Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Ph.D. in Higher Education

The Ph.D. degree is a 90 credit hour program designed for doctoral students who are planning careers as college and university administrators, institutional researchers, policy analysts, and faculty members.                               

The Ph.D. program has relatively few required courses, allowing students more freedom to specialize in areas of interest. There is also a strong set of inquiry (methodology) courses required.  A strong background in inquiry is essential for careers in institutional research, policy analysis, or as faculty.

Students can transfer up to 30 hours into the program from relevant graduate level course work, especially courses that were taken toward a master’s degree in higher education or a related field.  Although a master’s degree is not required for entry into the Ph.D. program, it is highly preferred.

Prerequisite Course

  • Y502 Intermediate Statistics Applied to Education may be counted among electives if the course has not been taken prior to admittance to the Ph.D. program.

Degree Requirements (90 cr.)

Major Requirements (36 cr.)

Required Courses (15 cr.)

  • C620 Pro Seminar in Higher Education (3 cr.)
  • C654 Higher Education in the United States (3 cr.)
  • C664 Higher Education Organization and Administration (3 cr.)
  • C750 Topical Seminar: variable titles (3 cr.)
  • C750 Topical Seminar: variable titles (3 cr.)

In addition to the inquiry core requirements listed below, 6 credit hours of inquiry course work are required within the major: an early inquiry experience and an inquiry linkage course.

  • C788 Seminar in Research in Higher Education* (Inquiry Linkage) (3 cr.)
  • C788 should be taken near the end of program of study.  This is a course in which research relevant to the major field of specialization is studied.

Early Inquiry Experience

In the early inquiry course, a student carries out an actual research project, including the collection and analysis of data to answer a research question, and the writing of a research manuscript.

A course that the instructor designates as providing an early inquiry experience must meet the following criteria:

1. There must be a written product as a result of the early inquiry experience.

2. The product should be suitable for presentation and/or publication. This can include professional conferences or institutional presentations/publications.

3. The syllabus of a Special Topics course will clearly state the requirements that must be completed to fulfill the early inquiry experience.

In most cases, the student should (a) take a course with an assignment the instructor designates as fulfilling the early inquiry experience (including some Topical Seminars [C750] or the Capstone in Institutional Research [C678]) or (b) fulfill the requirement through Independent Study (C690).

Other Courses (15 cr.)

  • C655 Higher Education and Public Policy (3 cr.)
  • C656 American Community Colleges (3 cr.)
  • C661 Foundations of Institutional Research (3 cr.)
  • C670 Problems in Financing Higher Education (3 cr.)
  • C678 Capstone in Institutional Research (3 cr.)
  • C680 Philanthropy and Higher Education (3 cr.)
  • C695 Academic Problems in Higher Education (3 cr.)
  • C705 Legal Aspects of Higher Education (3 cr.)
  • C750 Topical Seminar: variable titles (3 cr.)
  • U544 Introduction to Student Affairs Work in Higher Education (3 cr.)
  • U546 Diverse Students on the College Campus (3 cr.)
  • U548 Student Development Theory and Research (3 cr.)
  • U549 Environmental Theory and Assessment in Higher Education (3 cr.)
  • C675 Supervised College Teaching (1-3 cr.)
  • C690 Independent Study (1-3 cr.)
  • C760 Internship in Administration (1-6 cr.)

Inquiry Core Requirements (12 cr.)

Required Course (3 cr.)

  • Y520 Strategies for Educational Inquiry (3 cr.) or Y521 Methodological Approaches to Educational Inquiry (3 cr.) *

Although either Y520 or Y521 can meet this requirement, Y521 is highly recommended because it is intended for doctoral students.

Other Courses (9 cr.)

Three additional inquiry courses approved by the Advisory Committee are required.  Core Inquiry Courses for the School of Education shall include all Y-prefixed courses offered in the School of Education EXCEPT Y500, Y502, Y590, Y660, Y690, Y795, and Y799. A list of approved inquiry courses may be found at

Three of the four required inquiry courses above should be taken prior to the qualifying exam.

Minor Requirements (12 cr.)

Course work should focus on the research and scholarship of an academic discipline that provides a useful perspective on the study of higher education. This perspective often influences the topic or methodology used in the dissertation. The minor may be any University Graduate School approved minor outside of the HESA program.

Alternatively, any twelve credits that form a single interdisciplinary minor may be approved by the University Graduate School.  For this alternative a faculty member from outside the higher education program (e.g., Sociology, Law, Educational Inquiry, Educational Policy, and Organizational Studies) must be a member of the student’s Advisory Committee.  A Minor Justification form must be submitted and approved by the Graduate Studies Office.

Elective Requirements

Fifteen hours can be used to further study an appropriate field, complete a second minor (minimum of 12 credit hours), or gain other professionally relevant knowledge.  Excess hours in other sections may reduce the amount of hours here.

Students are encouraged to enroll in six credit hours that provide a breadth of understanding of higher education as a field of study.

With Advisory Committee approval a student may use courses from other academic areas appropriate to research interests and professional objectives.

Y502 Intermediate Statistics Applied to Education (3 cr.) or its equivalent is required as a pre-requisite for the Ph.D.  If the course has not been taken prior to admittance to the program, it may be taken post-admission and be counted among electives.

Dissertation Requirements (15 credits)

  • C795 Dissertation Proposal Preparation* (3 cr.)
    • C795 should be taken near the end of program of study, after passing the qualifying exam.
    • C799 Doctoral Thesis in Higher Education (12 cr.)

Students are required to design, conduct, and orally defend an original piece of research. Refer to the Graduate Bulletin checklist of doctoral program milestones and other program resources for further details.

Additional Program Requirements:

1. At the end of the first year (or after 18 credit hours of course work for those not enrolled full time), doctoral students must participate in the First-Year Review process.  Instructions for this review can be found on the HESA web site. The advisor will assess performance to date and future program plans. The focus of the review is assessing a student’s ability to: 1) clearly articulate thoughts and ideas in an organized manner (written and orally), 2) analyze and synthesize research in order to formulate an opinion or argument, and 3) successfully complete program requirements, including the dissertation.

2. Students should finalize a program of study no later than the end of their second year if they are full-time students, or after completing 36 credit hours of coursework (excluding courses transferred from other institutions).

3. Prior to beginning a doctoral dissertation and at or near the time of completion of all course work, all doctoral students in the School of Education must pass a qualifying examination in their major area of study.  Following review by the faculty, the student must defend the written examination in a meeting with the Advisory Committee.  In effect, this examination process is intended to determine if a student is qualified to begin work on a doctoral dissertation.

Students must have an appointed Advisory Committee, including:

Two (2) faculty members from the student’s major, one being the student’s faculty advisor

One (1) faculty member representing the student’s minor

Student’s program of study must be approved by the Graduate Studies Office.

Students must have Advisory Committee approval to proceed with the qualifying exam.

Students must be in good standing and have no more than 6 credit hours of incompletes (in their current semester) to take the qualifying exam.  Any incompletes must be removed prior to nomination to candidacy.

4. The Ph.D. residency requirement can be satisfied by taking two consecutive semesters of nine credits at the Bloomington campus. Dissertation credit hours (C799) or credit hours in Advanced Research (G901) may not be used to fulfill residency requirements.

5. Refer to the Graduate Bulletin checklist of doctoral program milestones and other program resources for further details.

Academic Bulletins

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Additional program information can be found at the Office of Graduate Studies.