College of Education and Human Development

Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development

Education policy and leadership PhD

in Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development

This Education Policy and Leadership (EPL) doctoral program establishes foundational understandings of educational systems, leadership dynamics and the realities of power and politics in schools, as well as the role of research in educational innovation and improvement. 


Doctoral students in Education Policy and Leadership gain the capacity to:

  • Conduct original research and provide expertise on how school systems work to serve all learners

  • Examine multiple dimensions of PK-12 educational systems, including their cultural and historical contexts, as well as policies and mandates that shape practice.

  • Build consensus among diverse stakeholders.

  • Help school systems and policymakers discover ways in which to support healthy and sustainable districts, design programs that enhance learning and development throughout the student lifecycle, and promote a deep understanding and connection between the education we receive and the individuals we become.


  • Professor in educational leadership
  • Research associate or fellow
  • Director of research, curriculum, teaching and learning, or staff development
  • Philanthropic of non-profit executive leader or education program officer
  • Superintendent or assistant, associate, area, or deputy superintendent
  • Chief of schools
  • District administrator


Departmental core (16 credits)

Professional socialization seminar
  • OLPD 8011—Doctoral Research Seminar I (1 cr) [Take Fall term of first year]
Research courses
  • OLPD 8015—Inquiry Strategies in Educational and Organizational Research (3 cr) [Take Spring term of first year]
  • Quantitative course (3 cr inside or outside of department; with approval of advisor)
  • Qualitative course (3 cr inside or outside of department; with approval of advisor)
  • Additional methods course (6 cr; with approval of advisor)

Program core (18 credits)

  • OLPD 5001—Formal Organizations in Education (3 cr) [Take OLPD 5001 if offered – if not offered take alternatives OLPD 5011 or OLPD 5607]
    OR OLPD 5011—Leading Organizational Change: Theory and Practice (3 cr)
    OR OLPD 5607—Organization Development (3 cr)
  • OLPD 5346—Politics of Education (3 cr)
  • OLPD 8020—Leadership: From Theory to Reflective Practice (3 cr)
  • OLPD 8104—Innovative Systems Thinking in Education and Culture (3 cr)
  • OLPD 8302—Educational Policy Perspectives (3 cr)
  • Electives (3 cr minimum; with approval by advisor)

Additional coursework (12 credits minimum)

Minimum of 12 credits required. These credits can be used to meet the requirement that a minimum of 12 credits be taken outside the EPL track or for a minor. Courses not specifically listed should have advisor approval. Students who have successfully completed enrollment in the University of Minnesota's Principals Academy may use transfer credits to fulfill this requirement.

Thesis credits (24 credits)

All Ph.D. students are required to register for 24 semester thesis credits after completing the preliminary oral exam. The 24 credits must be taken over two or more terms.

  • OLPD 8888—Thesis Credits: Doctoral

Total PhD credits required

46 credits of EPL coursework + 24 thesis credits = 70 total credits

How to apply

    Admission Deadline

    December 1 for a Fall semester start. Fall semester start only.

    Applicants may only apply to one OLPD track.

    Applications are not complete until ALL required materials and fees have been received. If anything is missing, your application may not be considered. It is strongly recommended to apply at least two weeks before any submission deadlines.

    Applications are processed by the Graduate School. A decision for admission notice will be emailed to you once your application is carefully reviewed by the department's admission committee and your transcripts and any credentials (test reports, diploma copies, etc.) are authenticated by Graduate School officials.

    Online application and instructions

    Admission Requirements

    Degree: Master's degree or equivalent

    GPA: Undergraduate 3.0; Graduate 3.5

    Note: Applicants should not submit GRE scores, as they will not be considered in the review process.

    TOEFL/IELTS Scores (Not required for U.S. students):

    • TOEFL: Internet based = 79 or above
      (21 writing/19 reading)
    • IELTS = 6.5

    Experience (International educators only): 3 years experience in international education (preferred)

    Tuition and funding

    Tuition information: CEHD | OneStop

    Financial aid: CEHD | OneStop


    If a graduate student in an OLPD program has become inactive they must follow the readmission procedures.

    Whether you seek reactivation after accidentally being discontinued this term or want to return after a long absence these are the steps needed to re-apply.

    1. Complete the proper online readmission application.

      If you have been away from the program less than five years use the Express Readmission Application and email it to All others must submit the Online Application for Readmission
    2. Once received, the department will forward your application to the appropriate admissions committee. Readmission decisions are normally determined by the program’s admissions committee, not any one individual faculty member.

      Readmission is never guaranteed. Decisions for readmission are based on a review of previous progress toward degree completion, the proposed timeline for completion, the availability of faculty resources, and/or any additional application materials they may request from you. Individual programs/tracks reserve the right to readmit students under the current graduate program requirements, rules, and guidelines. They may also request an applicant to provide additional information prior to making a decision.
    3. Once the committee makes their recommendation, the department’s DGS will sign off on the decision and forward the result to the central Graduate Admissions Office for processing. Once processed, you will be notified of the decision.

    Individual department programs and tracks reserve the right to require readmitted students to retake coursework if they deem it appropriate. Readmitted students are also required to abide by current time-to-degree policies as determined by the University, which may differ from the policy in place when they first started the degree program.

    Individuals seeking readmission to the Ph.D., Ed.D., and M.A. program tracks in the former EDPA, WHRE, and WCFE majors can only reapply to the appropriate program track under the Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD) major name.


    We’re here to help. Simply complete this form and a member of our department will be in touch.