The Sustainable Development Policy, Economics and Governance (SDPEG) Ph.D. program offers a transdisciplinary doctoral education in the policies, practices and theories of sustainable development. By offering a core curriculum that includes applied policy and economic analysis, governance and process design, social science methods, and professional skills development, the program produces graduates capable of conducting original, applied research that is designed to support sustainability and resiliency across social, ecological, and technical systems. 

This degree will prepare students to assume positions as policy leaders in government, higher education, public and private sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, and research institutes with the expertise and vision to inform local, state, national, and international policy.  

Degree Requirements

Milestones, Guidelines and Timeline to Degree Completion


Minimum Degree Requirements

The degree requires a total of 75 credits. A minimum of 51 credits must be completed in residence. The residency requirement is completed by courses that:

1. are taken for graduate credit through the University of Vermont, and

2. are taken after the student has been admitted to the Graduate College.

The program’s course of study includes: 

1. 15-credit core
2. Up to 24 transfer credits from prior master’s degree (12 out of 24 transferable credits must meet pre-requisite requirements in statistical methods, research methodology, economics and policy process theory)
3. 15 credits of a pre-approved Certificate of Graduate Study or a customized sequence of advisor-approved graduate level elective courses
4. 21 dissertation research credits

15 credit core includes:

CDAE 7710

Sustainable Development Policy & Governance


CDAE 7700

Political Economy of Sustainable Development


PA 6080 or PA 6110 or EDRM 6310

Decision Making Models or Policy Analysis & Program Evaluation or Qualitative Methods or equivalent


CDAE 7991



CDAE 7000

Doctoral Seminars (3, 1-credit offerings)


Total Credits


Doctoral students enrolled in the program are encouraged to pursue one of UVM’s certificates of graduate study including, but not limited to: Ecological Economics, Community Resilience and Planning, Agroecology, Public Health, Sustainable Enterprise, Complex Systems and Data Science, and any relevant new certificate programs; or any 15-credit sequence of electives with adviser permission.

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Students will advance to candidacy following completion of the core curriculum, passage of a written and oral comprehensive exam, passage of the written dissertation and oral dissertation defense exam, and acquisition of teaching experience in the field of sustainable development policy, economics and governance. A GPA of 3.0 must be maintained.


Application Procedures & Admissions Requirements

We are no longer accepting applications for Fall 2024. Please check back in September 2024 for updated admissions guidelines. 


  • Master’s degree in public policy, public administration, economics, natural resources, engineering, ecology, food systems, political science or a closely related field, including social sciences, professional fields, and STEM
  • Completion of graduate level course in statistical methods
  • Completion of graduate level course in research methodology
  • Completion of graduate level course in economics
  • Completion of graduate level course in policy process theory
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae 
  • Applicants must submit evidence of experience and success in the research process such as writing sample(s), and/or evidence of research experience(s) (e.g., theses, term papers, class projects, research reports and/or other descriptions of past research experience from academic or professional lives).
  • The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is optional.
  • For international students whose native language is not English or who have not completed undergraduate or master’s degrees in English, scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the English Language Testing System (IELTS), or Duolingo must be submitted.