An Ivy League doctoral program tailored for experienced leaders in higher education.

This executive program in higher education management brings together cohorts of senior leaders from higher education, government, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector to study with a world-renowned faculty – all without career interruption. In just two years, you will earn an Ivy League Ed.D. by completing all coursework and dissertation requirements in an intensive professional learning community. The intellectually rigorous program is a springboard for career advancement and access to a lifelong professional learning community. Our alumni are senior leaders shaping the future of higher education.

What Sets Us Apart

45+ 45+ alumni are college presidents
#7 Higher Education Division is ranked #7 by U.S. News & World Report, 2020
  Rigorous curriculum designed specifically for senior-level leaders through an innovative format

About the Program

The executive format pedagogy is designed for senior working professionals, featuring convenient scheduling, highly-specialized course offerings, and research projects that are directly tied to a student’s professional life. The cohort-based model allows students to develop diverse and collaborative learning communities as the cohort moves through the program together. The program provides a structured and systematic approach to the curriculum and dissertation, enabling students to complete their work and earn their degree within two years.

Entry term(s)
Summer
Course requirements
20 course units

Culminating experienceDissertation 

Experiential field research2-week immersive international experience

Format(s)
  • Executive-Style
Programs for Working Professionals
Overview

This program focuses on the core issues and challenges facing higher education, and the skills and knowledge required to effectively lead higher education institutions. Our philosophy is that leaders of dynamic organizations must innovatively practice data-driven decision making within a complex social, political, and economic environment. Distinguishing features of the program are the development and application of strategic management skills, evidence-based decision making, and a scholarly dissertation.

Curriculum

Course Structure

The curriculum is structured into three strands—evidence based management, higher education contexts, and institutional leadership classes. The first year curriculum places a greater emphasis on coursework, providing a practical, theoretical, and methodological foundation for designing a dissertation. The second year continues with a similar focus but coursework is lightened, as students concentrate on independent investigations and analyses for their dissertations. 

Cohort

The Executive Doctorate is a residential program, where students travel monthly to Penn from across the United States and internationally. Executive Doctorate students are senior higher education professionals from academia, government, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. They reflect the broad diversity of higher education, by race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and religious affiliation, as well by the type of higher education institution and roles within those institutions.

Our admitted student cohorts are purposefully diverse in terms of their professional and institutional backgrounds. Each class brings together senior leaders of two- and four-year campuses, public and private, for-profit and faith-based, historically black and Hispanic serving, elite and open enrollment. Represented in the room are presidents, vice presidents, deans, and our senior managers in the areas of finance, advancement, planning, student affairs, enrollment management, and virtually every segment of the enterprise. 

For more information on courses and requirements, visit the Higher Education Management Ed.D. program in the University Catalog.

Schedule

This is a full-time Ed.D. program delivered in an executive-style format which allows you to keep your full-time job while in the program. Cohort members take classes together; there are no electives. Due to the fast pace of the program, attendance at all course sessions is mandatory.

In the first year, you begin with a weeklong session in August. For the subsequent ten months, you come for monthly course sessions that take place over two and a half days. The second year begins with the international experience, typically for two weeks in July. Coursework continues in the second year, though at a lighter course load to allow students time to complete their research and dissertation drafts. In the weeks between monthly class meetings, you can expect 15 or more hours of assigned or independent work each week. The final program milestone is an oral dissertation hearing, typically held in April, and the completion of a book-length research study.

Course sessions take place monthly in Philadelphia, with the exception of the International module and one other cohort weekend. The program consists of six consecutive terms, beginning with a later summer term and culminating in a spring term two years later. Tuition is inclusive of all books, meals, and on-campus hotel accommodations. All admitted students transfer the equivalent of a year of graduate coursework from a previous master’s degree, first professional degree, or other doctoral degree as part of the credit requirements of the program.

Dissertation

A cornerstone of a doctoral education is the development of an independent research project leading to a dissertation. The Executive Doctorate approach focuses on scholarly inquiry as a management tool. These dissertations, on a diverse variety of topics, are frequently recognized by professional associations for their outstanding contributions to the literature, and many have been published as books or articles in scholarly or professional journals. 

Executive Doctorate dissertations meet the same standards as all Penn GSE Ed.D. degrees. A committee chair and a second reader are assigned in the first year to provide guidance to students throughout the process. All full-time faculty and several committed practictioner-faculty serve as readers and chairs, and are assigned to student committees based on their subject and methodological expertise. A third committee member is selected, often from outside of Penn, in consultation with the student.

Executive Doctorate dissertations explore a broad range of research questions. While students do not need to define their specific research interest at the start of the program, most have identified several potential areas of inquiry. Topics are generally chosen by the end of the first fall term, then developed over the subsequent spring term, at the end of which an oral hearing is held with the committee to review the dissertation proposal. Data collection then takes place during the summer and early fall, followed by analysis and drafting. Oral defenses of the final dissertation are held toward the end of the spring term of the second year.

Our Faculty

The curriculum is taught by core Penn higher education faculty and nationally recognized practitioners.  Each student is assigned and works with a Penn GSE faculty member on the development of a scholarly dissertation.

Penn GSE Faculty Sharon M. Ravitch
Professor of Practice
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Peter Eckel
Senior Fellow
Ph.D., University of Maryland
Penn GSE Faculty Laura W. Perna
GSE Centennial Presidential Professor of Education
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Penn GSE Faculty Diane E. Eynon
Senior Fellow
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Robert M. Zemsky
Professor
Ph.D., Yale University
Penn GSE Faculty Matthew Hartley
Professor
Ed.D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Amalia Z. Dache
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Rochester
Penn GSE Faculty Manuel S. González Canché
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Arizona
Penn GSE Faculty Joni Finney
Professor of Practice
Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

Affiliated Faculty

Our affiliated faculty of notable practitioners, leaders of higher education associations, and international scholars bring extraordinary experience and knowledge to the classroom. As integral contributors to the Executive Doctorate curriculum, these instructors present curriculum with practical applications in management.

Peter Garland
Executive Vice Chancellor, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
Ph.D., Penn State University

David Grossman
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Ira Harkavy 
Associate Vice President and Founding Director, the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania  
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania   

Jessie Harper
Assistant Dean, Faculty Affairs and Diversity
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Mary Hinton 
President, College of Saint Benedict  
Ph.D., Fordham University   

Kedra Ishop  
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, University of Michigan  
Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin   

Larry Moneta  
Vice President for Student Affairs, Duke University  
Ed.D., University of Massachusetts   

Jason A. Presley
Vice Dean, Finance and Administration, Penn GSE
Ph.D., New York University

Ann E. Tiao
Assistant Dean for Student Services
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Our Graduates

Most students are seeking career advancement that would be facilitated by a terminal degree or advanced study in the field of higher education management. According to our alumni, the program provides unparalleled preparation for senior leadership positions, supplying them with dynamic tools for surmounting campus-wide challenges. Graduates from the program are college and university presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents, deans, state and federal policy leaders, and nationally recognized academic entrepreneurs.

This program plays a pivotal role in the professional lives of our alumni well beyond the end of our two-year program. The strong network built within and across cohorts provides a constant resource for exploring ideas, finding solutions, and enabling career changes. From an annual Alumni Conference at Penn that addresses key issues in the field to receptions, seminars, and continued virtual interactions, the connection to our program continues to reward our students long after they’ve graduated.

Alumni Careers

  • Assistant Provost and Chief of Staff, Fordham University
  • Dean, University of Virginia, Darden School of Business
  • Deputy Chair, National Endowment of the Humanities
  • Head of School, Girls Preparatory
  • Policy Advisor, U.S. Congress
  • President, Whittier College

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415
admissions@gse.upenn.edu
finaid@gse.upenn.edu

Program Contact

(215) 746-6401
execdoc@gse.upenn.edu

Diane Eynon, Ed.D., M.B.A.
Program Director and Senior Fellow
eynond@upenn.edu

Jessica Lundeen
Program Manager
(215) 746-6401
mlundeen@upenn.edu

Matthew Jernigan
Program Coordinator
(215) 573-2284
mjern@upenn.edu

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

Most students in this program fund their degree through a combination of personal resources, employer benefits, and student loans.

Three people talking

Program Information Sessions

To RSVP for a virtual information session or open house please send an email to execdoc@gse.upenn.edu. If you are planning to attend a virtual information session our office will contact you with a link to access the session.

‘You leave here thinking anything is possible’

In this video, our alumni describe how the program transformed their thinking—and their careers.