact your advisor to discuss the specifics of the grant you are applying for and how that would work with your current funding.

    • Jacob K. Javits Fellowships Program (stipend of up to $30K/year)
    • American Educational Research Association Minority Fellowship Program in Education Research ($25K for dissertation research)
    • Spencer Foundation Fellowships ($25K for dissertation research)
    • Curry Foundation Scholarships (ranging from a few hundred dollars to 10K)

    5. Optional Monthly Payment Plan

    If you will be paying for your tuition or part of your tuition yourself, please see information about billing and setting up monthly tuition payments on the Student Accounts website and contact Student Financial Services to discuss your payment options.

  • Typical Length of Study

    5 years

    Semester of Entry:


    Full or Part Time:


  • Course Overview

    Batten M.P.P.-Ph.D. Program in Educational Policy Typical Program of Study*


    Fall 1st Year

    Spring 1st Year

    PPOL 6150 Research Methods and Data Analysis I

    PPOL 7160 Research Methods and Data Analysis II

    PPOL 6100 Economics of Public Policy I

    PPOL 7110 Economics of Public Policy II

    PPOL 6050 Leadership in the Public Arena

    PPOL 6000 Political Institutions and Processes

    EDLF 5500 Data Management for Analysis

    EDLF 5500 U.S. Education Policy

    EDLF 9998 Research Mentorship

    EDLF 9998 Research Mentorship

    EDLF 5500 Proseminar: Issues in Applied Developmental Science & Education Policy

    EDLF 5500 Proseminar: Issues in Applied Developmental Science & Education Policy


    Fall 2nd Year

    Spring 2nd Year

    PPOL 7010 Changing Context of Public Policy

    EDLF 5500 Causal Inference in Ed Policy Research

    PPOL 7410 Psychology for Leadership

    EDLF (TBD) Foundations and Institutions

    PPOL 7400 Legal & Moral Dimensions of Policymaking

    Research methods elective

    EDLF 7300 Foundations of Educational Research

    PPOL 7610 Applied Policy Project

    EDLF 9998 Research Mentorship

    EDLF 9998 Research Mentorship

    EDLF 5500 Proseminar: Issues in Applied Developmental Science & Education Policy

    EDLF 5500 Proseminar: Issues in Applied Developmental Science & Education Policy


    Fall 3rd Year

    Spring 3rd Year

    EDLF (TBD) Randomized Control Trials

    Elective Class

    EDLF (TBD) Seminar in Education Policy

    Qualifying paper


    EDLF 9998 Research Mentorship


    EDLF 5500 Proseminar: Issues in Applied Developmental

    Science & Education Policy

    EDLF 9998 Research Mentorship




    Fall 4th Year

    Spring 4th Year

    EDLF 9999 Dissertation or EDLF 9998 Research Mentorship

    EDLF 9999 Dissertation



    Fall 5th Year

    Spring 5th Year

    EDLF 9999 Dissertation

    EDLF 9999 Dissertation if necessary


    * Any deviations from these requirements must be approved by the program committee.

  • Sample Jobs After Graduation

    Graduates are prepared to take positions in academia as postdoctoral fellows or university faculty, or as education researchers in research organizations. Check out our recent Alum Placements here.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at