Higher and Postsecondary Education PhD

Doctor of Philosophy in Higher & Postsecondary Education


The Higher and Postsecondary Education (HPSE) Program at Teachers College, Columbia University strives to create knowledge, knowledgeable scholar-practitioners, and practicing scholars concerned broadly with teaching, learning, and scholarly and professional development; organizational and institutional analysis, including abilities to probe and develop the structures, processes, policies, and technologies that comprise colleges, universities, and state and national systems of tertiary education; social and comparative perspectives, with attention to the social, cultural, economic, and historic context of knowledge production, policy, and institutional development. We expect that students will work within and across these domains and scholarly disciplines, developing programs of study that, though focused on particular themes and issues (e.g., policy, scholarly learning and careers, student development, professional development), will be informed broadly and deeply by a diverse array of ideas, perspectives, and questions.

The Ph.D. degree in Higher and Postsecondary Education is designed to prepare scholars and researchers in the area of Higher Education. To achieve the purposes of the program, the Ph.D. was designed to provide both subject-matter competence and research skills (study design, methodology). The domain of inquiry for the Ph.D. is the field of higher education. However, each student will also select a discipline-based cognate as an anchor for their developing understanding of the multi-disciplinary field of higher education.

Candidates for the degree will be equipped to recognize significant issues and their value assumptions, identify problems needing research, and design and undertake original scholarly research projects that are likely to have direct application to a particular higher education setting. Candidates will also receive supervised training in the teaching of higher education as a field of study. The program will draw on designated College strengths in diverse research strategies/methods, tailoring these to the study of higher education when appropriate.

The Ph.D. in Higher Education is designed for students pursuing careers as academic faculty, administrators, policy analysts, and educational researchers. Since the PhD is a scholarly degree, the core objective of this degree program is to prepare researchers of the highest quality. Our program engages in broad explorations of higher and postsecondary education, and of the contexts that shape the enterprise and its activities. Ph.D. students conclude their program by writing a dissertation that, though focused on a particular research problem within higher and postsecondary education, reflects the deep understanding of knowledge structures underpinning a particular area of inquiry.

Two students in conversation outside of Teachers College

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

Statement of Purpose

  • For more information on our application process and guidelines for the statement of purpose, please visit the Admissions website.

Additional Degree Information

Our curriculum emphasizes the mastery of particular theoretical frameworks and research methods in the social sciences or humanities. Each doctoral student is required to create a cognate in a discipline or interdisciplinary area. Students who enroll full-time typically complete the program in four to five years, past their master’s.

The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 75 points of graduate coursework, completion of the certification exam (two parts), and the writing and successful defense of a dissertation.

Required core courses include (19 points):

  • ORL 5521 Introduction to research methods in education (3) or equivalent with advisor approval
  • ORLH 4020 College and University Organization and Administration (3)
  • ORLH 5011 College Teaching & Learning (3)
    OR
    ORLH 5527 The College Professoriate (3)
  • ORLH 5044 Theories of Diversity in Higher Education (3)
    OR
    ORLH 5545 The Civic Mission of Higher Education (3)
  • ORLH 5526 The Literature of Higher Education (3)
  • ORLH 6511 Coordinating Seminar in Higher Education (3)
  • ORLH 7500 Dissertation Seminar (1)

Methods Requirements (9-12 Points):

A minimum of three (3) additional research courses (9 points beyond ORL 5521) will be selected relative to the student's research preparation needs; selection of research coursework requires approval of the dissertation sponsor. At least one introductory qualitative and one introductory quantitative course are required; plus, one advanced methods course. Additional methodological coursework and a research apprenticeship are recommended and may be required by dissertation sponsor or committee toward development of appropriate research expertise. Consult with dissertation sponsor.

Disciplinary Cognate Requirement (12 points):

A minimum of four (4) courses within a discipline that is chosen by student in consultation with academic advisor.

The remaining courses are electives. Up to 30 points may be transferred from a relevant master’s program with advisor approval.

Changes or other adjustments to requirements and distributions, as shown for the Ph.D. in Higher and Postsecondary Education, require approval of the HPSE faculty advisor. The above plan assumes advisor approval for all courses of enrollment.

A limited number of internships may be available to Ph.D. students, pending advisor consultation and approval of the Program Director. For information, please contact the Program’s Internship Coordinator.

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