Postgraduate Programs 2018/19
Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy Programs in Public Policy
Award Title

Master of Philosophy in Public Policy
Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

Program Short Name


Mode of Study

Both full- and part-time

Normative Program Duration


Full-time: 2 years
Part-time: 4 years


Full-time: 3 years (with a relevant research master’s degree), 4 years (with a bachelor’s degree only)

Part-time: 6 years

Program Advisor

PG Programs Coordinator (RPg program):
Prof Kira MATUS, Associate Professor of Public Policy

The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Programs provide rigorous training in public policy research to academically outstanding students aspiring to pursue a career in policy research and teaching. Given the breadth and depth of research faculty expertise across departments and schools in HKUST, students in the Public Policy Programs will have the opportunity to specialize in one of the following key policy area: Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, Environmental Policy and Sustainability, Social Changes and Public Policy, and China’s Development Policy.

The MPhil Program aims to train students to conduct independent interdisciplinary research in public policy. A candidate for an MPhil degree is expected to demonstrate knowledge in the discipline and to synthesize and create new knowledge, making a contribution to the field.

The PhD Program seeks to train students in original research in public policy and to cultivate the independent, interdisciplinary and innovative thinking that is essential for a successful career in public policy research and formulation. A candidate for a PhD degree is expected to demonstrate mastery of knowledge in the chosen discipline and to synthesize and create new knowledge, making an original and substantial contribution to the discipline.

Offered by the Division of Public Policy, the programs provide students with rigorous training in policy research with the following research foci.


Research Foci

The following areas are the Division's main foci:

• Science, Technology and Innovation Policy

• Environmental Policy and Sustainability

• Social Changes and Public Policy

• China's Development Policies

To facilitate interdisciplinary research, students enrolled in the Program will be co-supervised by faculty members of the Division who have been appointed jointly with other schools.

  1. Minimum Credit Requirement

MPhil: 12 credits 
PhD: 21 credits 

  1. Credit Transfer

Subject to approval of the PG Coordinator, PhD students who have taken the HKUST MPhil Program in Public Policy will be granted full recognition of credit transfer to the PhD program. Students admitted to the PhD program with a relevant master's degree may be granted credit transfer on a case-by-case basis. In such case, the maximum number of credits transferrable is 6.


  1. Core Courses

MPhil/PhD: 9 Credits 

PPOL 5110
PPOL 5120
PPOL 5130


  1. Elective Courses

MPhil: 3 credits 
PhD: 12 credits 

PPOL Electives

PPOL 5180
PPOL 5190
PPOL 5200
PPOL 5210
PPOL 5220
PPOL 5230
PPOL 5250
PPOL 5270
PPOL 6000
PPOL 6100

Other Electives

ECON 5280
ECON 5370
ENVR 5250
ENVR 5260
ENVR 5290
ENVR 6060
MGCS 5022
SOSC 5110
SOSC 5170
SOSC 5340
SOSC 5700
SOSC 5720
SOSC 5740
SSMA 5050
SSMA 5140

Students may take other postgraduate course(s) approved by the supervisor and the PG Coordinator.

Additional coursework may be required as part of the research preparation.

  1. Professional Development Course Requirement
PDEV 6770

Students are required to complete PDEV 6770. The 1 credit earned from PDEV 6770 cannot be counted toward the credit requirements.

PhD students who are HKUST MPhil graduates and have completed PDEV 6770 or other professional development courses offered by the University before may be exempted from this requirement, subject to prior approval of the Interdisciplinary Programs Office.

  1. English Language Requirement
LANG 5000

Full-time RPg students are required to take an English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) Speaking Test administered by the Center for Language Education before the start of their first term of study. Students whose ELPA Speaking Test score is below Level 4, or who failed to take the test in their first term of study, are required to take LANG 5000 until they pass the course by attaining at least Level 4 in the ELPA Speaking Test before graduation. The 1 credit earned from LANG 5000 cannot be counted toward the credit requirements.

LANG 5080
LANG 5081


Students are required to complete LANG 5080 and LANG 5081. The credits earned from LANG 5080 and LANG 5081 cannot be counted toward the credit requirements. Students can be exempted from taking LANG 5080 and/or LANG 5081 with the approval of the supervisor and the PG Coordinator.

For PhD students whose native language is not English, and do not have a TOEFL score of over 600 (paper-based total) or 250 (computer-based total) or 100 (internet-based total), or an IELTS score of 6.5 or above, or a score of 4 or above in "HKDSE English Language", they are also required to take a course on English writing offered by the Center for Language Education.

  1. PhD Qualifying Examination

PhD students are required to submit a thesis proposal to the Qualifying Examination Committee who will examine the students’ general background knowledge and knowledge related to the topic of the research. Students must pass the qualifying examination no later than the forth regular term of study for full-time students, or the sixth regular term of study for part-time students.

  1. Thesis Research
PPOL 6990
PPOL 7990



  1. Registration in PPOL 6990; and
  2. Presentation and oral defense of the MPhil thesis.


  1. Registration in PPOL 7990; and
  2. Presentation and oral defense of the PhD thesis.


Students are expected to work closely with their supervisor(s) on an informal rather than formal classroom basis.


Last Update: 24 January 2019

To qualify for admission, applicants must meet all of the following requirements. Admission is selective and meeting these minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.

1. General Admission Requirements of the University
  • Applicants seeking admission to a master's degree program should have obtained a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution, or an approved equivalent qualification;

  • Applicants seeking admission to a doctoral degree program should have obtained a bachelor’s degree with a proven record of outstanding performance from a recognized institution; or presented evidence of satisfactory work at the postgraduate level on a full-time basis for at least one year, or on a part-time basis for at least two years.

2. English Language Admission Requirements

Applicants have to fulfill English Language requirements with one of the following proficiency attainments:

  • TOEFL-iBT: 80

  • TOEFL-pBT: 550

  • TOEFL-Revised paper-delivered test (effective from 2018/19 admission): 60
    (total scores for Reading, Listening and Writing sections)

  • IELTS (Academic Module): Overall score: 6.0 and All sub-score: 5.5

Applicants don't need to present TOEFL or IELTS score if

  • their first language is English, or

  • they obtained the bachelor's degree (or equivalent) from an institution where the medium of instruction was English.

3. Additional Information
  • Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree in any field with strong academic performance, especially in analytical courses. 
  • Applicants are highly recommended to have a satisfactory GMAT or GRE score.