Education Policy PhD

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy


In the rapidly changing and increasingly complex world of education, a crucial need exists for better knowledge about how schools and school systems, higher education, and early childhood education can be organized and led most effectively. We need to reach deeper understandings of how policies, politics, and the law can advance the twin goals of excellence and equity, how educational institutions and systems can best acquire and use resources, how leaders can support teacher development and student achievement, and how education policymakers and leaders can make best use of information from student assessments, program evaluations, and analytical research. This knowledge should be based on thoughtful reasoning and solid evidence; it should be theoretical in scope but also have clear implications for education practice.

The campus-based Ph.D. degree in Education Policy responds to these knowledge demands by focusing on the scholarly study of education policy. This degree program provides the opportunity to develop expertise in many interconnected subject areas and preparation for careers in academic research and teaching or in applied policy development and research. Graduates of the Ph.D. program are able to build new knowledge, teach new leaders, and craft new policies.

In the Education Policy program, students will consider how laws and policies impact the reform of educational systems and how they support or impede improvements in curriculum, teaching, and student achievement. Furthermore, students will analyze the political, social, economic and legal dynamics that affect policy development and implementation.

The program may be completed in 75 credits, of which up to 30 credits may be transferred from another graduate institution. In addition to study in education policy, the program requires extensive preparation in quantitative and qualitative research methods and in one of the cognate social sciences offered by the University, for example, Political Science, Sociology, Economics, or Law. For information, please contact Gosia Kolb at kolb@tc.columbia.edu.

Doctoral Student Profiles

Career Outcomes

Study Guides & Worksheets

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Admissions Information

Doctor of Philosophy

  • Points/Credits: 75
  • Entry Terms: Fall Only

Application Deadlines

  • Spring: N/A
  • Summer/Fall (Priority): December 15
  • Summer/Fall (Final): December 15

Supplemental Application Requirements/Comments

  • GRE General Test (waived for students applying for 2021)
  • Two (2) Academic Writing Samples
  • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation, one (1) of which should be academic

Application Guidelines and Required Documents

The faculty members of the Education Policy Program collectively make admissions decisions for our Program. We are committed to a holistic review of applicants’ materials and to creating a diverse and inclusive doctoral cohort and learning community. In the application materials, the Statement of Purpose is particularly important. We strongly recommend that applicants describe their intellectual and applied interests in education policy and why they believe our program is a good fit for them given their background, past experiences, and future plans. It is helpful to mention particular specialization areas they’re interested in and/or faculty members they would like to work with. Applicants are also encouraged to describe any personal circumstances that have impacted their prior education and their plans for the future. Doctoral study culminates in a research dissertation, and while applicants are not expected to enter our program with a fully conceived research plan, it would be helpful to know about prior research experience and current general thinking about an eventual topic area. While we ask for GRE scores, they are not the decisive factor and we do not have any particular cut-off point for admission. Regarding letters of recommendation, we ask for three letters, at least one (1) of which should be from a professor or another academic source who can speak to the applicant’s academic interests and strengths.

Requirements from the TC Catalog

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In the rapidly changing and increasingly complex world of education, a crucial need exists for better knowledge about how policies can support early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, and higher education while advancing the goals of efficiency, excellence, and equity. The school-year Ph.D. degree in Education Policy responds to these knowledge demands by focusing on the scholarly study of education policy. This degree program provides the opportunity to develop expertise in many interconnected subject areas, as preparation for careers in academic research and teaching or in applied policy development and research.

The program may be completed in 75 points, of which up to 30 credits may be transferred from another graduate institution. In addition to study in education policy, the program requires extensive preparation in quantitative and qualitative research methods and in one or more of the social science disciplines, including economics, history, law, political science, and sociology. Students must complete a doctoral certification process and a research dissertation.

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