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Students at winter quarter dinner

Students at Winter Quarter Dinner 2017

The Public Policy undergraduate major develops the skills necessary for understanding the political constraints faced by policy makers, assessing the performance of alternative approaches to policy implementation, evaluating the effectiveness of policies, and appreciating the sharp conflicts in fundamental human values that often animate the policy debate. 

Completion of the Public Policy major requires a minimum of 77 units of course work, as described in the Stanford Bulletin. Students must complete the Public Policy core, concentration, and senior capstone requirements for a letter grade and with a grade point average (GPA) of 2.3 (C+) or higher.

Students who would like to pursue the major need to complete the Major Declaration Form and set up a meeting with the Undergraduate Student Services Specialist to discuss the major requirements and course plans. A meeting with the Program Director completes the declaration process. Please email to coordinate these meetings.

Major Advisors: Public Policy students are strongly encouraged to secure a faculty adviser within their first two quarters in the major, and must secure a faculty adviser by the end of Winter Quarter of their junior year. The director, student services staff, and peer advisers assist by suggesting suitable advisers. Advisers must be approved by the director. The adviser need not be affiliated with the Public Policy Program but does need to be a member of Stanford University’s Academic Council. Additionally, students are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to do directed reading (PUBLPOL 198) with a member of the faculty.

Incomplete Courses: Stanford policy states that students who plan to take an incomplete in a course must request to do so by the last class meeting. Faculty may determine whether to grant the request or not and may determine the conditions under which the incomplete is made up, including setting a deadline of less than one year. The ‘I’ grade is restricted to cases in which the student has satisfactorily completed a substantial part of the course work. No credit will be given until the course is completed and a passing grade received. When a final grade is received, all reference to the initial ‘I’ is removed. If Public Policy students receive an incomplete in a major course, they must let the program know by the end of the quarter in which they are enrolled.

COVID-19 Changes to Degree Requirements: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Stanford University made a number of emergency changes to policies and procedures that impacted Winter and Spring quarters 2019-20. Those changes reflect the disruption that students and instructors experienced when the University transitioned to online learning on March 9, 2020, in addition to the disruption to the Stanford community caused by the pandemic itself. 

On July 30, the Academic Senate adopted grading policies effective for all undergraduate and graduate programs, excepting the professional Graduate School of Business, School of Law, and the School of Medicine M.D. Program. The Senate decided that all undergraduate and graduate courses offered for a letter grade must also offer students the option of taking the course for a “credit” or “no credit” grade and recommended that deans, departments, and programs consider adopting local policies to count courses taken for a “credit” or “satisfactory” grade toward the fulfillment of degree-program requirements and/or alter program requirements as appropriate.

The Public Policy Program would like to be as flexible as possible with respect to grades during this unprecedented year, understanding that each student's situation is unique as it pertains to remote learning. We support the University's decision to allow students to choose CR/NC or a letter grade for their courses. While we understand the need for flexibility, we suggest Public Policy students take their courses for a letter grade whenever possible.

  • The Public Policy Program counts any Winter Quarter 2019-20 class in which the student received a final grade of 'CR' towards undergraduate degree requirements that otherwise require a letter grade.

  • The Public Policy Program counts any Spring Quarter 2019-20 class in which the student received a final grade of ‘S’ towards undergraduate degree requirements that otherwise require a letter grade.

  • The Public Policy Program counts all courses taken in academic year 2020-21 with a grade of 'CR' (credit) or 'S' (satisfactory) towards satisfaction of undergraduate degree requirements that otherwise require a letter grade.

Preparatory Coursework (34 units)

Students must complete 34 units of preparatory coursework in math and economics. At most 10 units of preparatory coursework may be taken as credit/no credit. PLEASE NOTE: Between Econ 50 and Econ 51 or PublPol 51, no more than 5 units can be taken for credit/no credit. Between Econ 102A and Econ 102B, no more than 5 units can be taken for credit/no credit.

Prerequisites for Math 51 are the Math 19, 20, and 21 series or the Math 41 and 42 series. We recommend that students interested in Public Policy begin taking these Math courses early so they can continue into the preparatory courses in their sophomore and junior years.

  • ECON 1: Principles of Economics
  • MATH 51: Linear Algebra and Differential Calculus of Several Variables or CME 100: Vector Calculus for Engineers
  • ECON 102A:  Introduction to Statistical Methods (Postcalculus) for Social Scientists
  • ECON 102B: Applied Econometrics
  • ECON 50: Economic Analysis I
  • One of the following:
  • One of the following:
    • MS&E 180: Organizations: Theory and Management
    • PSYCH 70: Introduction to Social Psychology
    • PSYCH 138: Wise Interventions
    • PUBLPOL 305B: Public Policy and Social Psychology: Implications and Applications

Core Courses (23-26 units)

All core courses must be completed for a letter grade, unless the COVID-19 policies outlined above apply. Variable-unit classes should be taken for 5 units, for a total of 23 to 25 units depending on the advanced empirical methods and ethics courses chosen.

  • PUBLPOL 101: Politics and Public Policy
  • One of the following ethics courses:
    • PUBLPOL 103C: Justice
    • PUBLPOL 103D: Ethics and Politics of Public Service
    • PUBLPOL 134: Ethics on the Edge: Business, Non-Profit Organizations, Government, and Individuals and either PUBLPOL 103E: Ethics on the Edge Public Policy Core Seminar or PUBLPOL 103F: Ethics of Truth in a Post-Truth World (134 must be taken together with 103E or 103F to fulfill this requirement)
  • PUBLPOL 104: Economic Policy Analysis
  • One of the following Writing in the Major (WIM) courses:
  • One of the following advanced empirical methods courses:

*Preferred advanced empirical methods course for Public Policy students

Concentration (15 units)

The 15 units of concentration coursework, completed for a letter grade, must be approved by a faculty adviser. It is required that the concentration approval form is completed by the end of Spring Quarter of the junior year. Any subsequent changes made to a student's concentration must be approved by the student's faculty adviser.

Current concentrations include, but are not limited to:

More information on concentrations

Capstone (min. 5 units)

Seniors are required to demonstrate competency in applied policy research, which can be fulfilled by participating in the practicum program or by writing an honors thesis. The capstone requirement must be completed for a letter grade.


In the practicum program, small student teams analyze real world policy problems faced by government and nonprofit organizations and produce a report with recommendations for use by the client. The Practicum is offered Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters as PUBLPOL 200APUBLPOL 200B, and PUBLPOL 200C.

More information on the practicum


Honors students pursue independent research during their senior year and produce a thesis under faculty supervision. A seminar for honors students, PUBLPOL 200H, is offered Autumn quarter. PUBLPOL 200H may fulfill the WIM requirement for students who write an honors thesis in their senior year. 

More information on honors

Double Majors & Secondary Majors

For students considering a double or secondary major in Public Policy, please review the following websites for further information regarding requirements:

Double & Secondary Majors Information

Double & Secondary Majors Requirements