Educational Studies - Educational Leadership and Higher Education

Educational Studies - Educational Leadership and Higher EducationDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Program Length

4-5 years

Credits Required


*beyond the master’s is typical



GRE/Entrance Exam

Not Required

Application Process

Preparing Future Scholars in Academia

The Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Studies with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education, provides academic preparation and professional development for those individuals interested in the study of educational leadership and higher education.


This program allows students to choose from three different areas to focus. Below are the three concentrations which are available.

Higher Education
The Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education with a concentration in Higher Education is ideally suited for students who are currently employed at a college or university, giving them the ability to advance their knowledge in the field so that they can become a scholar in the field.

Community Colleges
The Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education with a concentration in Community Colleges is ideally suited for students who are currently employed at a college or university. This program allows those students dedicated to advancing our knowledge and understanding of the field, and go on to scholarly and academic pursuits, career advancement within their professional field of practice, and other leadership and policy arenas.

P-12 Educational Leadership
The Ph. D. in Educational Studies with a concentration in P-12 Educational Leadership is ideally suited for students who are currently employed at a P-12 institution the ability to advance their knowledge in the field to become scholars in the field. Students interested in becoming a superintendent should pursue an Ed.D. degree with a specialization in P-12 System Level School Leadership. The Ph.D. degree does not offer a superintendent endorsement.

The Ph.D. program is a blended program. Students complete the majority of their coursework online and are required to complete at least two summer research seminars offered in a blended format (some online work with 1 week on campus). The Ph.D. requires students to complete a minimum of 6 credit hours of an on-campus summer research seminars.

Courses are offered on the regular semester and summer session schedule of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Summer research seminars are offered during the summer in a blended fashion (time-intensive on-campus experiences complemented by additional online content) to facilitate the on-campus research seminar requirement. Courses are announced in the UNL schedule available online and students register for courses using the University web-based enrollment and billing system.

New applicants should be aware that not all advisors can accept new students every year. We recommend that you contact the individual faculty members to learn about their scholarly interests and advising capacity in the course of preparing your application for admission.

Our Unique Program


  • Students learn from faculty who conduct and share leading research on contemporary challenges and opportunities in higher education. These scholars have devoted their careers to teaching, researching, discovering, and sharing what works in higher education administration.
  • Students also learn from faculty with decades of combined experience as higher education administrators and leaders who have lived and breathed the work of directors, coordinators, and supervisors at a variety of higher education institutions.
  • Courses are taught by current UNL administrators and carefully selected external professors, bringing an extra dimension of real-world credibility and authenticity to the program.

Individual Attention, Support, & Hands-on Learning

  • Students apply administrative theory and current research to their unique work environments while building supportive relationships with faculty and colleagues. Students leave the program with an expanded network of support, connections, and perspective.
  • Multiple opportunities to grow through additional, no-cost learning opportunities such as the Women in Educational Leadership Conference (WELC), the Critical Issues Forum, and the Sybouts Student Research Symposium.

Access to Leading Higher Education Professionals

  • Experienced college and university administrators share expertise from the very beginning on current issues, such as enrollment, retention, access, campus culture and climate, law, student involvement, equity, and other key topics.

From Day One

  • With a thorough background in theory and experience with its application, our graduates are Day-One-Ready for student engagement and success, recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff, human and alumni relations, and other aspects of higher education administration.

Courses and Schedule

  • The Ph.D. degree in Educational Studies through the Educational Administration department requires a total of 63 credit hours post-admission, comprising 24 credit hours of core and concentration courses, 6 credit hours of electives, and 18 credit hours of research and methodology coursework, plus 15 credit hours of dissertation writing. The program is designed to be completed in as few as 5 years, depending on a students' dissertation project. Students are expected to take two courses per academic term (6 total per year) and advance to candidacy in their third year. Students who pursue full-time study may be able to complete sooner than this and, especially if they reside locally, may be able to avail themselves of even more professional development opportunities in the pursuit of a scholarly research career. Admitted students benefit from the formation of a doctoral supervisory committee at the outset of their studies, providing a community of peers and faculty members to pursue shared scholarly endeavors and to support each student's successful completion.

Launching Your Journey

Program Curriculum

The sequence of courses taken by a student is dependent upon if the student is enrolled part-time or full-time. For part-time students, it is expected that they take 2 courses per semester, including over the summer, for a total of 6 courses per year. Full-time students should take 3 courses per semester and 2 over the summer. Deviating from this sequence may delay program completion, as certain courses are offered at certain times and are subject to enrollment limits. Additionally, a student's specific sequence of courses is also dependent upon the concentration that they select to pursue. Students unable to follow the sequence as outlined should be in regular communication with their advisor.

Course Sequence for part-time students (Higher Education or Community Colleges concentration)

  • If you elect a concentration in Higher Education or Community Colleges you should abide by the following guidelines.
      • Select EDAD 919 Social and Political Contexts of Education Administration (spring, priority doctoral students).
      • Select 1 EDAD 966 Summer Seminar in HE Current Issues (summer, priority doctoral students).
      • Select 2 Higher Education courses from among the following (*asterisk indicates those cross-listed with other programs).
    • Fall options:
      • *EDAD 840 College Student Development
      • *EDAD 910 Higher Education Environments
      • *EDAD 905 Governance
      • *EDAD 923 Community Colleges
      • *EDAD 935 Workforce, Economic, and Community Development
    • Spring options:
      • *EDAD 832 Higher Education in America
      • *EDAD 912b CC Leadership Issues
      • *EDAD 936 HE Strategic Planning
      • *EDAD 932 Global Issues in Higher Education
    • Summer options:
      • EDAD 966 Summer Seminar in HE Current Issues (priority doctoral students)
      • *EDAD 922 Finance in Higher Ed
      • *EDAD 925 Law and Higher Ed
      • *EDAD 934 Teaching and Learning in CC

Course Sequence for part-time students (P-12 Educational Leadership concentration)

  • If you elect a concentration in P-12 Educational Leadership you should abide by the following guidelines.
      • Select 1 EDAD 995 or 966 advisor-directed summer seminar
      • Select 3 P-12 leadership courses (including from among MEd courses as warranted), at least 2 from the following:
      • *EDAD 935 Workforce, Economic, and Community Development
      • *EDAD 905 Governance
      • *EDAD 906 System Level Admin
      • EDAD 919 Social and Political Contexts of Education Administration (priority doctoral students)

Course Sequence for full-time students (any concentration)

 "The skills and knowledge gained from my time as a research assistant and graduate of the EDAD program not only cultivated me as a scholar and methodologist but has helped me thrive as an Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University. Many Huskers supported me along the way; however, I am most grateful for my chair, Dr. Deryl Hatch-Tocaimaza, and my entire dissertation committee, Drs. Yao, Freeman, Bondi, and Morales."

Kaleb L. Briscoe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Mississippi State University

 "My work as an administrator at a community college brought more questions than answers, so I knew that community colleges would be one of my research interests. As a working professional who lived in New York, I needed a hybrid program that had: a good reputation, accomplished scholars, and opportunities to engage in research. I found all in the Department of Educational Administration. "

Evagela Q. Oates, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian for Student Success, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Application Process

The application deadline for Fall admission is January 15.

Graduate Admission Requirements
  • Application for Admission with $50 non-refundable application fee.
  • One set of transcripts.
  • If the student’s native language is not English, verification of English proficiency is required.
  • If International: upload copies of all college- or university-level transcripts or mark sheets (records of courses and marks earned), with certificates, diplomas, and degrees plus certified English translations.
    • Official documents are required from all students who are admitted and enroll. Photocopies of certified records are not acceptable. International students enrolled in other U.S. institutions may have certified copies of all foreign records sent directly to the Office of Graduate Studies by their current school’s registrar office.
  • If applicant is not a US citizen and expects an F or J visa: financial information.
  • Applicants must also fulfill any additional requirements the department specifies at the time of application.
    Major Admission Requirements
      • Personal Statement- Your statement should address the following three areas (2-3 pages):
      •  1. How does a doctoral degree figure into your career trajectory and goals as an educator?

         2. How will your doctoral studies contribute to the vision of this department and in relation to the scholarship/expertise of faculty members with whom you would like to work?

         3. What is your plan and strategy to complete your degree in a timely manner? (For instance, online coursework, occasional and/or required on-campus residency requirements, development of research and writing skills.)

    • Essay (maximum 4 pages):
      • Describe what you see as one pressing educational challenge or opportunity, why this challenge/opportunity is important to address, and how you might address it through your doctoral studies and/or dissertation work. (Explain how your scholarly inquiry regarding this challenge could add to the research literature.)
    • Resume
    • Three recommendation letters


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