Ph.D. in Higher Education

Part of the Higher Education Division

The Ph.D. in Higher Education prepares students for an academic career in the field of higher education. The program is highly individualized and students work closely with their academic advisor to draw from courses from the division and from other areas on campus that relate to their area of inquiry. Through coursework and a research assistantship with their advisor, students develop the skills they need to conduct quality primary research in higher education.

Fast Facts

 

  • Transfer Courses Accepted: Up to 8 with faculty approval
  • Entry terms: Fall
  • Course Requirements:
    • Required: 2 methods courses
  • Typical Course Load:  Fall: 3-4 courses; Spring: 3-4 courses
  • Culminating Experience: Dissertation

 

View Admissions Requirements

Overview

The Ph.D. in Higher Education prepares students for an academic career in the field of higher education. The program is highly individualized and students work closely with their academic advisor to draw from courses from the division and from other areas on campus that relate to their area of inquiry. Through coursework and a research assistantship with their advisor, students develop the skills they need to conduct quality primary research in higher education. These skills include understanding research design; program evaluation; and the analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data.

Program of Study

Core Requirements

 

The Ph.D. program in Higher Education is highly individualized. At least 12 course units of graduate work must be taken at the University of Pennsylvania. The program requires students to complete two methods courses and a cognate in another academic discipline as described below. Ph.D. students develop a planned program of study in consultation with their academic advisor.

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Transfer Credit

GSE will, under certain conditions, accept equivalent credit toward the degree. Up to eight graduate-level CUs taken at GSE, Penn, or another institution, may count toward the Ph.D. degree. Transfer credit is not automatically accepted or applied toward the doctoral degree. Students should consult their academic advisor and the GSE website for the policies governing application for transfer credit in their first semester of coursework at GSE. Students who are not awarded a full 8 CUs of transfer credit should consult their academic advisor for the appropriate elective coursework to fulfill the coursework required for the Ph.D. degree program. Transfer credit paperwork needs to be completed during the students first semester of coursework, please consult the GSE website for the proper forms and procedures.

Methods Courses

All Higher Ed doctoral students are required to take two methods courses either within GSE or another school at Penn. One of these courses must be a statistics course.  Students should consult their academic advisor regarding the appropriate methods courses for their program of study. Methods courses filled at GSE outside of the Higher Education Division will also fulfill GSE’s distribution requirement. It should also be noted that students often take many more than the minimum requirement.

Elective Courses

Although not required, students also generally enroll in two research seminars, EDUC 631 Research Topics in Higher Education and EDUC 705 Proseminar in Research and Analysis, which help them develop the ability to read academic materials critically and to conceptualize their dissertation research.

Electives may be taken at any school at Penn; however, the majority of Higher Ed students fulfill their electives within the division.  Courses must be at the 500 level or above and students must consult their academic advisor before enrolling in any course outside of the Graduate School of Education.  Students without a master’s degree in Higher Education may be required to fulfill some of their electives with required coursework from the Higher Ed M.S.Ed. program.

Cognate

All Higher Ed Ph.D. students are required to fill a cognate in another discipline at the University.
Students should consult their academic advisor regarding their cognate interests and the appropriate courses for their program of study.

Information regarding program candidacy, the doctoral preliminary examination, forming a dissertation committee, holding an oral proposal hearing and scheduling a final defense can be found on the GSE website.

Course Load

The customary maximum load for a Ph.D. student is three or four course units each semester (spring and fall) and exceptions for a fifth course unit may be made in extraordinary cases with the approval of the graduate dean.

Qualifying Paper and Dissertation

After completing coursework, Ph.D. students must propose and complete a qualifying paper, a comprehensive review of the relevant literatures that inform our understanding of a particular educational issue. The qualifying paper may be completed in either the fall or spring semester.

The dissertation is a book-length presentation of original research relating to an aspect of higher education. A public, oral presentation of the dissertation is required.

Faculty

Ross Aikins, Ph.D.

University of California, Los Angeles

Diane Eynon, Ed.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Joni Finney, Ph.D.

Pennsylvania State University

Marybeth Gasman, Ph.D.

Indiana University

Manuel S. González Canché, Ph.D.

University of Arizona

Matthew Hartley, Ed.D.

Harvard University

Eric Kaplan, Ed.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Laura W. Perna, Ph.D.

University of Michigan

Alan Ruby, Associate

Institute of Education, University of London

Robert Zemsky, Ph.D.

Yale University



Contact

Higher Education Division

University of Pennsylvania
Graduate School of Education

3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Ross Aikins, Ph.D.
Program Manager and Lecturer
(215) 898-8398
raikins@gse.upenn.edu

Karen Carter
Coordinator: Higher Education Division
(215) 898-2444
karen@gse.upenn.edu

Questions for current students?
(215) 746-2923
E-mail Higher Education Division Graduate Assistants at:
GSE-HED@gse.upenn.edu