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Concentration: Higher Education

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Program: Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development
in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development (ELPHD)
Delivery Method: On Campus

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NC State’s Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development: Higher Education concentration provides exceptional opportunities for students interested in higher education to explore a core body of knowledge, gain real-world professional experience, and pursue advanced study.

Concentration Description

The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development: Higher Education concentration prepares leaders to serve in a variety of roles (e.g., faculty, researchers, policy-makers, administrators) within post-secondary education settings. The curriculum promotes an in-depth understanding of organizational administration, educational policy, international higher education, and rigorous methodological approaches to research and inquiry, and our scholarly community includes faculty who are among the most renowned in the field.

The concentration takes a multidisciplinary and global approach, whereby students and faculty examine educational problems from different traditions, including economics, political science, sociology, history, and organizational studies. Students also to take coursework in advanced research methods which allows them to develop strong data analysis skills and conduct rigorous research that advances knowledge and practice.

Faculty work closely with students to foster reflection, planning, and development. In addition to providing guidance, support, and encouragement to students as they navigate the program, faculty assist students with developing their methodological skills and establishing their program of research. Students also have access to a collaborative community of peers that supports their development.

We have designed this concentration to provide students with considerable flexibility. In consultation with their academic advisory committee, students develop a tailored concentration and professional development plan.

As a student in our concentration, you will develop the expertise required for advancement in colleges and universities, governmental agencies, think tanks, or public service organizations. The concentration focuses on four areas:

  1. Organizational behavior and management
  2. Public policy
  3. Research, evaluation, and assessment
  4. New for 2021: International higher education

Admission Requirements

Please note: If you are currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in our College of Education and are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development, you must formally apply to the program through the Graduate School.

  • Master’s degree (in any field) or minimum two years of post-baccalaureate work experience in higher education required.
  • GRE scores are optional.
  • Personal statement of interest and desired career goals. ​Statement should be written in essay format, be no more than 750 words, and address the following questions:
    • Why do you wish to obtain a Ph.D.?
    • Why do you want to come to NC State?
    • What are your research interests and are there particular faculty with whom you want to work?
    • How is this degree going to help you pursue your career goals now and in the future?
    • What unique contributions or special interests ​do you bring to the field of higher education?
  • Professional resume or CV
  • Transcripts from all institutions attended (except NC State)
  • Three professional/academic recommendations
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students

Course of Study

All doctoral degrees in the College of Education require a minimum of 72 graduate credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. Most doctoral programs in the College of Education require a minimum of 60 graduate credit hours beyond an approved master’s degree.

Time to degree is typically 4–6 years depending on enrollment status.


Doctoral Curriculum (revised for Fall 2021 and after cohorts):

All doctoral students in the Higher Education program area are required to complete

  • two college-wide Scholar-Leader courses,
  • two ELPHD core courses,
  • four courses in the qualitative and quantitative research sequence,
  • an advanced research course–which is selected in consultation with the student’s advisor/chair
  • a research practicum (independent study or dependent study under the supervision of a faculty member that may involve collaboration with a local educational agency, The Friday Institute, College of Education faculty member, local non-profit, etc.) and
  • Courses in the specialization core (Courses selected to complete the specialization core vary depending upon a student’s scholarly interests, background, and career goals. Specialization core courses must be selected in consultation with the advisor).

The courses listed below and the accompanying credit hours should be considered the minimum requirements for the degree. On the recommendation of members of the student’s advisory committee, required classes may be supplemented by additional coursework. Students should be mindful of time limits associated with achieving candidacy and completing the degree.

Research Core (15 credit hours)

ED 710 Quantitative Research

ED 711 Quantitative Research-Advanced

ED 730 Qualitative Research

ED 731 Qualitative Research-Advanced or advisor approved ED 7XX advanced methods in a specific type of qualitative research (phenomenology, case studies, action research, etc.)

ED Research Methods Elective

College-Wide Scholar Leader Courses (6 credit hours)

ED 755 Scholar Leader: Diversity and Equity in Schools and Communities

ED 756 Scholar Leader: Systemic Change in Education and Society

Core Scholar Leader (6 credit hours)

EAC 892 Doctoral Research Project

EAC Approved Elective

Higher Education Concentration (18-30 credit hours)

Courses are selected in consultation with advisor.

Sample courses include:

ELP 749 – Higher Education Finance

EAC 787 – Organizational Theory and Higher Education

EAC 778 – Higher Education Law

EAC 795 – Higher Education Policy

EAC 795 – International Higher Education

ELP 735 – Policy Research in Education

ELP 751 – Politics of Education

ELP 780 – Evaluation Theory & Practice in Education

ELP 795 – Implementation Research and Evaluation

Students can also enroll in courses in other programs and departments.

Dissertation (9 credit hours minimum)


Writing the dissertation requires a major commitment of time and effort on both the part of the doctoral student and the faculty advisor. Students must register for at least 3 semester hours per semester for (EAC 891, 895 or 899).

Additional Info

More information about our programs and student life in general may be found in our Student Handbook, here.

ACPA Directory of Graduate Programs

NASPA Graduate Program Directory

Graduate Assistantship Information

As a community, we value engaging in effective educational research and practice, and our students enact this value through coursework, graduate assistantships, research projects, and professional development opportunities.

Research, teaching, and practice-based experiences within our Higher Education concentration take several forms: (1) assistantships, (2) research projects, (3) independent studies, (4) supervised teaching, and other independent projects. Graduate assistantships are paid opportunities for part-time employment (15-20 hours per week) and are generally contracted for a minimum of an academic year. Many of these opportunities are made possible through our strong partnership with the Division of Academic and Student Affairs at NC State.

Students in the Higher Education concentration are not required to hold a graduate assistantship; however, most of our full-time students are interested and able to secure assistantships to help fund their graduate education while gaining valuable experience. There is not a separate application for obtaining a graduate assistantship; the Higher Education concentration assists in the matching process for students in the program. Each year, we host an annual spring Recruitment Weekend where students are able to interview for various assistantship that will be available during the following academic year. Assistantship/Employment contracts, tuition remission, and stipend amounts vary based upon the position and institution. In addition to assistantships at NC State, our program has longstanding partnerships with both Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in the past, we have had assistantships at North Carolina Central University and Meredith College. Below are a sampling of assistantships at NC State held by our students:

Our Faculty

David English
Associate Teaching Professor

Chad Hoggan
Associate Professor

Stephen Porter
Professor of Higher Education