Ph.D. in OLPD
Higher Education

This Higher Education (HE) track program prepares you with a solid foundation in the history, philosophy, sociology, and organizational theory of higher education. Together, in a community of diverse and accomplished learners, you will dive deep into empirical research and policy analysis to understand higher education’s field-specific systems, issues, and practices. You will produce your own original research, advancing the field and contributing to the growth, vitality, and sustainability of our institutions.

Our department’s specializations include administration and organization, policy, student affairs, equity-oriented change, and research integrity.

The doctoral program in Higher Education prepares you for a career as a faculty member, policy analyst, administrative leader, and researcher. This is a scholarly degree where you will be trained to produce exceptional, original research.

Doctoral students in Higher Education gain the capacity to:

  • Teach in both research and practice-focused environments.
  • Design research projects; collect, analyze, and interpret data; and provide clear and actionable insights for practitioners and policymakers.
  • Serve as leaders and experts in higher education policy and administration.
  • Identify and articulate the highly-nuanced challenges and innovations in the field.


72 credits (48 credits of coursework + 24 thesis credits) completed in 3-5 years for full time students.

OLPD Departmental Core

  • OLPD 8011—Doctoral Research Seminar I (1 cr) [Fall term of first year]
  • OLPD 8015—Inquiry Strategies in Educational and Organizational Research (3 cr) [Take Spring term of first year]
  • Quantitative research course (3 cr) selected with approval of advisor
  • Qualitative research course (3 cr) selected with approval of advisor
  • Additional methods courses (6 cr) selected with approval of advisor

Higher Education Program Core

  • OLPD 5701—U.S. Higher Education (3 cr)
  • OLPD 5704—College Students Today (3 cr)
  • OLPD 8702—Administration and Leadership in Higher Education (3 cr)
  • OLPD 8703—Public Policy in Higher Education (3 cr)


  • 9 credits focused on issues relevant to the Higher Education, selected with advisor approval.

Additional coursework

  • Minimum of 11 credits required. These credits can be used to meet the requirement that a minimum of 12 credits be taken outside the HE track or for a minor. Courses not specifically listed should have advisor approval.

Thesis credits (24 credits)

  • All Ph.D. students are required to register for 24 semester thesis credits (OLPD 8888) after completing the preliminary oral exam. These must be taken over two or more terms.
I was drawn to OLPD because it allowed me to pursue coursework and projects using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and I continue to love being part of this department because of the faculty and colleagues who were incredibly welcoming from the beginning and have been very supportive and genuinely invested in my work.

Daniel Greenberg, PhD 2020

How to apply

Application deadline: December 1 for a Fall semester start.

Fall semester start only.

Applicants may only apply to one OLPD track.

Applications are not complete until ALL required materials and fees have been received. If anything is missing, your application may not be considered. It is strongly recommended to apply at least two weeks before any submission deadlines.

Applications are processed by the Graduate School. A decision for admission notice will be emailed to you once your application is carefully reviewed by the department's admission committee and your transcripts and any credentials (test reports, diploma copies, etc.) are authenticated by Graduate School officials.

Detailed guide for online application [PDF]

Apply here

Admission requirements

Degree: Master's degree or equivalent

GPA: Undergraduate 3.0; Graduate 3.5

Note: Applicants should not submit GRE scores, as they will not be considered in the review process.

TOEFL/IELTS Scores (Not required for U.S. students):

  • TOEFL: Internet based = 79 or above
    (21 writing/19 reading)
  • IELTS = 6.5

Readmission: OLPD students who have become inactive must follow the readmission procedures.

Tuition and funding

Tuition information: CEHD | OneStop
Financial aid: CEHD | OneStop


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