Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy DPA

London, Bloomsbury

Doctoral study at UCL's Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Public Policy (STEaPP) offers the opportunity to develop a career at the interface of science and public policy. The DPA is policy-orientated and cross-disciplinary research methods are deployed to give students a competitive edge. A placement within a real-world policy setting forms a substantial component of the programme.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
4 calendar years
6 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

A Master’s degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 4

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Doctoral study at UCL’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Public Policy (STEaPP) offers the opportunity to become a world-class interdisciplinary researcher at the interface of science and public policy. Candidates investigate and experiment with the ways science and engineering knowledge shape decision-making and help to address today’s major global challenges.

Research at UCL STEaPP is focused on co-production: we bring together academic, governmental, civil society and industry partners to tackle the pressing challenges facing our societies today and create opportunities to address them. Doctoral research is embedded within the different research groups. STEaPP draws together expertise on the analytic tools of the natural and engineering sciences, as well as those of social sciences, political sciences and policy analysis. Our research aims to help illuminate and better understand the societal systems through which knowledge flows (or does not) and in which it is used (or not).

Who this course is for

The DPA is policy-orientated, and cross-disciplinary research methods are deployed to give students a competitive edge. When applying please highlight how your research fits within the department, and a rationale for why STEaPP is the best home for your project.

What this course will give you

UCL STEaPP aims to be a global leader engaged in exploring, experimenting with, and improving the ways in which scientific and engineering expertise and knowledge inform public decision-making and policy processes, across all levels, sectors and cultures of our interdependent societies.

STEaPP’s Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) degree is a training pathway for doctoral candidates aspiring to a policy-orientated career, as practitioner or academic, or both. Candidates are expected to undertake original academic research.

The foundation of your career

Students acquire a body of knowledge on the role of science, engineering and technology in public policy decision-making, together with solid training in research methods and designing and executing research initiatives which are relevant and usable for external partners. This skill-set is ideal for a career path either as a senior-level scientific adviser or as an academic.


The DPA aims to foster world-class interdisciplinary practitioners and researchers. Graduates are likely to be attractive to employers as scientific advisers, or they may choose to concentrate on an academic career.


UCL STEaPP's approach emphasises impact-oriented research and designing and executing research initiatives together with academic, policy and industry partners. The department collaborates, experiments and engages with key international stakeholders such as the World Bank, UN-Habitat, African Development Bank, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), various UK Government Departments and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, as well as local communities and non-governmental organisations.

Teaching and learning

Apart from the taught programme which will have specific contact hours, doctoral students are self-directed. On average, a full-time PhD often involves 35 hours per week devoted to doing research. Part-time PhDs may involve between 10 and 20 hours per week.

Research areas and structure

  • Digital technologies
  • Development
  • Innovation
  • Research impact
  • Risk and uncertainty
  • Science advice
  • Science diplomacy
  • Sustainability
  • Urbanisation

Research environment

Academic staff – and doctoral candidates – within STEaPP are also strongly encouraged to develop collaborations with colleagues from other UCL departments and research units.

STEaPP's research spans STEM and social sciences and is concerned with the role of STEM knowledge in public decision-making. Doctoral students typically work across two UCL departments, with a public policy focus at STEaPP and an applied methodological focus in a sister department within UCL BEAMS (the UCL Faculties of the Built Environment, Engineering Sciences, and Mathematical & Physical Sciences). Students are also encouraged to undertake study and research more widely across UCL.

STEaPP’s Doctoral Training Programme consists of two routes, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) route and the Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) route. The difference between STEaPP’s PhD and DPA is that for the DPA degree candidates effectively do their doctorate ‘on the job’ and this degree is specially tailored to those with a career in policy-oriented organisations, while for the PhD the candidates have to reside at UCL (except for their ‘fieldwork’ in policy-oriented organisations). In both routes, candidates have to produce a thesis within four years (full-time) or six years (part-time). At the progression/upgrade viva (before 18 months for the full-time programme), candidates are expected to defend their ‘pilot study’ and thesis proposal.

The academic requirements for the doctoral thesis are similar for the PhD and DPA, as is the maximum length. The difference as far as formal thesis requirements is concerned – materially it is expected that a DPA theses will be more applied than a PhD theses – is that the DPA thesis should contain, within the maximum word limit, a portfolio of policy problems tackled in the policy setting. This portfolio contains an analytic part (within the word count for the thesis) and appendices.

Doctoral candidates are expected to follow eight modules as training elements (all for credit in the DPA route, with the pilot study counting for 120 credits as well, leading to a total of 240 credits). Four of these modules are standardised compulsory modules for all candidates and are taken in year one (Research Methods; Knowledge Systems, Public Policy and Management; Books Seminar, Parts A and B).

The DPA has a double compulsory module in addition, DPA Research in Practice, which has to be completed before progression/upgrade (before 18 months for the full-time programme). The remaining modules (four for PhD, two for DPA) are specialisation modules, which can be taken in any year of the programme.

Part-time students follow the same programme as full-time students, except that the programme length is six years, with up to two additional years in Continuing Research Status (CRS), and the first upgrade attempt normally takes place after 24 months.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £6,035 £4,005
Tuition fees (2024/25) £31,100 £20,800

Full-time = 4 years.
Part-time = 6 years.

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

As a research student, your additional costs may include expenses such as books, conference attendance and field research, in the UK or overseas.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

CSC-UCL Joint Research Scholarship

Value: Fees, maintenance and travel (Duration of programme)
Criteria Based on academic merit
Eligibility: EU, Overseas

Next steps

Doctoral degrees at UCL STEaPP start in September. There is a rolling application deadline, but the application deadline for places with departmental funding is usually in February (please check the departmental website for actual deadlines). Note that places may be very limited for applications after this early deadline (depending, among other factors, on the availability of supervisors).

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.