College of Education and Human Development

Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development

Higher education PhD

in Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development

This program prepares you with a solid foundation in the history, philosophy, sociology, and organizational theory of higher education. As part of a community of diverse and accomplished learners, you will dive deep into empirical research and policy analysis to understand higher education’s field-specific systems, issues, and practices. You will produce your own original research, advancing the field and contributing to the growth, vitality, and sustainability of our institutions.

A doctoral degree opens opportunities not only in traditional academic settings but also in research institutions, policy organizations, and consulting firms. Networking, staying engaged in professional associations, and contributing to scholarly publications can enhance your career prospects in this field.

    • Advanced Expertise: A Ph.D. program provides an opportunity to delve deeply into a specific area of interest within higher education and student affairs. This level of specialization can make you an expert in a particular aspect of the field, allowing you to contribute valuable insights and research.
    • Leadership and Administration Roles: A Ph.D. can open doors to leadership and administrative positions within higher education institutions. It equips you with the knowledge, research skills, and strategic thinking necessary for roles such as department chair, dean, vice president, or president someday.
    • Research Opportunities: Ph.D. programs typically involve extensive research, allowing you to contribute to the academic literature and advance the field's knowledge. This research experience can be particularly valuable if you are interested in shaping policies, practices, and theories within higher education.
    • Faculty Positions: A Ph.D. is often a requirement for securing faculty positions at colleges and universities. If you have a passion for teaching and want to shape the next generation of higher education professionals, a Ph.D. can be a steppingstone to a career in academia.
    • Contribution to Practice and Policy: With a Ph.D., you can play a role in shaping the practices and policies that guide higher education institutions. This may involve working with governmental agencies, accreditation bodies, or institutions themselves to influence the direction of higher education.
    • Networking and Collaboration: Ph.D. programs provide opportunities to network with other scholars, researchers, and professionals in the field. Collaborating with colleagues on research projects, attending conferences, and participating in academic communities can enrich your professional network.
    • Development of Critical Thinking Skills: Doctoral programs are designed to cultivate advanced critical thinking and analytical skills. These skills are valuable not only in academia but also in various leadership and decision-making roles within higher education.
    • Personal Fulfillment: For individuals passionate about higher education and student affairs, earning a Ph.D. can be personally fulfilling. It allows you to pursue your intellectual interests, contribute to the betterment of higher education, and make a lasting impact on the field.
    • Global Perspectives: Our Ph.D. programs offer opportunities for international experience and exposure, providing a broader perspective on higher education challenges and solutions. This global outlook can be valuable in an increasingly interconnected world.
    • Problem-Solving and Innovation: Through the process of completing a Ph.D., individuals develop problem-solving skills and the ability to think innovatively. These qualities can be applied to address complex issues facing higher education institutions.

    Here are some positions held by alumni of our higher education PhD program:

    • University Professor: Teach courses in higher education administration, student affairs, or related fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Conduct research, publish scholarly articles, and contribute to the academic community.
    • Senior Administrator/Executive Leadership: Pursue high-level administrative roles within universities, such as Dean of Students, Vice President for Student Affairs, Provost, Chief Diversity Officer, President, or other executive leadership positions. In these roles, you would be responsible for shaping the overall vision and strategy on campus.
    • Researcher/Policy Analyst: Conduct research on higher education issues, student development, and institutional effectiveness. Work for research institutions, think tanks, or government agencies, contributing to the development of policies that impact higher education.
    • Consultant: Provide expertise to colleges and universities as an external consultant or work for consulting firms specializing in higher education. Assist institutions in areas such as strategic planning, accreditation, and program assessment.
    • Director of Assessment and Institutional Research: Lead efforts to assess and improve institutional effectiveness, student outcomes, and program evaluation within a university setting.
    • Diversity and Inclusion Officer: Take a leadership role in promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. Develop and implement initiatives to create a more inclusive and equitable campus environment.
    • International Programs Director: Oversee international education programs, exchange programs, and services for international students. Ensure compliance with immigration regulations and promote global engagement on campus.
    • Director of Academic Advising: Lead and coordinate academic advising services, ensuring that students receive effective guidance in their academic and career paths.
    • Policy Advocate/Analyst: Work for advocacy organizations or government agencies to shape policies related to higher education, student affairs, and academic success.
    • Higher Education Program Developer: Design and implement new academic and co-curricular programs to enhance the student experience and meet the evolving needs of students and institutions.
    • Director of Residence Life: Oversee housing and residence life programs, creating a positive and supportive living and learning environment for students on campus.
    • Educational Leadership Consultant: Collaborate with educational institutions, organizations, and government agencies to provide guidance on leadership development, organizational change, and educational improvement.

    Quote from Daniel Greenberg

    I was drawn to OLPD because it allowed me to pursue coursework and projects using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and I continue to love being part of this department because of the faculty and colleagues who were incredibly welcoming from the beginning and have been very supportive and genuinely invested in my work.

    Daniel Greenberg PhD 2020


    72 credits (48 credits of coursework + 24 thesis credits) completed in 3-5 years for full time students.

    OLPD departmental core

    • OLPD 8011—Doctoral Research Seminar I (1 cr) [Fall term of first year]
    • OLPD 8015—Inquiry Strategies in Educational and Organizational Research (3 cr) [Take Spring term of first year]
    • Quantitative research course (3 cr) selected with approval of advisor
    • Qualitative research course (3 cr) selected with approval of advisor
    • Additional methods courses (6 cr) selected with approval of advisor

    Higher education program core

    • OLPD 5701—U.S. Higher Education (3 cr)
    • OLPD 5704—College Students Today (3 cr)
    • OLPD 8702—Administration and Leadership in Higher Education (3 cr)
    • OLPD 8703—Public Policy in Higher Education (3 cr)


    9 credits focused on issues relevant to the Higher Education, selected with advisor approval.

    Additional coursework

    Minimum of 11 credits required. These credits can be used to meet the requirement that a minimum of 12 credits be taken outside the HE track or for a minor. Courses not specifically listed should have advisor approval.

    Thesis credits

    All Ph.D. students are required to register for 24 semester thesis credits (OLPD 8888) after completing the preliminary oral exam. These must be taken over two or more terms.

    How to apply

      Admission Deadline

      Application 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.

      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

      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.