Skip to content Skip to navigation
Photo of various groups of students discussing

Photo of campus architecture

Academics

As a POLS student, you will complete 45 units within 3 consecutive quarters (Autumn-Spring) at Stanford, 27 units of which will be within the Graduate School of Education (GSE). In addition, as part of the year-long POLS seminar, students complete a field project of significant personal interest that addresses a specific educational challenge.

The Curriculum

POLS gives students a high degree of flexibility in assembling an individualized selection of courses corresponding to their interests.  In addition to courses offered by the GSE, POLS students take courses in other Stanford schools and departments, including the Graduate School of Business, the Law School, Public Policy, and Engineering.

Within the 45-unit total, two requirements apply to all POLS students:

  • Two courses (at least 6 credits) designated as Methods courses. These might include courses in qualitative or quantitative research design, statistics, survey design, econometrics, research design, or data analysis.  Students with prior background in research methods are strongly encouraged take more advanced courses.
  • Two-quarters of POLS Seminar, and two quarters of Field Project Labs (see below).

The POLS Seminar

The POLS Seminar provides an opportunity for the cohort to come together each week during the Fall and Winter quarters to build community, learn from one another, and build a shared conceptual frame for understanding the entire education enterprise. The Seminar is our space to explore large themes, current events, and important challenges facing the education sector. A highly interactive format allows the Seminar to be shaped around the interests of each cohort. To enhance community and intellectual exchange, the POLS and MA/MBA seminars meet jointly during winter quarter.

The Field Project

The field project is a cornerstone of the POLS experience, providing each student the opportunity to gain experience in a specialized setting and apply theory and methods to real-world problems. Students spend approximately 150 hours over the course of two quarters at sites such as a school or university, an ed-tech startup, a research group, an education consultancy, nonprofit philanthropic organization or an impact investor. Students may choose from among a group of pre-arranged sites or may negotiate their own site.

The field project is intended to lead to a defined “deliverable” by the end of the Spring quarter.  This deliverable can be a research report, a policy paper, a business plan, a curriculum, or other output that effectively demonstrates student accomplishment while also bringing tangible insight to the site. Students present synthetic summaries of their deliverables in a public conference at the end of each academic year.  

Students meet weekly in the Winter and Spring quarters in field project labs to share progress and receive advice.  Each lab includes 8-10 students and is convened by GSE faculty and advanced doctoral students. Additional information may be found in About Field Projects.

A few examples can be found below.

MA Education (POLS sub-plan) / MPP

The MA Education/MPP Joint Degree Program is a two year (six quarters) program that allows students to pursue an MA in Education at the Graduate School of Education and a Mater's in Public Policy degree from the Public Policy Program at the School of Humanities and Sciences simultaneously.  The MA and MPP degrees earned independently would require 3 years, but because of overlapping curricula, the joint degree requires two years to complete. 

Students attracted to this joint degree have a wide variety of interests in education, including education policy, education management, education technology, and teaching and learning. This joint degree program provides students an opportunity to further develop analytical skills and policy analysis perspectives in addition to receiving in-depth education in economic and political science points of view on policy.

Students in this joint degree program will spend their first year taking both Public Policy core courses, Education electives, and completing a POLS Field Project. The second year is typically devoted to intensive Education study and completing the MPP practicum.

Back to the Top