Education, Culture, and Society, PhD

Rooted in the social sciences and humanities, the doctoral program in Education, Culture, and Society focuses on the historical, political, philosophical and sociocultural foundations of education.

The Education, Culture, and Society Ph.D. program provides a rigorous theoretical and methodological framework for the study of education, focusing on social, cultural, political, and normative dimensions. Following a rich academic curriculum centered in social theory and qualitative research methods, the program invites students to interrogate and contribute to scholarship on the social and cultural contexts of learning, both inside and outside of schools. Most students supplement their educational studies with significant coursework in other disciplines of their choosing, including anthropology, sociology, history, urban studies, philosophy, and linguistics. Students frequently pursue a joint Ph.D. degree with anthropology, sociology, or Africana studies.

View the University’s Academic Requirements for PhD Degrees.

Required Courses

The total course units required for graduation is 16, in addition to whatever advisor and student agree for individualized program of study; doctoral exams; and an acceptable dissertation.  A minimum of 10 courses must be taken at Penn's Graduate School of Education; a maximum of 6 courses can be transferred from another institution. Your advisor will assist you in choosing the most appropriate course for your area of specialization. All courses counted toward the degree must be level 500 or higher.

Core Foundation Courses
EDUC 727Education, Culture and Society1
Theory Courses 1
Select two Theory courses2
Research Methods 2
Select two Qualitative courses, at least one of which must be advanced2
Select one Quantitative course1
Select 10 course units10
Total Course Units16

Theory courses are centrally concerned with preparing students to draw on, understand and contrast theoretical frameworks within the context of seminal scholarly figures and traditions. They may focus on single frameworks, or compare across multiple ones; they may be either historical or contemporary. These courses may be in GSE, or taken in other schools. Students are encouraged to discuss options with their faculty advisors. 


Methods courses prepare students in both the practical and theoretical implications of collecting, interpreting, analyzing and presenting data on the human condition broadly (and education/learning in particular). These courses may be in GSE, or taken in other schools.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2018 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.