Political Science

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PhD Political Science (Comparative Public Policy)

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PhD Political Science (Comparative Public Policy)

McMaster is one of very few universities, in Canada and internationally, to offer a PhD in Comparative Public Policy. In order to more robustly examine and explain policy dynamics and change, students are trained in the comparative method and are required to examine a policy issue in at least two political jurisdictions. These jurisdictions may be states, but they could also be at the subnational or international level.


Public policy gets to the heart of the questions of “who gets what” and “who benefits.” It can be about the big picture of how power works in societies, or it can involve finding the “devil in the details” of complex policy processes and outcomes.

About the Program

Our faculty has capacity to supervise students doing mainstream policy studies, as well as projects in a number of critical approaches to policy. We prepare students in the fields of theories and approaches to comparative public policy, public administration, and internationalization of public policy. We value the opportunity to combine comparative public policy with courses in related fields such as comparative politics, globalization and the internationalization of public policy.


The program prepares graduates for working in Canadian and overseas universities, international organizations, and federal, provincial and local public services. Our graduates have taken up position at a number of Canadian universities and in federal and provincial public services.


Research Opportunities
Several faculty members in the department have funded research programs that provide potential opportunities for collaboration or research assistant positions for PhD students enrolled in political science. Potential PhD students with research interests or preparation that align with one of the projects below should contact the relevant faculty member(s) as they prepare their applications for admission to the PhD program.

Faculty Specializing in Comparative Public Policy:

Katherine Boothe: Comparative Public Policy, Patient Involvement in Healthcare, Social & Health Policy


Adrienne Davidson: Canadian Public Policy, Child Care & Education, Comparative Public Policy, Federalism & Intergovernmental Relation


Michelle Dion: Comparative Politics, Gender and Politics, Globalization, Public Policy, Social & Health Policy


Peter Graefe: Canadian Politics, Policy, Political Economy, Politics of Representation, Public Policy, Social & Health Policy


Ahmed Shafiqul Huque: Climate, Water & Sustainability, Policy, Public Policy


Stephen McBride: Canadian Politics, Global Political Economy, Globalization, Labour Issues, Public Policy


In addition, several other faculty members have an interest in Comparative Public Policy:

Karen Bird: Comparative Politics, Gender & Ethnic Relations, Gender & Politics, Politics of Representation, Public Policy


Robert O’Brien: International Political Economy, International Organization, Global Civil Society, Global Labour Issues, Political Economy of Climate Change


Tony Porter: International Relations, International Political Economy, International Institutions, Globalization, Sovereignty


Netina Tan: Elections, Political Parties, Gender and Public Policies in East and Southeast Asia


Lana Wylie: Canadian Foreign Policy


In addition, three associate members of our Department specialize in Comparative Public Policy:

Julia Abelson: Public Engagement Methods and Evaluation, Value in Health Policy Analysis, Politics of Health Policy


Gail Kratzberg: Public Policy, Great Lakes Science, Policy and Governance


John Lavis: Research Evidence, Citizen Values and Stakeholder Insights in Policy Making, Politics of Health and Social Systems

The Comparative Public Policy doctoral program is designed to equip graduates to conduct research and teach at the university level in Comparative Public Policy and one other field chosen from Canadian politics, comparative politics, political theory or international relations.


Students take six courses, including three required ones. They then prepare comprehensive examinations in their two major fields, which they write in August of their first year and December of their second year. Students also fulfill a language requirement to demonstrate their competency in a language other than English which is relevant to their research. This is normally done before the approval of the thesis proposal.


The remainder of the program involves preparing a thesis proposal, and then completing and defending the dissertation, which must involve a comparison of two political systems, including those at the international and subnational levels.


A thesis proposal will normally be submitted in April of the student’s second year. The thesis should normally be no more than 60,000 words long, and it is expected that the thesis will be finished about two years after the proposal is approved. Overall, then, full-time students are expected to take about four years to complete the program. Part-time students may take up to eight years to complete the degree but are encouraged to finish in less time.

Admission to the PhD program will normally require a master’s degree in political science with an average of at least an A– (A minus). 


Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty members in the Department of Political Science regarding potential supervision. 


Required Application Documents:


Graduate Studies Online Application 

Applicants are required to complete the Graduate Studies Online Application which opens October 1st each year. In addition to the online application, applicants must also submit the required documents listed below. Some required documents must be submitted through the online application. 

Statement of Interest 

  • An electronic statement of interest (approximately 500 words, single or double-spaced, maximum of 1 page). 
  • The statement must be uploaded as a PDF attachment only through the online application system on the Upload Document 
  • Your statement of interest is a crucial element of the application process. Comparative Public Policy applicants should highlight the comparative nature of their research and policy area which concerns them. International Relations applicants should identify the international, transnational or global elements of their research projects. 
  • All applicants would benefit from indicating particular faculty members or research clusters that overlap with their projects. 

CV/Personal Resume 

  • An electronic copy of your CV/Resume must be uploaded as a PDF attachment through the online application system on the Upload Document 

Official Academic Transcripts 

  • Upload a scan of ALL official university transcripts completed to date to the application system. Remember to include a copy of the transcript key/legend or scale from the transcript. 
  • Transcripts from institutions where you completed courses on Letter of Permission and/or as part of a Student Exchange Program must also be included. 
  • If your institution produces electronic transcripts that can be sent directly to other institutions select this option. The issuing institution must send the official transcript directly to Manuela Dozzi by email at dozzim@mcmaster.ca 
  • If the official language of instruction at your institution is not English, please include both the original language document and a certified English translation. 
  • DO NOT submit an unofficial transcript or a student record print unless the document shows your full name, student number, the university name and contains all courses completed (and in progress) with grades. 
  • If you receive an offer of admission further instructions will be given on how to submit formal official transcripts. 

Academic References 

  • Three (3) confidential reference reports from instructors most familiar with your academic work 
  • All referees are required to complete the e-Reference. 
  • McMaster University uses an Electronic Referencing System (e-Reference). You will be required to indicate an institutional email address for each referee. Your referees will receive an email message asking them to complete an e-Reference. 
  • If you need to change your reference or referee email address after submitting your application, you will need to contact the Department. 
  • IMPORTANT: The system will send the e-Reference request to your references ONLY AFTER YOU SUBMIT your online application. This means that you will need to have completed AND uploaded your Statement of Interest and CV/Resume to your online application BEFORE you can click the “submit” button. References may require 2-4 weeks to complete the e-Reference reports. Referees MUST complete their reference report BY THE APPLICATION DEADLINE of January 14th. Please keep this in mind when you are working on your application. 
  • If for some reason your referee is unable to use the Electronic Referencing System, you can download the Reference Form and send it to your referees for completion. Downloaded reference forms must be sent by the referee DIRECTLY to Manuela Dozzi by e-mail (dozzim@mcmaster.ca) or the mailing address below.  

English Language Proficiency (if applicable) 

  • If English is not your native language, an official copy of your English Language Proficiency score or other evidence of competency in English is required. Such applicants are required to supply this evidence as part of your application. Applicants whose university studies were complete at an institution where English is deemed the official language of instruction may be exempted from this requirement (an official letter from the institution is required). 
  • The English Proficiency exam must have been completed within 2 years of the application due date. 
  • This requirement must be met prior to an offer of admission. There will be no exceptions to the language requirement. 
  • The most common evidence is a score on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
  • TOEFL: minimum score is 92 (iBT-internet based), 237 (computer based) or 580 (paper based). The McMaster University TOEFL/TSE Institution Code is 0936 and the Department Code for Political Science is 89.
  • IELTS (Academic): minimum overall score is 6.5, with at least 5.5 in each section. 

NOTE: International students wishing to enter Canada on a study permit should also contact the nearest Canadian Embassy or Consulate for further information.


Application Fee 

The system will charge a $110 (Canadian) application fee. This fee is non-refundable and payable by credit card only. Once you have paid the application fee, please remember to return to the online application and click the “Submit” button. The application fee will not be refundable.  


How to Apply: 

Each applicant is required to complete the Graduate Studies Online Application which opens October 1st each year and submit the required application documents listed above to complete the application. 

Please note that all application supporting documentation must be forwarded to and received by our Department no later than January 14th for September admission only. 




If required, send all official documents (hard copy) to: 

Department of Political Science 

c/o Manuela Dozzi 

Kenneth Taylor Hall 527 (KTH-527) 

McMaster University 

1280 Main Street West 

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 

L8S 4M4  


Application Deadline: 

  • January 14, 2024 (for September 2024 admission) 

The Ellen Louks Fairclough Scholarship in Political Science 

The Ellen Louks Fairclough Memorial Scholarship in Political Science was established in 2004 to commemorate the life of The Right Honourable Ellen Louks Fairclough, P.C., C.C., F.CA., L.L.D., F.R.C.G.S., D.H., U.E., Canada’s first female federal cabinet minister and lifelong advocate for women’s rights. To be awarded to a student enrolled in a graduate program in Political Science who holds an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Preference will be given to a student with an interest in Canadian public policy. 


The Political Science Travel Grant 

To support research and professional development by assisting graduate students with costs related to doing field-work or attending academic conferences. This grant is open to both MA (thesis option) and PhD students. There are two rounds of applications each year with the deadlines being October 15th and January 30th.  


The William Coleman Fund 

The William Coleman Fund was established in 2011 by Dr. William Coleman. To support Ph.D. students in the Department of Political Science who are conducting field research. 


To see additional information regarding awards and funding, please visit our Awards & Funding page. 

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Upcoming Events

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Research in Progress: Graduate Student Panel


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December 05, 2023
11:30 am to 1:00 pm
RIPs: Graduate Student Panel
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Mapping the Global Dimensions of Policy Conference 13: Globalization and Public Policy


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March 08, 2024