Higher Education, EdD

The Ed.D. in Higher Education is for experienced professionals who wish to continue their careers as practitioners. This program emphasizes the practice of education and consultation in colleges and universities, governmental agencies, and foundations. Aimed at preparing practitioner-scholars, the Ed.D. in Higher Education is designed for experienced professionals who wish to continue their careers as research-practitioners and institutional leaders. Individuals learn to use research to make a difference in the lives of students and institutions by focusing on pressing problems of practice. Ed.D. students attain a broad comprehension of higher education through completion of classes that are designed to facilitate their understanding of research and completion of a dissertation. In addition to these courses, doctoral students draw on their professional work experience to develop the skills they will need to conduct quality primary research in higher education administration.


A total of 20 course units are required for the Higher Ed Ed.D.

HE Required Courses
EDUC 7805Proseminar in Research & Analysis1
EDUC 7132Doctoral Proseminar on Education Research1
Methods Courses
Select 1 Quantitative Methods Course1
Select 1 Methods Course1
Select 16 electives 116
Total Course Units20

Transfer credit

GSE will, under certain conditions, accept equivalent credit toward the degree. Up to 8 graduate level CUs taken at GSE, Penn, or another institution, may count toward the EdD degree. Transfer credit is not automatically accepted or applied toward the doctoral degree. Students should consult their academic advisor and the GSE website for the policies governing the application for transfer credit in their 1st semester of coursework at GSE. Students who are not awarded a full 8 CUs of transfer credit should consult their academic advisor for the appropriate elective coursework to fulfill the 20 CUs of coursework required for the EdD program. Students without a master's degree in HE may be required to to fulfill some of their electives with required coursework from the HE MSEd program. Transfer credit paperwork needs to be completed after the the student's 1st semester of coursework; please consult the GSE website for the proper forms and procedures.

Required Higher Education Courses

All HE EdD students should take EDUC 7132 Doctoral Proseminar on Education Research and EDUC 7805 Proseminar in Research & Analysis.  It is strongly advised that students enroll in required HE courses at the 1st opportunity they are offered. Course substitutions must be approved by your advisor.

Methods Course

All HE doctoral students are required to take 2 methods courses either within GSE or another school at Penn. Methods courses must be at the 5000 level or above. One of these courses must be a quantitative methods or statistics course. Students should consult their academic advisor regarding the appropriate methods courses for their program of study. Methods courses filled at GSE outside of the HE Division will also fulfill GSE's distribution requirement. 

CU count

This planned program of study is based on enrollment in 2 courses per semester, including summer session. Doctoral candidates must be registered each fall and spring term for coursework.

Elective courses

Elective courses may be taken at any school at Penn; however, the majority of HE students fulfill their electives within the division. Courses must be at the 5000 level or above and students must consult their academic advisor before enrolling in any course outside of GSE. Students may not register for more than 4 independent studies (EDUC 9999) over the course of their program of study. 


Qualifications Evaluation (Also known as Program Candidacy)

The purpose of program candidacy is to provide rigorous review and feedback to Ed.D. students regarding their academic progress within the first two years of study. Program candidacy is a prerequisite to doctoral candidacy. 

Preliminary Examinations (Also known as Doctoral Candidacy)

The preliminary examination is a test of knowledge in the candidate’s area of specialization. The examination requires students to demonstrate knowledge and reasoning in the key content areas in their specialization as specified by the academic division. The format of the examination varies from program to program, but must include at least six hours of examination, at least three hours of which must be written.

Oral Proposal

All doctoral candidates must present their dissertation proposals orally and in person to the dissertation committee.

Final Defense of the Dissertation  

The final dissertation defense is approximately two hours in length and is based upon the candidate’s dissertation.


Including up to 8 transfer credits

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.