A highly individualized doctoral program with nationally-recognized faculty researching the issues shaping higher education. 

Penn GSE's Higher Education Ph.D. program is pioneering research on the most pressing questions in higher education: college access and affordability; race, gender, and inclusion policies on campus; international education; and university governance. Our graduates are prepared to contribute to the field through positions in academia, government, or nonprofit institutions. 

What Sets Us Apart

4 Years Full funding for up to 4 years
#2 Penn GSE Programs in Higher Education have been highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report for over a decade
  Penn proudly houses the IES Predoctoral Training Program, a multi-year opportunity for current Ph.D. students offering both financial and skill-building support

About the Program

The Ph.D. in Higher Education prepares students for an academic career in the field of higher education. Through coursework and a research assistantship with their advisor, students develop the skills they need to conduct quality primary research in higher education.

Application deadline
Closed for Fall 2024. The application for Fall 2025 will be available September 1, 2024.
Entry term(s)
Course requirements
2 methods courses
Typical course load

Fall: 3-4 courses; Spring: 3-4 courses

Transfer courses acceptedUp to 8 with faculty approval

Culminating experienceDissertation 

  • Full-Time

The Higher Education Ph.D. 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. Students develop the skills they need to conduct quality primary research in higher education, including understanding research design; program evaluation; and the analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data.


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 Ph.D. students develop a planned program of study in consultation with their academic advisor.

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

Our Faculty

Higher Education faculty are leading the conversation about how to expand college access, equity, and affordability. These experts are routinely sought by university presidents, foundation leaders, journalists, and policymakers seeking to understand the changing landscape of higher education. Please contact our program for information on selecting a faculty advisor. 

Penn GSE Faculty Ross Aikins
Adjunct Associate Professor
Penn GSE Faculty Rachel B. Baker
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University
Penn GSE Faculty Amalia Z. Daché
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Rochester
Penn GSE Faculty Peter Eckel
Senior Fellow
Ph.D., University of Maryland
Penn GSE Faculty Diane E. Eynon
Senior Fellow
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Manuel S. González Canché
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Arizona
Penn GSE Faculty David Grossman
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Matthew Hartley
Professor and Board of Advisors Chair of Education
Ed.D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Laura W. Perna
Vice Provost for Faculty
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Penn GSE Faculty Alan R. Ruby
Senior Fellow
Associateship, London Institute of Education
Penn GSE Faculty Valarie E. Swain-Cade McCoullum
Provost’s Distinguished Senior Fellow
Ed.D., Temple University
Penn GSE Faculty Ann E. Tiao
Assistant Dean for Student Services
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Damani White-Lewis
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
Penn GSE Faculty Julie E. Wollman
Professor of Practice
Ph.D., New York University

Affiliated Faculty

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

Anita Mastroieni
Executive Director for Graduate Education and Initiatives
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

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

Frank Roth
General Counsel & Secretary, Board of Trustees, Lehigh University

Sean Vereen
President, Steppingstone Scholars, Inc.
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Demetri Morgan

"Everyone at Penn GSE is there for your success."

Demetri Morgan

Higher Education Ph.D., 2016

Our Graduates

Alumni Careers

  • Assistant Professor, Loyola University of Chicago
  • Assistant Professor, Seattle University
  • Assistant Professor, The University of Michigan School of Education
  • Assistant Provost for Administration, Bryn Mawr College
  • Associate Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Senior Program Officer, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Senior Policy Advisor, United States Department of Education    

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

Program Contact

Ross Aikins
Adjunct Associate Professor, Program Manager
(215) 898-8398

Noel Lipki
Program Assistant
(215) 746-2923

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

All Ph.D. students are guaranteed a full scholarship for their first four years of study, as well as a stipend and student health insurance. Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.