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 PhD degree are required to take the MA on the way to the PhD. Applicants already holding a master's degree will be admitted either into the EPS master's program or into the PhD program, depending upon the recommendation of the admissions committee. Students for both the MA and PhD 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 MA and PhD 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. 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 such as History, Sociology, and Anthropology, and in programs in African Studies, Global Health Institute, and Gender 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 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 exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy:
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Admitted applicants may enter the department once a year, in the fall term. Applicants are notified by letter before March 1. Accepted applicants 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. 

The admissions process in the department is the responsibility of the Admissions Committee. The committee will direct applications from qualified candidates to faculty members 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 applicant 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 MA that did not require a thesis, and for applicants currently pursuing an MA, a paper from a graduate-level course or seminar may be submitted. For students holding a BA, 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 admitted applicants, the Admissions Committee will, in consultation with an applicant's prospective advisor, recommend admission to either the Educational Policy Studies masters or 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

All newly admitted students to the PhD program in Educational Policy Studies receive at least five academic years of funding from a combination of school or university fellowships, teaching assistantships, and/or project/research assistantships. Details on specific funding packages will be provided at the time of admission. Assistantships and fellowships generally include tuition remission, access to health insurance and other benefits, and a competitive living stipend. 

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. 

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

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

Major Requirements

Mode of Instruction

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 typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

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.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 30 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy:
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement 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 at an oral examination. Doctoral students must also successfully defend the dissertation at an oral examination. Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements Advisors are responsible for determining 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.
Graduate School Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate. Refer to the Graduate School: Breadth Requirement in Doctoral Training policy:

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.


All Educational Policy Studies 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 Educational Policy Studies (ED POL). No more than 3 independent study credits can be applied toward the overall 18 credit minimum requirement. Independent study credits cannot replace and cannot be counted toward fulfilling the minimum 12 Educational Policy Studies (ED POL) course credits. The required ED POL 701 course cannot be counted toward the concentration.

We anticipate that 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 Educational Policy Studies (ED POL) credits. These credits must be taken in domains other than the one in which the concentration is primarily identified. 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 applied toward the breadth requirement.

Theory & Methods

All doctoral students must take a minimum of 3 Educational Policy Studies (ED POL) credits in the areas of theory or research methods in consultation with their advisor and advising committee.

All candidates for the PhD, including those who began as MA 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 Education3
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/​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 605 Using Secondary Data: Applied Quantitative Analysis3
ED POL 675 Introduction to Comparative and International Education3
ED POL 750 African Education: Past, Present and Future3
ED POL 760 Critical Development Studies and Education3
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 Credits Earned at Other Institutions

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

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

With program approval, students are allowed to transfer no more than 6 credits of UW-Madison undergraduate coursework numbered 400 or above. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. Credits earned at other institutions are not allowed to transfer.

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.

Credits Earned as a University Special Student at UW–Madison 

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


Refer to the Graduate School: Probation policy.

Advisor / Committee

Refer to the Graduate School: Advisor and Graduate School: Committees (Doctoral/Master’s/MFA) policies.

Credits Per Term Allowed

15 credits

Time Limits

Refer to the Graduate School: Time Limits policy.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

School of Education Grievance Policy and Procedures

The following School of Education Student Grievance Policy and associated procedures are designed for use in response to individual student grievances regarding faculty or staff in the School of Education.

Any individual student who feels they have been treated unfairly by a School of Education faculty or staff member has the right to file a grievance about the treatment and receive a timely response addressing their concerns. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, may use these grievance procedures, except employees whose complaints are covered under other campus policies. The grievance may concern classroom treatment, mentoring or advising, program admission or continuation, course grades (study abroad grade complaints are handled through International Academic Programs), or issues not covered by other campus policies or grievance procedures. 

For grievances regarding discrimination based on protected bases (i.e., race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, etc.), contact the Office of Compliance (

For grievances or concerns regarding sexual harassment or sexual violence (including sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation), contact the Sexual Misconduct Resource and Response Program within the Office of Compliance.

For grievances that involve the behavior of a student, contact the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards in the Dean of Students Office at

For grievances about, or directed at, faculty or staff in a School of Education department, unit, or program, students should follow these steps:

  1. Students are strongly encouraged to first talk with the person against whom the concern is directed. Many issues can be settled informally at this level. If students are unable to resolve concerns directly or without additional support, step 2 or 3 should be pursued.
  2. If unresolved after taking or considering step 1:
    1. If the concern is directed against a teaching assistant (TA), and the student is not satisfied, the student should contact the TA's supervisor, who is usually the course professor. The course professor will attempt to resolve the concern informally.
    2. If the concern involves a non-TA instructor, staff member, professor, academic department, or School of Education office or unit, the student should contact the chair of the department or the director of the office or unit, or their designee. The chair or director, or their designee, will attempt to resolve the concern informally. If the concern is about the department chair or office/unit director, the student should consult the School of Education Senior Associate Dean for guidance.
  3. If the concern remains unresolved after step 2, the student may submit a formal grievance to the chair or director in writing within 30 business days1 of the alleged unfair treatment. To the fullest extent possible, a formal written grievance shall contain a clear and concise statement of the issue(s) involved and the relief sought.  
  4. On receipt of a written grievance, the chair or director will notify the person at whom the grievance is directed with a copy of the written grievance. The person at whom the complaint is directed may submit a written response, which would be shared with the student.
  5. On receipt of a written grievance, the chair or director will refer the matter to a department, office, or unit committee comprised of at least two members. The committee may be an existing committee or one constituted for this purpose. The committee, or delegates from the committee, may meet with the parties involved and/or review any material either party shares with the committee.  
  6. The committee will provide a written description of the facts of the grievance and communicate recommendations to the department chair or office/unit head regarding how the grievance should be handled.
  7. The chair or director will offer to meet with the student who made the grievance and also will provide a written decision to the student, including a description of any related action taken by the committee, within 30 business days of receiving the formal grievance.

    For the purpose of this policy, business days refers to those days when the University Offices are open and shall not include weekends, university holidays, spring recess, or the period from the last day of exams of fall semester instruction to the first day of spring semester instruction. All time limits may be modified by mutual consent of the parties involved.

If the grievance concerns an undergraduate course grade, the decision of the department chair after reviewing the committee’s recommendations is final. 

Other types of grievances may be appealed using the following procedures:

  1. Both the student who filed the grievance or the person at whom the grievance was directed, if unsatisfied with the decision of the department, office or unit, have five (5) business days from receipt of the decision to contact the Senior Associate Dean, indicating the intention to appeal.   
  2. A written appeal must be filed with the Senior Associate Dean within 10 business days of the time the appealing party was notified of the initial resolution of the complaint.
  3. On receipt of a written appeal, the Senior Associate Dean will convene a sub-committee of the School of Education’s Academic Planning Council. This subcommittee may ask for additional information from the parties involved and/or may hold a meeting at which both parties will be asked to speak separately (i.e., not in the room at the same time).
  4. The subcommittee will then make a written recommendation to the Dean of the School of Education, or their designee, who will render a decision. The dean or designee’s written decision shall be made within 30 business days from the date when the written appeal was filed with the Senior Associate Dean.  For undergraduate students, the dean or designee’s decision is final.

Further appealing a School of Education decision – graduate students only

Graduate students have the option to appeal decisions by the School of Education dean or designee by using the process detailed on the Graduate School’s website.

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




Professional Development

Graduate School Resources

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

Learning Outcomes

  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, Stern, Turner;  Assistant Professors Aydarova, Liu, Odle, Rodriguez-Gomez, Williams.