Ph.D. in Education - Higher Ed

Curry's Ph.D. in Higher Education program prepares graduates to pursue faculty careers or become senior administrators in colleges and universities. This is a research-based, full-time program that is offered in Charlottesville only.

The Ph.D. degree is the highest scholarly degree awarded by the University. The primary purpose of the Ph.D. degree is to develop scholars who are able to conduct original research and interpret and communicate the results of such research through writing, teaching, practice, and other means. The dissertation is characterized by original research that extends the theoretical and empirical knowledge bases of postsecondary education policy and practice.

Ph.D. students in higher education complete a program of study that includes at least 60 hours of coursework (excluding dissertation credit). Acceptance of up to 24 hours of transfer credit from a student’s master’s degree program or from post-master’s work completed at another institution is determined on an individual basis by the student’s advisor and the program head. The program director may exempt students from required courses that they have already taken.

In addition to a required set of core courses in higher education (21 credits) and a minor in research methods (18 credits), the Ph.D. student is also required to complete elective coursework in higher education (9 credits). A content minor (12 credits), chosen with the advice and consent of the student’s advisor and organized around a theme or set of questions, is also required for the Ph.D. Courses for the content minor may be taken outside of the program and the Curry School. Typical content minor concentrations include (but are not limited to) higher education policy, economics of higher education, politics of higher education, student affairs in higher education, organization and governance of higher education, and social foundations of higher education.

Ph.D. students are required to complete ten hours of mentored research per week each semester they are enrolled. Internship placements (paid, ten to twenty hours per week) can be arranged within the University of Virginia and at cooperating colleges and universities, other postsecondary agencies, or institutes. Research assistantships may also be available.

Program Details

  • Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

    To be considered for admission, your electronic application, unofficial test scores (taken within 5 years), recommendations (solicited through the online application), unofficial transcripts, and  a writing sample (preferably a paper completed during a master’s program) must be submitted by December 1.  Unofficial transcripts and the writing sample should be attached to the online application. Official GRE scores and transcript will be required once an offer of admission is accepted.

    Only full-time students are admitted to the Ph.D. program. Applicants are welcome but are not required to come to Curry for an interview.

    • Statement of purpose (3-5 pages, speaks to reasons for pursuing the degree, including academic and professional goals)
    • Writing sample (typically a paper written during Master’s program)
    • Two letters of recommendation (at least one academic reference)
    • Resumé

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Application Due Date

    December 1

    Decisions will be released by February 15th.

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Degree Requirements

    1. Core Courses (21 credits)
    EDLF 5810 Introduction to Higher Education
    EDLF 8651 History of Higher Education
    EDLF 5830 College Student Experience
    EDLF 8654 Organization and Governance in Higher Education
    EDLF 6020 Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Higher Education 
    EDLF 8662 Education and Politics
    EDLF 6010 Financial Management and Budgeting in Higher Education 
    EDLF 8680 Economics and Education Policy

    2. Higher Education Electives (a minimum of 9 credits required)
    EDLF 5500 Selected Topics
    EDLF 7130 College Student Development
    EDLF 8653 Curriculum in Higher Education
    EDLF 6030 Student Affairs in Colleges and Universities
    EDLF 6010 Financial Management and Budgeting in Higher Education (if not taken for the core requirement)
    EDLF 8658 Management and Planning in Higher Education
    EDLF 8664 The Community College
    EDLF 8665 Contemporary Issues: Entrepreneurship in Higher Education
    EDLF 8663 The American Professoriate
    EDLF 8680 Economics and Education Policy (if not taken for the core requirement)

    3.  Research Minor (minimum of 18 credits)
    EDLF 7300 Foundations of Educational Research
    EDLF 5330 Quantitative Methods and Data Analysis I
    EDLF 7404 Qualitative Analysis I: Introduction
    EDLF 9810 Research Seminar in Higher Education
    Two research electives

    4. Content Minor (a minimum of 12 credits)
    Students may take their content minor courses outside the program and the Curry School, or they may choose courses from other Curry programs. The minor is meant to supply the student with substantive knowledge of and a theoretical grounding in an area that might be the topic of the dissertation. Courses to be taken for minor credit must be negotiated with and approved by the student’s advisor.

    5. Dissertation (12 credits minimum required)
    EDLF 9999 Doctoral Dissertation (may be repeated for credit)

  • Funding Opportunities

    Ph.D. students in the higher education program are generally supported through paid internships, graduate assistantships, and/or research apprenticeships with higher education faculty. Ph.D. students generally receive a combination of wages and/or stipends, health insurance, and tuition and fee support for up to four years. A typical funding package includes (a) a minimum of $18,000 for 9 months in a combination of wages and stipends, (b) tuition and all mandatory fees, and (c) funds to cover student health insurance costs. Students who wish to apply for an internship should submit an application as soon as they have accepted admittance (Higher Ed Internship Application).

    All Ph.D. applicants are automatically considered for the Dean's Fellowship Program, which provides top Ph.D. students with four full years of tuition and fees, health insurance, and $32,000 per year of study.

    Students may apply for federal financial aid such as loans or grants by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who have financial need and who are not dependents of their parents may also qualify for work-study stipends. Applications and further information is available from the Office of Student Financial Services.

    Once enrolled in the School of Education, students are eligible for Curry Foundation scholarships and awards. The majority of these scholarships and awards are based on merit and financial need.

  • Typical Length of Study

    2-3 full years for coursework, plus dissertation research.

    Full or Part Time:

    Full time.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at