The PhD is a research-oriented degree, designed for students interested in faculty or research careers. Our PhD students focus on applying new conceptual, theoretical, and methodological perspectives to challenging issues in the field of higher education. They work closely with faculty and peers in mentored teaching and research experiences and develop competencies necessary for a successful faculty or research career. Our PhD students contribute to and become part of the body of knowledge that informs higher education policy and practice. The PhD program is available for students enrolled at the Tuscaloosa campus. The PhD program of study requires a minimum of 72 hours of graduate study beyond the master’s degree, including at least 24 hours of dissertation research.

Program Coordinators: Dr. Nathaniel Bray

Admission Requirements

Apply to the Graduate School

Prospective students should apply to both the UA Graduate School as well as the department. For information about applying to the Graduate School and to submit your Graduate School Admissions Application online, visit the Graduate School Online Application Center. When applying to the Graduate School, select the desired degree program as well as the campus location/mode of delivery.

The following materials need to be sent to the Graduate School.

  • In response to COVID-19, most admission test scores (GRE/GMAT/MAT MCAT) have been waived for Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. Note: This waiver does not apply to applicants to the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.
  • Transcripts. You should submit all transcripts from postsecondary institutions attended. Prospective students should have maintained an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, or a 3.0 average for the last 60 semester hours in a degree program.

Apply to the Department

The following departmental requirements should be submitted to Graduate School’s Managing Supporting Documents portal.

  • HEA Application
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • A one-page statement of purpose for pursing the degree (you can use the same for the graduate school application)
  • Vita or resume
  • Writing Sample:  A five-page writing sample describing a problem that faces higher education today (nationally), analyzing salient points of the issue, and evaluating potential solutions. The sample should demonstrate formal writing and should include appropriate citations.  Applicants may submit an academic paper in lieu of the five-page essay, preferably on a recent topic related to higher education.

Application Deadlines

Executive program:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Higher Education:  January 15

Qualified students interested in graduate assistantships should have all application materials by the application deadline.

Questions concerning the application process should be directed to:

LaTara Turner
Higher Education Program

Program Requirements

Time Limits for Doctoral Study
Doctoral programs of study may include appropriate coursework that has been earned six years prior to the date of the student’s admission to the doctoral program. All degree requirements must be completed within seven years of the date of the student’s admission to the doctoral program. For example, a student being admitted on August 15, 2001, may utilize appropriate coursework earned after August 15, 1995, and may also utilize appropriate coursework earned after August 15, 2001, until August 15, 2008.

Time Limits Extension Request
Under unusual circumstances, a student may petition for a one-semester extension to the seven-year time limit, which, if recommended by the committee chairperson and approved by the graduate dean, will not require the student to validate any out-of-date courses. Validation of out-of-date courses is not an option in the College of Education. If a student fails to complete all degree requirements within seven years of her/his/their admission to the doctoral program, the student will be dropped from the doctoral program and must reapply for admission.

Repeating Courses When Given an Extension
When requests are made for extensions of Graduate School deadlines, and it is deemed that an out-of-date course is integral to the degree program, the Dean of the College of Education may request permission of the Graduate School for these courses to be repeated. In such instances, both grades shall be used in calculation of the GPA.

Doctoral Residency
The University of Alabama recognizes that doctoral students should be immersed in advanced study and inquiry, interact extensively and meaningfully with faculty and peers, engage with the academic community in their field, and have access to the educational resources of the university. To achieve these goals, a minimum of 50 percent of coursework hours to be counted in a student’s doctoral program must be from The University of Alabama (exclusive of dissertation research hours and subject to the Graduate Catalog’s Transfer of Credit policies). Additionally, 100 percent of dissertation credit hours must be from The University of Alabama. Diverse academic traditions, rapidly changing instructional modalities, and new student populations are acknowledged and accommodated with this policy.

Outside Member of Dissertation Committee
A special committee, with the director of the dissertation as its chairperson, supervises the preparation of the dissertation. The committee shall have not fewer than five members, approved by the dean of the Graduate School. One member must be from outside the student’s major department.

PhD and EdD Degree Programs
Most questions and concerns are left to the discretion of the Program of Study committee.

ELPTS Policy on the Hiring and Employment of Graduate Assistants
Graduate assistantships in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Studies are granted through the Higher Education Program.  Students should indicate interest in an assistantship on their departmental application form.

Notification of comprehensive examinations
At the beginning of each semester, EdD and PhD students are notified by the HEA Student Listserv (which all HEA students are required to join at the point of admission to the program) of the deadline to apply to sit for comprehensive examinations. They are provided with information about requirements to qualify for exams, the application process, the timing of the exams, an estimated time frame for notification of whether they passed or failed, sample examination questions, and other information to help them prepare.

Qualifying to sit for comprehensive examinations
In order to qualify to sit for comprehensive examinations, students must meet all of the following conditions:

  • Have an official Program of Study (POS) on file.
  • Have completed or are currently enrolled in the last course in HEA coursework.
  • Are registered for a course in the semester in which the student will take the exam.

Applying to sit for comprehensive examinations

To sign up to sit for comprehensives, students must complete the HEA Comprehensive Exam Application, have it approved and signed by an academic advisor, and return it to the program administrative assistant by the deadline indicated. Failure to submit the completed application to the administrative assistant by the due date will result in having to wait until the next semester in which the exam is given to take it.

Dissertation Hour Requirements
EdD students take a minimum of 12 dissertation hours. PhD students take a minimum of 24 dissertation hours. A student should ask a faculty member to chair and secure her/his/their agreement to do so prior to signing up for that faculty member’s section of AHE 699, Dissertation Research. Once a student begins taking dissertation hours, he/she/they must maintain continuous enrollment in Fall and Spring semesters until the dissertation project is completed and approved by the Graduate School. Students should not enroll for hours during the summer without having gained prior approval from the dissertation chair.

Dissertation Committee
The dissertation committee consists of five faculty: a dissertation chair and four members.

While currently, the dissertation chair may be a member of another program in the College of Education, students are encouraged to work with a Higher Education faculty member when possible. At least three members of the committee (can include chair) must be Higher Education Faculty members. At least one member must be from outside of the Department of Educational Leadership, Technology, and Policy Studies.

Dissertation Proposal
The dissertation proposal generally comprises the first three chapters of the dissertation. The student works carefully with a dissertation chair and submits work to a committee for review. The committee must have 10 working days prior to the proposal defense to review the document. An oral defense follows, with all committee members present to review and critique the proposal. Proposal defenses may be scheduled either in a Fall or Spring semester.

Dissertation Defense
The dissertation defense comprises all chapters of a dissertation. The committee must have 10 working days prior to the dissertation defense to review the document. An oral defense follows, with all committee members present to review and critique the proposal.  Proposal defenses may be scheduled either in a Fall or Spring semester.