Tallinn University of Technology

Doctoral studies in Public Policy and Innovation

Policymakers who are able to make broad-based decisions and researchers who create new governance-related knowledge are the foundation of national innovative capacity. The need for that kind of people is increasing - today and in the future, both globally and locally.

If you wish to focus your research on a wide range of innovation and governance-related topics, you are welcome to the doctoral studies at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance.

  • The Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance has delivered doctoral studies in public administration, public policy and innovation for a quarter of a century.
  • As our doctoral student, you will be part of one of the region's leading interdisciplinary research centres for innovation and governance. Based on the Shanghai Ranking, the Nurkse Department is one of the 150 world’s best public administration research and teaching institutions. Under its umbrella, there are top Estonian and international researchers working in the field of public administration and technology governance.  Four Nurkse staff members, Wolfgang Drechsler, Rainer Kattel, Tiina Randma-Liiv and Ringa Raudla, are the laureates of the Estonian National Science Award in Social Sciences.
  • Nurkse PhD students enjoy the opportunity to conduct high-level research in one of the world's most dynamic digital governance environments. The Department has a wide portfolio of pan-European and national public administration, digital governance and innovation research projects that enable PhD students to research and network with leading universities and research centres worldwide.
  • Our PhD programme is an important breeding ground for the experts in public administration and technology management in the region and a promoter of science-based discussion of key issues in the field. Our graduates are leading researchers, public administration experts and top officials both in Estonia and elsewhere in the world.

Information about studies



  • Language of instruction and mode of study: English, full time, lectures are held in the evenings 
  • Tuition fee: studies are free of charge and during the nominal period of study (4 years), the doctoral student-junior researcher is entitled to a gross monthly income from €2,300
  • Admission: TalTech admission requirements

Doctoral programme

Doctoral studies in public policy and innovation are predominantly research-based studies on the functioning of the state, where doctoral students commit themselves to four years' full-time studies that are based on their research topics.

Doctoral studies are free of charge. Access requirement for doctoral studies is a master's degree or a corresponding qualification, and upon successful completion of studies, the graduate will be awarded a PhD degree in Public Policy and Innovation.

The doctoral programme speciality aims to provide PhD students with extensive theoretical and practical knowledge in the functioning of the state as well as comprehensive research skills to carry out independent research in social-science in general and in public policy and innovation in particular.

After completing the programme, the student:

  • has acquired systematic and comprehensive research skills in terms of research planning, strategy, and methodology, with a specific emphasis on public policy and innovation;
  • has the skills and experience to carry out independent academic as well as policy-relevant research;
  • has acquired a comprehensive overview of various research paradigms in public policy and innovation respectively;
  • presents the main field related theoretical positions and principles of scientific disciplines and their critique across different schools;
  • identifies the relationship between the theoretical positions of scientific disciplines and practices, demonstrating the ability to contrast theory and practice, and to critically approach different points of view;
  • is able to network with leading top researchers for research or policy-making and is aware of the current scientific conferences and associations;
  • has acquired additional skills in oral and written self-expression, and being part of processes and process management.

The doctoral programme comprises extensive research, university-wide general courses to support the research done by PhD students and field-specific courses that can be chosen according to their research interests.

The courses are taught in English. PhD students are required to complete at least 30 ECTS points of course work. The compulsory course of the public policy and innovation speciality is Research Methods in Social Sciences; elective coureses are Special Course in Technology Governance, Public Administration and Innovation, Special Course in Public Administration, and Special Course in Public Policy. In addition, a variety of courses can be selected from the transferable skills module. Research module contains all activates related to individual R&D or creative activities which contribute to the PhD thesis of the student. The volume of the research module is 210 ECTS.

We see doctoral studies in public public policy and innovation as a flexible programme adaptable to individual interests. Therefore, in order to acquire the best knowledge, we encourage our PhD students to take courses and participate in winter and summer schools at the universities of our network.

Doctoral students are also part of the department’s research groups, take part in seminars, give presentations at scientific conferences and teach and supervise bachelor's and master's students.

PhD studies are finalized by a doctoral thesis that presents a new solution to the research problem. The doctoral theses are supervised by internationally recognized researchers from the Nurkse Department.

Forms of doctoral studies

At Tallinn University of Technology you can obtain a PhD degree as:

  • Early Stage Researcher

  • Industrial Doctoral Student

  • Doctoral Student 

  • External Student

Forms of doctoral studies


Our doctoral graduates have acquired an excellent knowledge base for further academic careers and outstanding service in the public sector.

The PhD degree in public policy and innovation allows graduates to make recommendations for policy evaluation and development from a broader platform that considers both global scientific knowledge and other countries’ experience. In addition, doctoral studies provide excellent opportunities to network with the world's top researchers and experts to evaluate and formulate policies.

Doctoral graduates in public poliy and innovation are successful researchers, public administration experts, policy analysts, and top officials in national, European Union, and global organizations and research institutions.

Among the others, the following people have defended their doctoral theses in public administration at Nurkse department:

  • Ülle Madise, the Chancellor of Justice;
  • Jelizaveta Krenjova, expert on e-Democracy;
  • Piret Tõnurist, a lead in innovation measurement projects (OECD);
  • Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, UN University, Operating Unit on Policy-Driven e-Governance researcher;
  • Aleksandrs Cepilovs, PhD. Research Officer at EU LISA;
  • Külli Taro, Head of Knowledge Transfer at TalTech Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance;
  • Vasileois Kostakis, Professor of P2P governance at TalTech Department of Innovation and Governance.

Defended doctoral theses

Successful doctoral thesis defense enables you to continue your career in postdoctoral studies.

As a highly networked department, our graduates of the public administration doctoral programme have excellent opportunities to polish their research skills in postgraduate studies at other top universities worldwide.

Postdoctoral studies are an intermediate step for PhD degree holders in pursuing a researcher’s or a professor’s career. During this time, they will acquire additional knowledge based on their research interests, shape research focuses, and concentrate more than before on conducting independent research, and growing the research portfolio in an international context.

Haldusjuhtimise ja halduspoliitika uurimisrühm


  • You are interested in the functioning of the state and you would like to have a thorough understanding of the logics of the public sector.
  • You are consistent, open-minded, and master analytical-critical thinking, you recognize the bottlenecks in the functioning of the public sector, you see opportunities to improve them and you are willing to commit yourself to a research-based approach in solving them.
  • You are interested in the cross-disciplinary research opportunities in public sector innovation, and you are ignited by the creation and sharing of new knowledge.
  • You have the ambition to study and work with top experts and researchers in the field.
  • In addition to doing research, you are also willing to develop your self-expression, supervision, teaching, and process management skills.
  • You have a very good command of English, you enjoy writing and you are able to express your ideas in a structured way.
  • You would like to become an expert in your field and apply theoretical knowledge in creating best practices.
  • You are interested in research, both independently and in research groups, in an opportunity-rich environment that has a first-class international network.
PhD seminar

Admission to the doctoral studies

Access requirements

Pre-requisites for access to the PhD studies in public policy and innovation are a master's degree or a corresponding qualification, willingness to create new knowledge and solutions for the public sector, and readiness to be committed to research.

Preferably, the candidate holds a master's degree in public administration, political science, or another field of social sciences, but depending on the research topic, candidates from other fields of research are also welcome to apply for a student place in the doctoral studies.

Admission schedule

How to apply

Open positions

Ask for more information

Programme Director

Questions regarding the content of the doctoral study programme. 

Ringa Raudla (200x285)

Ringa Raudla


Study Consultant

Questions regarding the teaching and learning activities.

SBG_Maria Edur

Maria Edur
620 3947