This degree is part of the higher education program, housed in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis.
The mission of the doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in higher education is to prepare graduates for research and teaching (i.e., faculty) positions in higher education programs, centers, and departments, as well as practitioner-leader positions in the variety of institutions and organizations in which postsecondary education plays a central role.
The higher education faculty are nationally recognized experts in college student development, administration, college access, faculty work, diversity issues in higher education and higher education policy. They regularly publish in top journals in the field and present their scholarship at national and international conferences, including the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the American Educational Research Association, and the Association for Education Finance and Policy.
Classes are mainly taught in seminar formats. This provides opportunities for students to enhance their communication skills and discuss empirical and theoretical work. Courses typically include case studies, presentations, papers, debates and reflection. These experiences are intended to help students meet the learning objectives of the program.
Through the program, students will gain the knowledge to:
- Examine the relationship of society and education through a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical studies;
- Understand issues of diversity, equity and social justice as they apply to higher education;
- Gain an understanding of the political context in which educators work and how these relationships play out across local, state and federal levels.
Through the program, students will have the skills to:
- Conceptualize and complete rigorous research projects as independent scholars using qualitative, quantitative and/or mixed-methods approaches;
- Analyze higher educational organizations from a variety of perspectives and theories;
- Become critical leaders and scholars in the field of higher education;
- Apply theory to practice in higher education and to examine the relationship of society and education through a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical studies;
- Describe the ways in which postsecondary leadership roles and processes may be influenced by political ideologies, globalization and cultural diversity;
- Communicate ideas clearly and within the standard practices of the field.
Doctoral candidates complete a minimum of 60 credit hours by selecting with their advisers courses that will most fully meet their individual needs. At least 16 hours must be taken at the 8000- or 9000-level or above, exclusive of research and independent study hours.
The degree includes:
Core courses in ELPA (12 hours)
- ED LPA 9400: Social Theory in Education
- ED LPA 9401: Educational Leadership
- ED LPA 9402: Educational Policy Analysis
- ED LPA 9403: Organizational Analysis
Core courses in research (15 hours minimum)
- ESC PS 8850: Quantitative Foundations in Educational Research (or its equivalent)
- ESC PS 8957: Qualitative Methods in Educational Research I (or its equivalent)
- ED LPA 9409: Introduction to Research Design
- ED LPA 9404: Inquiry into ELPA (Pro-seminar)
- One advanced research methods course
Higher education coursework (18 hours)
- ED LPA 9449: History of Higher Education in the U.S.
- ED LPA 9450: Administration & Governance in Higher Education
- Four electives
Electives (nine hours minimum)
Students will work with their advisers to identify additional courses to support their programs of study. Students are strongly encouraged to take additional research method courses and courses outside the department related to their research interests. Courses taken for graduate certificates, such education policy studies or qualitative research, or minors, such as college teaching or women’s and gender studies, may be included.
Dissertation hours (six hours minimum)
- ED LPA 9090: Research in ELPA
Residency and Transfer Credits
Students must complete residency requirements. To do so, they must take either two 9-hour semesters or three 6-hour semesters consecutively.
A maximum of 6 semester hours of graduate-level graded course work completed at another accredited college or university offering an equivalent degree may be transferred subject to approval by the adviser, the department director of graduate studies and the Office of Graduate Studies.
Up to 12 hours earned as a post-baccalaureate graduate student at MU may be applied to the degree pending admission to the program and approval of program faculty.
Exams and Dissertation
Doctoral students must successfully complete qualifying and comprehensive exams. The format for comprehensive examinations can vary and is determined by students’ committees. A dissertation and a final defense are also required of all candidates.
Assistantships, Scholarships & Fellowships
ELPA provides four years of funding (monthly stipend and tuition remission) for full-time students who are hired by the department and remain in good standing. Graduate assistants are expected to work 20 hours per week in research apprenticeships with faculty. A very limited number of teaching assistantships are available. Top candidates will be nominated for graduate school fellowships, which provide up to $10,000 a year in additional funding.
To receive full consideration for a departmental graduate assistantship in the following academic year, you should submit your application by January 15 (e.g., submit January 15, 2016 for an assistantship in 2016-17).
Apply by completing the assistantship application.The College of Education offers a variety of competitive scholarships for newly admitted and continuing graduate students.
- To begin coursework in fall semester: Jan. 15
- To begin coursework in spring semester: Sept. 15
- Departmental assistantship applications: Jan. 15
- GPA of 3.0 (4.0 scale) in the last 60 hours of undergraduate education from a regionally accredited institution
- GPA of 3.5 (4.0 scale) in graduate studies (master’s degree) from a regionally accredited institution
- Nationally competitive Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score
- Evidence of consistency between candidate’s and the program’s goals
- Minimum scores established by MU’s Graduate Faculty Senate for TOEFL or IELTS exams for non-native English speakers
- Three letters of recommendation (at least 2 of which should be from faculty who instructed or academically advised the applicant). Instructions will be provided through the Graduate School application process.
Any exceptions to the above must be justified.
How to Apply
- Complete the online graduate studies application.
For more information about this program, contact us: