Ph.D. in Education - Higher Ed

The School of Education and Human Development's Ph.D. in Higher Education program prepares graduates to pursue faculty careers or become senior administrators in colleges and universities. This is a research-based, full-time program that is offered in Charlottesville only.

The Ph.D. degree is the highest scholarly degree awarded by the University. The primary purpose of the Ph.D. degree is to develop scholars who are able to conduct original research and interpret and communicate the results of such research through writing, teaching, practice, and other means. The dissertation is characterized by original research that extends the theoretical and empirical knowledge bases of postsecondary education policy and practice.

Ph.D. students in higher education complete a program of study that includes at least 60 hours of coursework (excluding dissertation credit). Acceptance of up to 24 hours of transfer credit from a student’s master’s degree program or from post-master’s work completed at another institution is determined on an individual basis by the student’s advisor and the program head. The program coordinator may exempt students from required courses that they have already taken.

In addition to a required set of core courses in higher education (12 credits) and a minor in research methods (18 credits), the Ph.D. student is also required to complete elective coursework in higher education (12 credits). A content minor (12 credits), chosen with the advice and consent of the student’s advisor and organized around a theme or set of questions, is also required for the Ph.D. Courses for the content minor may be taken outside of the program and the School of Education and Human Development. Typical content minor concentrations include (but are not limited to) higher education policy, economics of higher education, politics of higher education, student affairs in higher education, organization and governance of higher education, and social foundations of higher education.

Ph.D. students are required to complete ten hours of mentored research per week each semester they are enrolled. Internship placements (paid, ten to twenty hours per week) can be arranged within the University of Virginia and at cooperating colleges and universities, other postsecondary agencies, or institutes. Research assistantships may also be available.

Program Details

  • Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

    The GRE is required for applicants applying to begin in 2023.

    To be considered for admission, submit your electronic application and supporting materials by December 1.

    Only full-time students are admitted to the Ph.D. program. Applicants are welcome but are not required to come to the School of Education and Human Development for an interview. To schedule an interview or campus visit, please contact the EDLF Programs Associate, Alicia Cowan-Brown at

    Materials required for application:

    • Statement of purpose (3-5 pages, speaks to reasons for pursuing the degree, including academic and professional goals)
    • Writing sample (typically a paper written during Master’s program)
    • GRE scores
    • Two letters of recommendation (at least one academic reference)
    • Resumé

    Unofficial transcripts and the writing sample should be attached to the online application. Official GRE scores and transcript will be required once an offer of admission is accepted. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Application Due Date

    December 1

    Decisions are typically released by February 15th.

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Degree Requirements

    Total hours required 72
    Course credit hours required 60

    Core (12 credits)
    EDLF 8665 Contemporary Issues in Higher Education
    EDLF 8654 Organization and Governance in Higher Education
    EDLF 8640 Inequality in Higher Education
    EDLF 8662 Politics and Education

    Higher Education Electives (12 credits minimum)
    Coursework should be distributed between three categories (minimum 1 course per category)

    Student Experience/Student Development
    EDLF 5830 College Student Experience 
    EDLF 7130 College Student Development
    History, Philosophy, and Contexts
    EDLF 6020 Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Higher Education
    EDLF 8651 History of Higher Education
    EDLF 8653 Curriculum in Higher Education
    EDLF 8663 The American Professoriate
    EDLF 8664 The Community College
    EDLF 8700 The Presidency in Higher Education
    Governance and Policy 
    EDLF 5820 Organization and Management of Colleges and Universities 
    EDLF 6010 Financial Management and Budgeting in Higher Education 
    EDLF 6030 Student Affairs in Colleges and Universities 
    EDLF 7132 Legal Aspects of College Administration
    EDLF 8680 Economics and Education Policy

    Research Courses (18 credits required)
    EDLF 7300 Foundations of Educational Research
    EDLF 5330 Quantitative Methods and Data Analysis I
    EDLF 7404 Qualitative Analysis 
    EDLF 9810 Research Seminar in Higher Education (This course is designed to prepare doctoral students to write their capstone proposals and may be taken only by individuals who have finished the research sequence and have no more than six credits to complete.)
    2 Research Electives

    4. Content Minor (minimum 12 credits)
    Students may take their content minor courses outside the program and the School of Education and Human Development, or they may choose courses from other School of Education and Human Development programs. The minor is meant to supply the student with substantive knowledge of and a theoretical grounding in an area that might be the topic of the dissertation. Courses to be taken for minor credit must be negotiated with and approved by the student’s advisor.

    5. Dissertation (minimum 12 credits)
    EDLF 9999 Doctoral Dissertation (may be repeated for credit)

  • Funding Opportunities

    Ph.D. students in the higher education program are generally supported through graduate assistantships and/or research apprenticeships with higher education faculty. Ph.D. students generally receive a combination of wages and/or stipends, health insurance, and tuition and fee support for up to four years. A typical funding package includes (a) a minimum of $18,000 for 9 months in a combination of wages and stipends, (b) tuition and all mandatory fees, and (c) funds to cover student health insurance costs. 

    Students may apply for federal financial aid such as loans or grants by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who have financial need and who are not dependents of their parents may also qualify for work-study stipends. Applications and further information is available from the Office of Student Financial Services.

    Once enrolled in the School of Education and Human Development, students are eligible for Foundation scholarships and awards. The majority of these scholarships and awards are based on merit and financial need. Because some funds are based on financial need, all students are encouraged to apply for federal financial aid in order to determine need.

  • Typical Length of Study

    2-3 full years for coursework, plus dissertation research.

    Full or Part Time:

    Full time.

Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship

  • Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship - Race and Inequality in Higher Education

    There is a pressing need to address and eradicate racial injustice from institutions of higher education across the country. The most effective responses to this complex situation are informed by collaboration among scientists, social scientists and humanists. Mutual insights from psychology, sociology, public policy, and higher education are further enriched and deepened through their intersection with the study of anthropology, culture, economics, history, politics and spatial planning. Training researchers across these areas will advance the development of meaningful interventions in the higher education environment, refine our ability to assess these interventions quantitatively and qualitatively, and enhance our opportunity to engage public audiences on this topic. Doctoral students with this background will be better positioned to pursue research careers in academe and a variety of employment sectors.

    Although students will apply to the Higher Education program, more information regarding the fellowship can be found on The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences website.

    The following faculty proposed this theme for an interdisciplinary doctoral fellowship program and are committed to co-mentoring students. Please contact them with questions about the research cluster or to discuss your research interests.

    Josipa Roksa Juan Garibay Karen Inkelas

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at