Phases of Doctoral Study

The Higher Education doctoral program, whether a Ph.D. or D.Ed. degree, consists of three phases below.

The initial phase stresses the integration of the academic disciplines with the professional study of higher education in the “core” areas of study of the program. The four courses and areas examined are: (1) Foundations of Higher Education; (2) College Students; (3) Administration and Organization in Higher Education; (4) and Equity and Diversity in Higher Education. In most cases this phase culminates with the student sitting for their graduate candidacy (qualifying) examination.  

The second phase involves an increased emphasis upon the more specialized studies and experiences related to the student's identified area of study concentration and professional emphasis. This phase consists of various sequences of advanced courses and seminars, independent study, practicums, internships, and related research activities, which usually include the exploration and identification of probable topics for doctoral research. This phase emphasizes the student's use of appropriate methodologies and the development of a variety of techniques for studying a wide range of problems. These might include comparative studies of institutions, interdisciplinary investigations of programs and instructional procedures, historical case studies, analyses of the dynamics of program and organizational reform and innovation, and the construction and testing of theoretical models. This phase includes a formal program review with several faculty members, and the completion of a dissertation proposal course in which a dissertation proposal is begun.  This phase eventually culminates with the student sitting for the graduate comprehensive examination (i.e., dissertation proposal defense).

In the final phase, the doctoral student concentrates on research and writing of a doctoral dissertation related to the student's area of specialization, theoretical/conceptual focus, and professional interest. The student and his/her doctoral committee determines the subject and focus of this research undertaking, utilizing an appropriate set of theoretical constructs, data-gathering methodologies, and analytical techniques. All students are required to defend their dissertation in order to graduate.

PLEASE NOTE: The length of time to complete a doctoral degree depends on the student’s status (i.e., full-time or part-time), area of study, and other individualized circumstances.