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Ph.D. in Education Higher Education

Ph.D. in Education – Higher Education

The Ph.D. program draws in students from all over the US and world due to its comprehensive curriculum, nationally recognized faculty, and emphasis on scholarship, mentorship, and leadership. The Ph.D. program prepares individuals with the skills to carry out scholarly research, lead organizations, and create new knowledge. In addition to core courses, a combination of experiences, including seminars, programs, and international study abroad opportunities, complement students' learning.

Our signature 5:5:5 approach to doctoral-level learning lets students build a personalized plan of study based on their academic and research interests with specializations in educational psychology, international education, student affairs, and law, policy, and governance.

The course of study has four elements:

  • core courses (15 credits)
  • research courses (15 credits)
  • cognate courses (15 credits)
  • dissertation (15 credits)

The 60-credit program typically takes full-time students about 4 years to complete, including a dissertation that students start developing early in the program in a series of Proseminar courses. ODU's reputation as a U.S. News & World Report top-ranked research university and its status as the most affordable university in the Commonwealth of Virginia makes your degree worth the investment.

Core Courses


Research Courses


Cognate Courses


Looking to transition into higher education from another field? The Education Specialist (Ed.S.) is a 30-credit post-master's program designed for people with master's degrees in other fields who wish to transition into higher education administration from other careers and industries, as well as for administrators in higher education who desire professional advancement. Learn more >

Course of Study

5 Core Courses

  • HIED 805 Contemporary Issues in Higher Education
  • HIED 825 Higher Education Politics and Policy
  • HIED 893 History of Higher Education in the United States
  • HIED 894 Governance, Organization, and Administration of Higher Education
  • HIED 852 Higher Education Law

5 Research Courses

  • HIED 809 Proseminar in Doctoral Studies (3 x 1-credit)
  • FOUN 812 Research Design and Analysis
  • FOUN 822 Applied Linear Models in Educational Research or FOUN 823 Analysis of Variance Applied to Educational Research
  • FOUN 814 Qualitative Research Design in Education
  • Students work with advisor to select at least one (1) advanced methods course

Note: Most students also take FOUN 722 Applied Statistics & Data Analysis as a prerequisite to advanced statistics. However, students with prior knowledge of statistics (i.e., univariate, bivariate, t-test, chi-square, and simple linear regression) from prior graduate-level coursework may email syllabi from those course(s) to their academic advisor and request a waiver of the FOUN 722 prerequisite requirement.

5 Cognate Courses

Students who enter the PhD program have diverse backgrounds, experiences, and goals. Students, in consultation with their advisor, tailor courses to meet those goals and select five (5) elective courses as a cognate focus. Cognates include specialized areas such as:

  • international education,
  • organizational strategy & change
  • community & technical colleges,
  • educational psychology, and
  • educational policy, planning, & assessment.

Cognate courses deepen study in a manner that complements the student's core coursework. Courses may be taken in the HIED program or other ODU graduate programs, including the Educational Psychology and Program Evaluation (EPPE) program and Graduate Program in International Studies (GPIS), as well as additional research courses (FOUN).

  • International Education cognate courses include Global Higher Education Systems, Campus Internationalization, Global & Intercultural Perspectives, International Cultural Studies, Global Political Economy, Globalization & Social Change in the World System, Comparative Sociopolitical Studies, and special topics courses.
  • Organizational Strategy & Change cognate courses include External and Internal Relations, College & University Presidency, Strategic Planning, Higher Education Leadership, Enrollment Management, Applied Statistics, and special topics courses.
  • Community & Technical College cognate courses include Modern Community College, Community College Finance, Fundraising, & Resource Management, Community College Curriculum, Program Development, & Quality Assurance, Community College Politics & Policy, and Community College Leadership.
  • Educational Psychology cognate courses cognate courses Theories of Learning and Instruction, Sociological and Philosophical Foundations of Education, Human Development in Education, Motivation in Education, Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning, and special topics courses.
  • Educational Policy, Planning, & Assessment cognate courses include Educational Measurement and Assessment, Analysis with Large Datasets, Advanced Qualitative Methods, Program Evaluation in Education, Formative Assessment of Student Learning, advanced statistics coursework, and special topics courses.


  • FOUN 881 Dissertation Seminar
  • HIED 899 Dissertation (12 credits minimum)

Summer Institute

The Summer Institute is the premiere annual event for the Higher Education doctoral program.

Each Summer Institute features a different guest scholar who engages with students in-class and presents on issues relevant to higher education leaders. There are also a variety of social and professional events that prepare students to successfully complete the coursework and dissertation.

Learn More
Students in Thought During Guest Scholar

Graduate Assistantships

All full-time Ph.D. students will be considred for graduate assistantships. We seek to match full-time Ph.D. students with graduate assistantships that fit their academic and professional interests. No additional interview beyond the admissions interview is required to be considered for Ph.D.-level assistantships.

Types of Assistantships. GAs work with a faculty member in our department to support their research and teaching, or work in administrative roles to support senior college or university leaders.

Stipend and Tuition Waiver. Doctoral-level graduate assistantship benefits include a stipend ($15,000/year); they also include a tuition waiver which covers 24-credits per year: 9-credits in the Fall, 9-credits in the Spring, and 6-credits in the Summer. Assistantships are awarded annually and renewed for up to 3 years.

Travel Support. GAs receive travel support to attend and present at academic conferences, e.g. AERA, ASHE, etc.

Health Insurance. Health insurance is available to all degree-seeking graduate students. Eligible students may enroll in the health insurance program on a semester-by-semester basis.

Points of Pride

US Capitol

Read Op-Ed: "Valuing diversity and inclusivity in higher education" by President John R. Broderick

  Academic, Administrative, & Policy Careers

  • Our signature 5:5:5 approach lets students build a personalized plan of study based on their academic and career goals, including academic, administrative, and policy-related careers.
  • Located near Washington D.C., in a vibrant metropolitan region rich with a diversity of higher education institutions, including HBCU's, community colleges, and liberal arts colleges.
  • Students have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. (fall) and Richmond, VA (spring) to meet with policymakers and higher education association leaders. View photos from this year's DC Policy Program.
  • President John Broderick teaches courses on the College and University Presidency ("ODU president teaches his potential successors" Source: The Virginian Pilot) and External and Internal Relations for Higher Education.

UN Flags

  Global & International Opportunities

  • Our program is 1 of 4 programs in the U.S. with a specialized focus on International Education among over 350+ programs listed in NASPA's Graduate Program Directory.
  • ODU is the institutional sponsor of the Journal of International Students. Students have opportunities to be involved in management of this leading interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed publication on international student affairs.
  • Students have the option travel abroad on a different 10-day study abroad experience each year in the Global Higher Education Systems course. Recent courses have studied higher education in Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
  • Our program has an international reputation for academic excellence, attracting students from around the world with current students in our department from 🇬🇷 Greece, 🇧🇷 Brazil, 🇱🇧 Lebanon, 🇳🇬 Nigeria, 🇦🇫 Afghanistan, 🇭🇺 Hungary, 🇨🇳 China, 🇮🇩 Indonesia, 🇮🇶 Iraq, a number of whom are Fulbright scholarship recipients. #YouAreWelcomeHere

🎥 Watch a video with highlights of our 2018 Thailand Study Abroad program and read a full-description of our global partnership with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

EFL Web Images

  Professional & Scholarly Community

  • Travel support for Ph.D. students to present at national academic and professional conferences, e.g. ASHE, AERA, NASPA, NAFSA, etc.
  • We believe mentorship is essential for professional development and academic success, so students work closely with their academic advisors throughout the program and are assigned peer advisors to help with their transition to the program.
  • We develop a sense of community among students, professionals, and scholars through:
    • professional events, e.g. Graduate Research Colloquium (GRC), Summer Institute Research Summit, etc.
    • organizations, e.g., Future Faculty Fellows (F3), and
    • social events, e.g. Higher Ed on Tap at O'Connor Brewing Company, etc.
  • Doctoral students also love to hangout at Norfolk's many local eateries, breweries, and coffee shops in the Ghent district near ODU, as well as take a day to relax at Virginia Beach or hike the Shenandoah Mountains.

EFL Higher Education

  Summer Institute

  • Ph.D. students begin their program at our premiere annual event: the Summer Institute, a national event where students engage one-on-one with faculty members and build strong, supportive relationships with each other.
  • The Summer Institute features a guest scholar who engages with students and presents on issues relevant to higher education leaders.
  • There are a variety of social and professional events held during the Summer Institute designed to prepare students to successfully complete the coursework and dissertation.
  • The program also sponsors speaker series and events with guest scholars throughout the year.

Student Profiles


M.P.S. Clinical Psychology Concentration: Higher Education

"Initially, I was hesitant about transitioning from the field of psychology to education; however, the program's cognate courses allow students to take courses offered by other departments relevant to education to suit student's personal interests."

Courtney Jane currently teaches at Christopher Newport University, and works as a Graduate research assistant at Old Dominion University.

Courtney Jane's research interests include: Adjunct faculty teaching quality and strategies and their impact on undergraduate student academic achievement.


M.S. Higher Education Florida State University

"I was looking for a reputable program on the east coast that allowed me to continue working with students while pursuing my degree full-time. ODU's faculty were very accommodating and the program offers a strong balance of research, theory, and practice. The Summer Institute and interacting closely with the CCL Program was also a major draw."

Preston Reilly worked in student activities for five years prior to becoming a full-time Ph.D. He currently works as a GA in the Dean of Students Office advising Student Government Association.

Preston's research interests include: Belonging, campus traditions, student success, and student affairs professional development.


M.B.A. Marketing, Indiana University Kelley School of Business| B.S. Mass Communications Study, Boston University

"I chose to return to school for my PhD in higher education when I realized that I needed to change the course of my career and pursue my passion for higher education administration. I selected ODU for the opportunities I would be afforded in terms of class selection, GA work, and the overall community atmosphere of the program."

Amy spent the majority of her career working in the Investment Banking industry as a Corporate Access professional.

Amy's research interests include: Entrepreneurship education and the impact of entrepreneurship on economic development, Alumni relations, branding, marketing, and communications; Organizational strategy and change; Philanthropy, civic engagement, and fundraising.


M.Ed. College Student Personnel, Ohio University | B.B.A. Marketing and Human Resource Management, Ohio University

"I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in higher education to further my knowledge base and open up future career opportunities in university administration. I chose ODU because I was excited for the opportunity to pursue a degree in higher education administration with a cognate in educational psychology and program evaluation. The knowledge I have gained through the program has made me a better and more intentional practitioner in my work for the university, and it has opened-up opportunities to pursue research interests in my career field."

Jenn currently serves as the Director of the Peer Educator Program in the Center for High Impact Practices at Old Dominion University, overseeing peer tutoring, peer academic coaching, and peer-assisted study sessions for undergraduate ODU students.

Jenn's research interests include: Peer education and Supplemental Instruction; Completion and transfer; Student success, well-being, and development; and Teaching, learning, and assessment.

How To Apply

Ph.D. applicants must apply by February 1st to begin in the summer semester. All applicants must have a completed Master's degree from a regionally accredited university. To apply to the program:


  • Complete an online application, and pay application fee;
  • Upload unofficial transcripts from previous educational institutions;
  • Applicants whose native language is not English must submit a current score for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT of at least 80.

Applicants also upload supplemental materials including:

  • A CV or resume that describes the your academic and professional background;
  • 1-page Essay/Statement of Purpose that addresses: What are your professional goals? Why do you wish to obtain a PhD?
  • An original 2-page single-spaced academic writing sample on a current issue facing higher education of interest to you that adresses: What is the issue? Why is it important to the field of higher education research and practice?
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation. At least one letter must come from a professor or an individual who describes the applicant's academic performance and writing ability. Letters from senior-level leaders that endorse the applicant's leadership potential are encouraged. Applicants will enter the emails for references in the online system, and references will be emailed a link to upload a letter of recommendation on letterhead and complete the online reference form.

No additional forms need to be submitted with your online application to be considered for Ph.D.-level assistantships. Admitted students are automatically eligible for assistantships, so applicants do NOT need to complete the optional Application for Institutional Graduate Financial Assistance form to be considered for assistantships. No additional interview beyond the admissions interview is required to be considered for assistantships.

The GRE is not required to apply to the program. Email us at hied@odu.edu if we can help you at any time throughout your application process.​


The admissions committee composed of program faculty will review all applications then will select applicants for an interview via phone or in-person with the committee or committee member(s). Interviews will be used to determine final admissions decisions.

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