Higher Education, PhD

Our doctoral program in higher education will prepare you for a variety of professional paths, including leadership positions in college and university administration, higher education faculty and policy research. Our program focuses on issues of concern to scholars and leaders in all types of higher education institutions. Given the variety of positions that you can pursue post-graduation, your advisor will work individually with you to craft a course of study and pursue experiences that will help you meet your individual goals.

On this page:

Why Higher Education at UB?

The features of our program include:

  • application of theory and research methods to the study of higher education
  • emphasis on interdisciplinary work that allows researchers to develop new insights for the scholarship of higher education
  • flexible curriculum that allows you to concentrate on areas of special interest
  • focus on the broad foundations and contexts, as well as the critical contemporary issues of higher education
  • frequent and close collaboration with prominent faculty, knowledgeable professionals and community leaders
  • strategic links with Western New York's 32 two- and four-year colleges and universities, numerous school districts and other educational settings that offer abundant research, practice and professional opportunities

Program Overview

Academic credential granted Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Credits required for completion 72
Time to completion 4 to 5+ years
Course delivery On campus
  • senior college and university leadership
  • mid-career higher education administrator
  • faculty in higher education
  • researcher for local, state and federal education policy organizations
Application deadline Jan. 15

Program Coursework

Required Courses (18 credits)

ELP 501 Higher Education in the U.S.
ELP 502 Historical Bases of Higher Education
ELP 505 Organization and Governance
ELP 507 Financing of Higher Education
ELP 509 The American College Student
ELP 513 Cultural Diversity in Higher Education

Research Methods Courses (12-16 credits)

A minimum of two courses is required in advanced quantitative research methods, preferably CEP 522 and CEP 523.

A minimum of one course is required in qualitative research methods.

At least one additional 3-credit advanced research methodology course in your dissertation area.

Minor Area (9-12 credits)

You are required to develop a minor area in consultation with your faculty advisor. Courses may be taken outside of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy or the Graduate School of Education.

Electives (15-21 credits)

You are encouraged to take electives in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy or in other departments. Electives change periodically, but may include:

ELP 500 Nature of Inquiry
ELP 503 Intercollegiate Athletics in Higher Education
ELP 508 Community/Junior College
ELP 510 College Access and Choice in the U.S.
ELP 511 Comparative Higher Education
ELP 512 Readings in Higher Education
ELP 514 Student Development Theory
ELP 528 Law and Higher Education
ELP 534 Critical Issues in Higher Education
ELP 566 Comparative and Global Studies in Education
ELP 686 Educational Transitions: P-20
ELP 687 Sociology of Higher Education
ELP 693 Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs

Comprehensive Examination

ELP 601 Higher Education Doctoral Qualifying Seminar

If you begin your doctoral program on or after fall 2019, you will take your comprehensive examination by enrolling in this course: a semester-long project related to your proposed dissertation topic.

Dissertation Research (minimum 9 credits)

ELP 702 Dissertation Research

You must continue to register for ELP 702 until your dissertation is complete. A minimum of 3 credits per semester is preferred. Consult with your advisor prior to registration.

ELP 501, ELP 502, and your quantitative and qualitative research courses should be taken early in your doctoral program.  

Graduate Assistantships

Assistantships are available in a variety of areas that change from year to year. Compensation for positions ranges from hourly pay only to a stipend to tuition remission plus a stipend. Generally, assistantships require 20 hours of work per week.

The application process for assistantships is separate from the program admission process. Assistantship opportunities are posted for the following academic year in mid-January, from offices on campus such as Campus Living, Career Services, Student Engagement, Intercultural and Diversity Center, among others.

While assistantships are limited, new opportunities become available throughout summer and into the fall semester.

If you are accepted into the higher education (doctoral) or the higher education administration/student affairs administration (master’s) programs, check back here for updates on available positions and how to apply. Interviews for assistantships typically take place during the higher education program’s Open House and Assistantship Day (end of February/beginning of March). In addition to interviewing positions, you will have an opportunity to learn more about UB and the higher education program, network with current and accepted students, and meet program faculty. For those unable to come to campus for Assistantship Day, offices will conduct phone interviews, although we highly encourage you to attend in person, if possible.

Application Requirements

You must have a bachelor's and master's degree.

Submit your completed online application, which includes:

  • Application fee: A $50 non-refundable application fee, submitted electronically through UB's ePayment system.
  • Test scores: Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores from tests taken within the last five years. For the GRE, please use Institution Code 2925 and Department Code 3001.
  • Contact information for at least three individuals who will each be asked to provide an electronic recommendation letter.
  • Unofficial transcripts from all colleges attended. (UB transcripts are automatically submitted for current UB students and alumni.)
  • Sample of academic writing: A sample of your academic writing at least 10 pages long.
  • Statement of education and career goals
  • Statement of research interest: The statement of research interest should be a concise statement about your academic and research background and your reasons for applying to this program. Please be specific in explaining how the course offerings and faculty expertise of this program fit your educational and career objectives. Be sure to include the specific faculty you would like to work with and why. This statement should be a separate attachment to your application that is different from your career objectives statement. We consider two to three pages double-spaced as an appropriate length.

    Finding the right doctoral program requires that doctoral candidates specify and describe their research interests so they can evaluate whether there is a good fit between what they want to study and faculty research expertise. Start by reviewing our faculty directory and faculty web pages and once you are familiar with faculty research areas, read some of the faculty publications that you find most interesting. That will help you determine if there is a good fit between your scholarly interests and what our faculty members are currently researching. Everyone knows that grade point average, GRE scores, letters of reference and relevant higher education experience are important in the decision-making process; however, alignment with faculty research interests and the academic program can often be a determining factor in admission decisions.
  • Resume

Faculty Interview: After applications are submitted and reviewed, you may be offered an interview with the faculty.

Former/Maiden Name: Please provide us with your former/maiden name if you have one. When requesting transcripts, please ask the sending institution to indicate your current name and former/maiden name.

Admission Decision: The admission decision will be communicated to you as soon as review is complete. The decision is based on a number of factors and is the result of a thorough and deliberate process. All decisions are final and cannot be appealed.

International Applicant Additional Requirements
  • Official original proof of your degree
  • A copy of your passport biographical page
  • Official test scores for either the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or PTE (Pearson Test of English) Academic. Test scores must be dated within two years of submitting your application.
    • TOEFL minimum score is a 250 for a computer based test, 600 for a paper based test and 79 for the Internet based test
    • IELTS minimum score is 6.5 overall
    • PTE minimum score is 55 overall
  • Financial documentation — International graduate applicants must document their ability to pay for all costs incurred while studying in the U.S.
  • An official bank statement

All financial forms and supporting documentation with required signatures must be uploaded with your application, and must be dated within one year of your intended enrollment date.

Are you in China and unable to take the IELTS, PTE or TOEFL?

If you currently in China and unable to take the IELTS, PTE or TOEFL tests because they are cancelled due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the University at Buffalo will accept the Duolingo English Test (DET) for proof of English proficiency. This test can be taken online, in your own home. More information can be found on the Graduate School’s website.

Learn More

University Computing Standards

You are required to have daily access to a reliable broadband connection and a computer that meets university computing standards. You are also expected to have basic computer competency before beginning your coursework.