General Information

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Higher Education (PHD) 
Program Description

A Distinctive Higher Education Program

Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education: Dr. Gary Rhoades.

Established in 1977, the Center for the Study of Higher Education offers flexible, interdisciplinary, and individualized master of arts and doctor of philosophy degree programs with concentrations in comparative higher education, organization and administration, college access, and student affairs.

The Center's Faculty

The Center's work is distinguished by:

  • A commitment not just to improving practice, but also to educational changes that enhance the realization of social justice in higher education.
  • A consideration of how developments in the political economy shape and are expressed in the restructuring of higher education settings, professions, and practices.
  • An exploration of the international/global dimensions, issues, and agencies related to higher education, with particular attention devoted to the Americas.

These distinctive characteristics go beyond individual faculty; they reflect a collective synergy and orientation of our faculty to scholarship and practice.

A Diverse, Supportive, Challenging Intellectual Community

Each year we admit around ten (10) Ph.D. students and twenty (20) M.A. students. The life experience and perspectives of the 90-100 students enrolled here flavor our program. A high proportion of our students are accomplished professionals and we value the practical experience and organizational skills they bring.

Ours is a diverse, supportive, challenging intellectual community. Over half of our students are women, over 20 percent are students of color, and over 10 percent are international students. Many are first generation students. This diversity enriches our community and work.

In recognition for its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, the Center for the Study of Higher Ed has been honored with the Peter W. Likins Inclusive Excellence Award in 2010.

Faculty at the Center help foster a culture of research

We are supportive of each others' work and that of our students. Most of our students work, yet are fully engaged intellectually in a program that emphasizes a culture of research and reflective practice. Our aim is to bring theories and findings from the academic literature to bear on professional practice in ways that enhance students' abilities to understand, analyze, and act within postsecondary organizations and systems. We seek students who are deeply committed to the advancement and improvement of higher education as students, practitioners, scholars, and activists.

Most of our students advance into positions in various support professions and administration, but some also pursue faculty positions. Although most obtain positions on college and university campuses, we have also placed students in systemwide administration, policy agencies such as WICHE, and in private enterprise.

An important contributor to our intellectual community is the Higher Education Student Organization (HESO). It sponsors formal and informal annual functions and activities that are academic, professional, and social in nature and that address student needs as well as bring students and faculty together for supportive exchange.

The doctoral program integrates core courses in Higher Education, an area of concentration, and individually tailored courses of study that encourage students to undertake course-work with faculty in a variety of departments. The core course-work (Finance, Organization and Administration, History and Philosophy of Higher Education) provides a foundation enabling students to comprehend the central socio-political, cultural, organizational, and economic structures comprising and influencing American higher education.

The aim within each is for students to acquire a comprehensive understanding of concepts, theoretical frameworks, issues and practices in a particular area. Such work is organized to provide a solid foundation for students' doctoral dissertations as well as for their particular field of professional work. In addition to the concentration, doctoral students pursue a minor. The minor may be in higher education, in some other field (e.g. the student's area of master's work) or split between higher education and some other department.

Department/Academic Unit(s)

Educational Policy Studies and Practice -

The Department of Educational Policy Studies and Practice (EPSP) includes the Educational Leadership Program and the Center for the Study of Higher Education. The EPSP department combines the K-12 focus with postsecondary education to create a P-20 perspective that taps into the dominant discourse of education and policymakers today.

Both the Center for the Study of Higher Education (HED) and the Educational Leadership (EDL) program maintain their core functions and curriculum, consistent with professional career paths and state standards for certification leading to licensure. However, the combined unit more broadly facilitates and encourages research, instructional, and service and outreach initiatives consistent with a policy development and analysis focus.

A  key departmental strength concentrates on how organizations, institutions (both formal and informal), official practices, and educational professions affect outcomes across local, national, and international contexts and how these entities are themselves affected by societal, economic, and political pressures.

EPSP prepares graduate students at the doctorate and master's levels. Graduate programs in HED include Ph.D. and M.A. degrees. Graduate programs in EDL include an Ed.D., Ph.D., Ed.S., and M.Ed. The M.Ed. degree is a standards-driven curriculum leading to both a degree and state certification for the principalship.

College of Education  
Campus where offered
Main Campus - Tucson  
Admissions Contact
Diana L Peel
Graduate Program Coordinator
Diana L Peel
Director of Graduate Studies
Regina J Deil-Amen
Graduate College Degree Counselor
Cindy T Nguyen
Tuition and Fees
Please refer to the UA Bursar's Office Tuition and Fees Calculator for up-to-date information about tuition and fees. 
Please refer to the UA Registrar's's Office Special Course Fees for up-to-date information about special course fees. 

Admissions Information

Admissions Requirements
  • Completed Master's Degree
  • Experience in Higher Education and/or Leadership
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Preferred GPA of 3.5
Standardized Tests

Required test(s):
Graduate Record Exam (General GRE)

The Graduate Record Exam is part of the holistic application review and therefore there is no minimum score.

Other graduate entrance exams may be considered, with prior approval from the department.



Minimum TOEFL: 79
Minimum IELTS: 7

Financial Aid

Free Application for Student Federal Aid (FASFA)

Scholarship Universe

Graduate Access Fellowship

Admissions Deadlines

Domestic Applicants:

  • Fall ONLY: December 1st (Priority for funding)
  • Deadline: January 15 (After this deadline the application will not be accepted)

International Applicants:

  • Fall ONLY: December 1st (Priority for funding and Graduate Assistantships)
  • Deadline: January 15 (After this deadline the application will not be accepted)
International Conditional Admission
International applicants will not be considered for conditional admission by this program.
Other Information
The GRE Institution Code for The University of Arizona is 4832

Completion Requirements

Degree Requirements

The General Design of the Ph.D. Program in Higher Education 


There is no specific program of study; a program is designed for each PhD student in collaboration with the student’s faculty committee. A student must count at least 36 units toward the major, at least 9 units toward the minor, and at least 18 dissertation units.

Essentially, there are no specific course requirements although there are content requirements. For example, the student is required to pass the commons portion of the preliminary examinations in three areas but need not necessarily take the courses connected to those exams. There are three “higher education course requirements” that students normally take but for which courses from other colleges may be substituted. Credits may be transferred in from other graduate programs.

Content Requirements 

  • Quantitative Methods 
  • Qualitative Methods 
  • Research Design 

Note: Students are strongly advised to take Quantitative Methods and Research Design from Higher 
Education faculty. 

Higher Education Courses 
Courses on which the commons portion of the Preliminary Examinations are based. 

  • HED 601 Higher Education in the United States 
  • HED 609 Organization and Administration in Higher Education 
  • HED 650 Higher Education Finance 

Courses in the Concentration
From 3 to 15 credits or more 
From 0 to 9 credits or more 
Note: Normally, but not always, the minor is taken in other departments/programs of the University. The most common pattern is to minor in the same area in which the master’s degrees was earned although the variation is very large. One option is for a “split minor,” whereby a student selects courses from two or more departments and minor committee member may come from one or more of these departments. Requirements for the minor, including specific courses, are strictly at the discretion of the minor advisor and department. 

There is no specific credit hour requirement other than at least 30 units (comprising the 18 dissertation units and at least 12 units of letter-graded coursework) must be earned at the University of Arizona. The graded courses can be taken while the student is in the Ph.D program or may be courses taken while the student pursued a master’s (or even while in non-degree seeking status) at UA. Students should consult the Graduate College website for additional University requirements. 
Credits applied to the PhD are strongly advised to be completed within 10 years of the time that the degree is completed. Possessing a master’s usually will reduce the credit requirements. Because of the 30-unit rule (at the University of Arizona), the reduction in credits required as a result of credit transfer typically will be small. The most important principle to remember is that the student’s committee has final authority for the course of study, subject to the modest number of departmental and University regulations. 
The concentrations (majors) are College Access, Organization and Administration, Policy, and College Student Personnel. It is critical to note that courses other than HED courses may be listed in the major. 
Minor Requirements

Minors may be declared in Higher Education, or outside of the program with approval from your advisor.

Students must complete the minor department requirements as stated by the minor advisor.

Student Handbook  

Program StatisticsInformation about these numbers

Program-level Information
Application Acceptance Rate 69%
Med. Time-to-degree (years) 3.00
Department-level Information
Enrollment Percent Male 31%
Enrollment Percent Female 69%
Enrollment Percent International 2%
Enrollment Percent URM 44%

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Last revised 25 Mar 2015