Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Studies with a Concentration in Higher Education

The PhD in Educational Studies with a concentration in higher education requires 63 semester hours and is intended for experienced administrators and qualified scholars. Graduates pursue careers as scholar-practitioners in areas such as student affairs, community college leadership, and general higher education administration.

Career Opportunties

Graduates develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for investigating, understanding, and shaping the dynamic relations among students, institutions of higher education, and society.

Program Contact

Dr. Laura Gonzalez
476 School of Education Building


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Example Careers

  • Scholar-practitioners in higher education and student affairs (i.e. Dean of Student Affairs, Vice President of Student Affairs, etc.)
  • Faculty in student affairs and/or higher education programs

Designed For

Experienced administrators (typically with at least 5 years of full-time experience) and qualified scholars who are interested in further developing their knowledge of higher education and student affairs. Students typically work full-time while pursuing the program part-time.

Research Interests

Faculty research interests include student development theories, college mental health, race in higher education, college men and masculinities, qualitative methodology, social justice and diversity in higher education, college students in residence hall environments, and LGBTQ issues in higher education.

Program of Study

Total hours: 63 semester hours

Core courses (18 hours):

  • HED 744 Higher Education:  Finance and Political Economy
  • HED 745: Higher Education: Equity, Inclusion and Learning (3)
  • HED 746: Theories of College and University Organization (3)
  • HED 747: Advanced Student Development Theory (3)
  • HED 748: Law of Higher Education (3)
  • HED 749: Seminar in Higher Education Research (3)

Additional Courses and Requirements:

  • Concentration Course Requirements (12 hours)
    • In consultation with the advisor, students will select a coherent set of concentration courses focusing on a specific problems of theory, policy, or practice in higher education.
  • Research Methods (21 hours)
    • ERM 680: Intermediate Statistical Methods in Education (3)
    • ERM 681: Design & Analysis of Educational Experiments (3)
    • HED 775: Directed Doctoral Research (3)
    • One course in qualitative or interpretive research methods (3)
    • One advanced course in research methods (3)
    • One elective research methods course (3)
  • Academic Portfolio—Students will compile a portfolio consisting of the following:
    • Four substantial literature reviews, one for four of the five content courses in the doctoral core.
    • Documentation of attendance at one national professional organization in higher education, including NASPA, ACPA, ASHE, or CSCC. This documentation must also include a reflection paper on the value of professional associations and the quality of research presented at the conference attended.
    • Evidence of a presentation proposal submitted to one of the conferences listed above.
    • A qualifying paper addressing a significant problem of policy, practice, or theory in higher education. Completed during HED 749, this paper amounts to a literature review directly related to the student’s intended dissertation research.
    • A written plan, developed in consultation with program faculty, highlighting the research skills required for investigating this problem as well as a list of specific courses addressing these skills.
    • An approved doctoral committee and an approved plan of study.
  • Preliminary Oral Examination
    • Upon completion of the doctoral core and the academic portfolio, students will sit for the preliminary oral examination. During the preliminary oral exam student will respond to two categories of questions: (a) follow-up, clarifying, or in-depth questions related to one or more literature review papers presented in the academic portfolio, and (b) questions requiring the student to situate the qualifying paper within the broader literature in the field of higher education. The latter type of question will require the student to elaborate the relationships between the major area of interest and student development, law, finance, organization and governance, and equity (core courses). The preliminary oral exam may be waived if, by unanimous decision, the full-time program faculty agree that the portfolio demonstrates superior quality scholarship.
    • Students whose performance on the portfolio and preliminary oral exam is not deemed passable by unanimous decision may revise and resubmit the portfolio as directed by the program faculty and sit for a second round of oral exams. This second round of exams must take place during the semester immediately following the original preliminary oral exam. If by the second round of exams, the portfolio, the preliminary oral exam, or both is deemed unacceptable by a majority of the full-time program faculty, the student will exit the program.
  • Comprehensive Examination and Oral Examination
    • The comprehensive examination will require students to demonstrate advanced competence with a set of inquiry skills. As evidenceof this competence, students will design a dissertation research project, explain the contribution the proposed program will make to the extant literature, and defend the research methods selected. The student will present to the faculty a written proposal and will sit for an oral defense of the research project. Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, students will enter into candidacy for the degree.
  • Dissertation (12 hours)
    • Each candidate will complete an original research project and sit for the final defense of the dissertation.

Minimum Program Requirements

  • Completion of 63+ hours
  • One-year residency
  • Completion of program requirements
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Dissertation