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Higher Education: Ph.D. - Doctor of Philosophy in Education

The Ph.D. in education with a concentration in higher education develops scholars who are able to conduct original research and interpret and communicate the results of such research through writing, teaching, practice, and other means.

At a Glance

Program Results

Ph.D. - Doctor of Philosophy in Education

–Higher Education

Career Objective

This program prepares graduates to pursue faculty careers or become senior administrators in colleges and universities.

Best Suited To

Highly qualified scholar-researchers who are interested in working in fields where the emphasis is on the production and communication of scholarship.

Program Type

  • Full Time


  • In-Person

Estimated Length

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

Application Deadline

December 1



About This Program

The School of Education and Human Development's Ph.D. in education with a concentration 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.

Ph.D. students 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 Overview

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements that apply specifically to this program are listed below:

  • 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)
  • 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 reach out to the contact at the bottom of this page.

Visit our Graduate Admission page for the full admission process.

Graduate Admission

Application for admission is made to the School of Education and Human Development Office of Admission & Enrollment. For more information about the graduate admission process, please visit our Graduate Admission page.


To learn more about specific courses taken as part of the completion of this degree, visit the graduate record website. These webpages represent the official repository for academic program requirements. A link to these publications can be found in the Curriculum Information section at the bottom of this page.

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)

  1. Student Experience/Student Development
  2. History, Philosophy, and Contexts
  3. Governance and Policy 

Research Courses (18 credits required)

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.

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

Course Descriptions

Information on courses that are part of the Ph.D. in Education-Higher Education curriculum can be found on the UVA graduate record website.

Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship

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.

Race and Inequality in Higher Education Fellowship Website

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

Additional Program Details

Departmental fellowships and assistantships are provided to a select number of applicants each year. A typical funding package includes funding for nine months in a combination of wages and stipends, tuition and all mandatory fees, and funds to cover student health insurance costs. The University also offers a limited number of competitive fellowships for which students enrolled in Ph.D. programs may apply.

Visit the Fellowships, Scholarships, and Awards page for additional funding opportunities.

In 2024, the UVA School of Education & Human Development is ranked #8 for best graduate schools of education in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

The school is ranked #18 in higher education for graduate schools of education.

Higher Education News

Program Faculty

Juan C Garibay

Juan C. Garibay

  • Associate Professor
Karen Inkelas

Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas

  • Professor of Education
Brian Pusser

Brian Pusser

  • Associate Professor
Christian L Steinmetz

Christian L. Steinmetz

  • Assistant Professor

Current Ph.D. Students

Below are some current students in this program. Prospective students are encouraged to reach out to current students via email to inquire about the program experience.

Jesse McCain headshot

Jesse McCain

  • Ph.D. Student
Danielle Moore-Lewis Headshot

Danielle A. Moore-Lewis

  • Ph.D. Student
Christian West headshot

Christian P.L. West

  • Ph.D. Student

Contact Us

The following faculty proposed the 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.