USC Price School of Public Policy

PhD-UPD Program Learning Objectives

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The mission of the Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Development is to train leading scholars in urban planning and the related areas of urban studies, urban development, and the interaction of human agency and the environment. We achieve that mission through Ph.D. education that emphasizes student engagement in research throughout their time in the degree program, faculty mentoring, faculty-student collaboration in research, and a strong multidisciplinary perspective that provides students with the theoretical and methodological depth needed to pursue dissertation research.

The learning objectives of the Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Development are listed below.

  • Students will acquire the critical thinking and research skills to become independent scholars, at a level comparable to those who obtain faculty positions at universities classified by the Carnegie Foundation as “research universities / very high research activity.”
  • Students will learn advanced required coursework in the theoretical literatures that underpin modern planning and development studies, including advanced planning theory, theories of good city form, normative theories of social justice and urbanism, theories of economic geography, and theories of land use economics.
  • Students will learn research methods ranging from quantitative and deductive methods to qualitative and inductive methods.
  • Students will master the knowledge of two sub-fields of urban planning and development, at the breadth and depth that is characteristic of being able to establish scholarly leadership in those subfields and being able to teach a masters level course on the sub-field topics. The sub-fields will be chosen by the student under the guidance of and in consultation with their advisor and a qualifying exam committee.
  • Students will master a specific set of methods appropriate to their dissertation, with the depth needed to produce methodologically rigorous research.

    This will include a minimum of 6-8 units of advanced methodology coursework. Most students will be expected to exceed the minimum 6-8 units of advanced methods coursework. Specific courses appropriate for the methods requirement should be selected by the student in consultation with their advisor and, as appropriate, other program faculty members.

  • Students will master the theories that underpin their dissertation research, usually drawn from the social sciences or humanities, with the depth needed to produce advanced, theoretically informed research.

    This will typically include a minimum of 8 units of advanced theoretical coursework taken within the context of the required 16 units of required field courses. Specific courses appropriate for theoretical depth should be selected by the student in consultation with their advisor and, as appropriate, other program faculty members.

  • Students will produce a piece of original scholarship, worthy of publication, on a topic relevant to urban planning or urban development issues.