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The Department of Educational Policy Studies offers both master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees. Students who enroll with only a bachelor's degree and intend to pursue the Ph.D. degree are required to take the M.A. on the way to the Ph.D. Applicants already holding a master's degree will be admitted either into the EPS master's program or into the Ph.D. program, depending upon the recommendation of the admissions committee. Students for both the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are expected to develop both depth and breadth in their studies.

The Department of Educational Policy Studies (EPS) offers an interdisciplinary program leading to both the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. The department is dedicated to the study of educational policy in its various manifestations and to the study of traditionally defined fields such as history of education, philosophy of education, comparative and international education, and sociology and anthropology of education. Twelve to 18 students enter the department each year. The department includes faculty with interests in education beyond the United States and has formed ties with institutions and scholars in other countries. Several faculty from the departments of Curriculum and Instruction, Geography, Sociology, and Philosophy hold joint appointments in EPS, and several EPS faculty members hold appointments in other departments (History, Sociology, and Anthropology) and in programs in African studies, Development Studies, Global Health Institute, and women's studies.

Graduates of the department pursue a variety of academic, government, and private sector careers. They may be found across the United States in departments of educational policy studies and educational foundations, and other departments within schools of education; in organizations dedicated to educational research; in government and foundation work; and, in many other countries, in both higher education and ministries of education.

Beyond the department, other faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison study educational policy. They may be found, for example, in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, in the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, and in the Wisconsin Center For Education Research (WCER). Over the years, WCER projects have provided valuable research and employment opportunities to EPS students.

The department's graduate students are diverse. They come with a wide range of backgrounds in education and in the liberal arts. They vary in age, ethnicity, and social background, as well as prior practical and educational experience. Students thus provide a resource for one another's scholarly development. Some ED POL courses are cross-listed in the College of Letters & Science; others are cross-listed with other departments in the School of Education. They consequently attract students who approach material with a broad range of intellectual perspectives and complementary knowledge.

Despite the variety structured into the program, the multidisciplinary backgrounds of faculty, and the diversity of students, the small size of the department often leads to closer ties between students and faculty than are possible in most larger departments. Doctoral students generally come to know several faculty well and have an opportunity to work closely together.

The cornerstone of the department's doctoral program is the concentration. The department offers concentrations in social sciences and education, history of education, and comparative international education and global studies. Concentrations are intended to embody the content knowledge and learning experiences that students need to achieve necessary levels of proficiency within a field of study. While these levels of proficiency are acquired largely through course work and other traditional academic activities, in appropriate fields they may also be based in work experiences, internships, independent studies, and similar activities.

Concentration in Social Sciences and Education

Students in the Social Sciences and Education (SSE) concentration apply disciplinary perspectives, theories and methodologies to the study of issues in educational policy. Faculty members in this concentration utilize sociological, anthropological, political, and economic perspectives. SSE members aim to inform public discourse and educational policy and practice.

EPS students choosing to concentrate in Social Sciences and Education will develop a program of study that combines deep exploration of a particular educational problem, theoretical perspective, methodology, or disciplinary approach with broad grounding in social foundations of education and in key substantive fields relevant to educational policy and/or practice. Programs of study will be individually designed (with the support and approval of an EPS advisor) to reflect students' prior knowledge, skills and experience as well as their current educational goals. Students in this concentration are required to become well-versed in methodological approaches common to social science research, and specifically are required to take a methodology course and two research methods courses. Students within the concentration have the option to declare an “emphasis” in sociology, anthropology, or policy. In order to do so, at least two of their preliminary examination questions must be focused on the intended academic area of “emphasis."

Students who successfully complete this concentration should be well-prepared for careers as researchers, policy analysts, and advocates in academic, governmental, or non-governmental settings.

Concentration in Comparative International Education and Global Studies

Study in comparative international education prepares researchers, teachers, and planners who are interested in education across nations and cultures. Various modes of inquiry and the intellectual orientations of several disciplines are used to investigate, from a comparative and/or cross-cultural perspective, the following aspects of education in one or more geographical regions of the world: educational change and modernization, the interaction between education and development (social, political, economic), the politics of educational reform, educational planning and institution building, and the interrelationships of particular aspects of schools, societies, and cultures.

Concentration in History and Humanities

The study of history helps us understand past educational policies and practices in the context of their time. It also often provides a unique perspective on modern developments. Students in the history of education usually study subjects from interdisciplinary angles, adapting theories and interpretive points of view from the humanities as well as the social sciences in their understanding of the past. In addition, great emphasis is placed in the program on the mastery of core knowledge in the field, the honing of analytical tools, and the improvement of writing skills, all of which are useful in a variety of academic and other settings. Students who choose a concentration in the history of education may specialize in the history of American education, African American education, the history of European education, comparative history of education, or any combination of these approved by the student’s advisory committee.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline This program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline This program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Students may enter the department once a year, in fall. The deadline for applying is December 1, with applicants notified by letter before March 1. All applicants must apply online. Accepted students must respond in writing by April 15. The application is judged on the basis of previous academic record, other experience, 3 letters of recommendation, personal statement, vitae, and writing sample. Students may enter the department once a year, in fall.

The admissions process in the department is the responsibility of the Admissions Committee. The committee will direct applications from qualified candidates to a faculty member in the department whose interests are similar to the applicant's. A temporary advisor must be willing to accept temporary responsibility for the student's graduate program. If no temporary advisor can be found, the candidate cannot be admitted to graduate study. If a faculty member agrees to serve as temporary advisor and the applicant is judged qualified for admission, the student is notified that the department will recommend admission to the Graduate School. Formal notification of admission comes from the Graduate School.

All applications must include a substantial sample of academic writing. For applicants already having an approved master's thesis, the thesis must be submitted. For students holding an M.A. that did not require a thesis, and for applicants currently pursuing an M.A., a paper from a graduate-level course or seminar may be submitted. For students holding a B.A., the writing sample might include sections from an undergraduate thesis or seminar paper, or a course paper. Applicants who wish to submit an alternative writing sample (for example, solely authored published article, solely authored research report or section of a research report) should check first with the chair of the Admissions Committee.

For students who are admitted, the Admissions Committee will, in consultation with an applicant's prospective advisor, recommend admission to either the EPS masters program or the EPS doctoral program. See department website for application requirements.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

The department offers teaching assistantships each semester. In addition, students in educational policy studies are very successful in competing for assistantships on professors' research grants through the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and other research organizations on campus, as well as for administrative assistantships and for teaching assistantships in related departments. University assistantships of at least one-third time routinely provide tuition remission (except for segregated fees), medical insurance, and a stipend. Each semester (and summer) the department posts positions teaching both undergraduate and graduate classes.  Positions for teaching assistants are also posted each semester and occasionally for summer.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students are able to complete a program with minimal disruptions to careers and other commitments.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 30 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School's policy:
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students are required to take a comprehensive preliminary/oral examination after they have cleared their record of all Incomplete and Progress grades (other than research and thesis) and have completed a minimum of 45 credits. Once they have passed preliminary exams, doctoral students must submit and defend a dissertation proposal. Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements Advisors have responsibility to determine whether students need to develop and demonstrate skill in one or more foreign languages for the program they plan. Dissertation work involving study of a setting where another language is spoken ordinarily requires such skill. The specific language required, if any, and the level of competence to be attained shall be determined by the student's advisor.

Language requirements, if specified, must be met before the Preliminary Examination is completed.
Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or Graduate/Professional certificate.

Required COURSES

In addition to the entering colloquium, ED POL 701 Introduction to Educational Policy Studies, the plan of study must include a concentration as well as appropriate breadth.

Concentrations: All EPS doctoral students, in consultation with their advisor and their advising committee, must develop a concentration which will consist of a minimum of 18 credits, of which a minimum of 12 credits must be taken within ED POL. No more than 3 Independent Study credits can be counted toward fulfilling the overall 18 credit minimum requirement, but Independent Study credits cannot replace and cannot be counted toward fulfilling the minimum 12 ED POL course credits. The required ED POL 701 course cannot be counted toward the concentration.

We anticipate that EPS students will often take courses outside of the department, in part, to fulfill, their concentration requirements. In all cases, actual course-taking specifics, and decisions with regard to fulfilling concentration requirements will be made in consultation between the student and the advisor. Courses cannot be counted twice. See below for examples of courses in Educational Policy Studies in three of the concentrations.

Breadth Requirement: All doctoral students, in consultation with their advisor and their advising committee, will develop a breadth requirement which will consist of a minimum of 9 ED POL course credits. These 9 credits must be taken in domains other than the one in which the concentration is primarily identified. Course credits used to fulfill this breadth requirement cannot also be used to fulfill concentration requirements. Neither Independent Study credits nor the required ED POL 701 course may be counted toward the breadth requirement.

Theory & Methods: All doctoral students must take a minimum of 3 ED POL course credits in the areas of theory or research methods in consultation with their advisor and advising committee.

External Minor: All doctoral students must fulfill an external minor. Minimum course-taking requirements to fulfill the external minor are established by the external department.

As indicated above all candidates for the Ph.D., including those who began as M.A. candidates in the department, must take a minimum of 30 credits in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, including the required ED POL 701, and including no more than 3 credits of ED POL 999 Independent Reading OR no more than 3 credits of ED POL 990 Research or Thesis credits may be used to fulfill this requirement.

Example Concentration Coursework

Courses in History and Humanities
ED POL/​HISTORY  412 History of American Education3
ED POL/​HISTORY  478 Comparative History of Childhood and Adolescence3
ED POL/​CURRIC/​RELIG ST  516 Religion and Public Education3
ED POL/​PHILOS  545 Philosophical Conceptions of Teaching and Learning3
ED POL/​PHILOS  550 Philosophy of Moral Education3
ED POL/​AFROAMER  567 History of African American Education3
ED POL/​HISTORY  665 History of the Federal Role in American Education3
ED POL/​HISTORY  622 History of Radical and Experimental Education in the US and UK3
ED POL/​HISTORY  713 History of Higher Education in Europe and America3
ED POL 870 Theories of Social and Educational Change3
ED POL/​HISTORY  903 History of Education of Multicultural America3
ED POL/​HISTORY  906 Proseminar on the History of Education1-3
ED POL/​HISTORY  907 Seminar-History of Education1-3
Courses in Social Sciences and Education
ED POL 460 Immigration, Education, and Equity3
ED POL 500 Topics on Social Issues and Education3
ED POL 505 Issues in Urban Education in the U.S.3
ED POL 518 Introduction to Debates in Higher Education Policy3
ED POL/​GEN&WS  560 Gender and Education3
ED POL/​ANTHRO  570 Anthropology and Education3
ED POL/​SOC  648 Sociology of Education3
ED POL/​CURRIC  677 Education, Health and Sexuality: Global Perspectives and Policies3
ED POL/​C&E SOC/​SOC  755 Methods of Qualitative Research3
ED POL/​ELPA/​PUB AFFR  765 Issues in Educational Policy Analysis3
ED POL/​GEN&WS/​PUB AFFR  805 Gender Issues in International Educational Policy3
ED POL/​CURRIC  855 Issues in Elementary Education3
ED POL 860 Proseminar: Theory and Method in Comparative Education3
ED POL 870 Theories of Social and Educational Change3
ED POL/​SOC  908 Seminar-Sociology of Education3
ED POL/​SOC  955 Seminar-Qualitative Methodology3
ED POL/​ANTHRO  970 Seminar in Anthropology and Education3
Courses in Comparative, International, and Global Studies in Education
ED POL/​INTL ST  335 Globalization and Education3
ED POL 600 Problems in Educational Policy3
ED POL 675 Introduction to Comparative and International Education3
ED POL/​CURRIC  677 Education, Health and Sexuality: Global Perspectives and Policies3
ED POL 750 African Education: Past, Present and Future3
ED POL 760 Seminar in International Education Development3
ED POL 860 Proseminar: Theory and Method in Comparative Education3
ED POL 962 Seminar in Cross National Studies of Educational Problems3
ED POL/​CURRIC  963 Seminar-Educational Planning & Curric Change-Developing Countries3

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of graduate coursework numbered 400-level or above from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of UW-Madison undergraduate coursework numbered 400-level or above. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of coursework numbered 400 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


This program follows the Graduate School's Advisor policy and Committees policy.


15 credits

Time limits

This program follows the Graduate School's Time Limits policy.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Any student who feels that they have been treated unfairly by a faculty or staff member has the right to complain about the treatment and to receive a prompt hearing of the grievance, following these grievance procedures. The complaint may concern course grades, classroom treatment, program admission, or other issues. To insure a prompt and fair hearing of any complaint, and to protect both the rights of the student and the person at whom the complaint is addressed, the procedures below are used in the School of Education.

The person whom the complaint is directed against must be an employee of the School of Education. Any student or potential student may use these procedures unless the complaint is covered by other campus rules or contracts. The following steps are available within the School of Education when a student has a grievance:

  1. The student should first talk with the person against whom the grievance is directed. Most issues can be settled at this level. If the complaint is directed against a teaching assistant, and the student is not satisfied, the next step would be to talk to the TA's supervisor, who is usually the course professor. If the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily, the student may continue to step 2.
  2. If the complaint does not involve an academic department, the procedure outlined in Step 4 below should be followed. If the complaint involves an academic department, the student should contact the chair of the department. The chair will attempt to resolve the problem informally. If this cannot be done to the student's satisfaction, the student may submit the grievance to the chair in writing. This must be done within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  3. On receipt of a written complaint, the chair will refer the matter to a departmental committee, which will obtain a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed. This response shall be shared with the person filing the grievance. The chair will provide a timely written decision to the student on the action taken by the committee.
  4. If either party is not satisfied with the decision of the department, they have five working days from receipt of the decision to contact the dean's office (at the number below), indicating the intention to appeal. If the complaint does not involve an academic department in the school, the student must contact the dean's office within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  5. In either case, there will be an attempt to resolve the issue informally by the associate dean. If this cannot be done, the complaint can be filed in writing with the dean's office. This must be done within 10 working days of the time the appealing party was notified that informal resolution was unsuccessful.
  6. On receipt of such a written complaint, the associate dean will convene a subcommittee of the school's Equity & Diversity Committee. This subcommittee may ask for additional information from the parties involved and may hold a hearing at which both parties will be asked to speak separately. The subcommittee will then make a written recommendation to the dean of the School of Education who will render a decision. Unless a longer time is negotiated, this written decision shall be made within 20 working days from the date when the grievance was filed with the dean's office.

Questions about these procedures can be directed to the School of Education Dean's Office, 377 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, 608-262-1763.

State law contains additional provisions regarding discrimination and harassment. Wisconsin Statutes 36.12 reads, in part: "No student may be denied admission to, participation in or the benefits of, or be discriminated against in any service, program, course or facility of the system or its institutions or center because of the student's race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status." In addition, UW–System prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Students have the right to file discrimination and harassment complaints with the Office of Compliance, 361 Bascom Hall, 608-265-6018,



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Articulate and conduct research related to the social, cultural, and/or historical contexts surrounding formal and/or informal education in the US and/or in a global context.
  2. Interpret and critique educational policy in a national and/or global context.
  3. Understand and analyze educational inequality related to race, class, gender and/or other dimensions.
  4. Apply professional principles of ethical research.

Faculty: Professors Bartlett (chair), Kendall, Lee, Nelson, Posey-Maddox, Reese; Associate Professors Claessens, Hora, Schweber, Turner;  Assistant Professors Liu, Odle, Rodriguez-Gomez, Stem.