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Ed.D. with a Specialization in Higher Education Leadership

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program in Educational Leadership with a Specialization in Higher Education Leadership focuses on the preparation of scholar-practitioners in the field of higher education and student affairs administration. Whether public or private, two-year or four-year, the program provides an in-depth study of the organization, administration, staffing, funding, and student experience at postsecondary education institutions. Because many prospective students desire to remain connected to their professional roles, the program is designed and paced to accommodate the schedule of full-time professionals while still challenging students to develop and grow as leaders. Features of the program include an intellectually challenging curriculum, award-winning faculty members, and applied learning experiences, including a unique internship opportunity in Ireland. Program graduates advance in their careers as educators and administrative professionals at postsecondary education institutions.

Program Highlights

  • Work full-time while completing coursework and degree requirements part-time
  • Take hybrid courses that blend face-to-face instruction with online instruction
  • Dig deep into issues related to college student development, law and policy, budgets and finance, organizational theory, leadership theory, and academic culture
  • Receive training in both quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • Partner with five full-time professors in research projects and teaching
  • Complete at least one internship and other applied learning experiences
  • Prepare a dissertation involving original, independent research

Program of Study

The Ed.D. Educational Leadership with a specialization Higher Education Leadership requires sixty (60) credits of coursework and successful completion of the comprehensive examination and dissertation. The program of study includes leadership core courses, which provide a foundation in leadership and organizational theory and practice. Other courses in the leadership core help students develop skills and knowledge in research methodology. Additionally, students complete specialization core courses, which prepare students for advanced study of and work in college student affairs and higher education administration. The curriculum is designed to connect theory and practice and help students become more effective scholar-practitioners in postsecondary education institutions.

Leadership in Higher Education Specialization (60 Credit Hours)

Program Core Courses (9 hours) (Required)

  • EDL 601 - Leadership Theory Credits: 3
  • EDL 605 - Social Foundations of Education Credits: 3
  • EDL 609 - Leading Change in Educational Organizations Credits: 3

Research Core (12 hours):

  • EDL 641 - Applied Research (3) 
  • EDL 642 - Program Evaluation (3) 
  • EDL 643 - Quantitative Research (3) 
  • EDL 644 - Qualitative Research (3) 

Specialization Core Courses (18 hours) (Required)

  • EDL 630 - Proseminar in Postsecondary Education I (3)
  • EDL 631 - Law & Policy in Higher Education (3)
  • EDL 632 - Higher Education Finance (3)
  • EDL 633 - Today's College Student (3)
  • EDL 635 - The Academic Profession (3)
  • EDL 661 - Internship I Education/Government Internship (3)


  • EDL 664 - International Internship (3)

Elective Courses (15 credits)

  • Selected in Collaboration with your Advisor

Dissertation Required Courses (6 hours)

  • EDL 603 - Doctoral Seminar (3)
  • EDL 699 - Dissertation (3)

Program Delivery Format

The program delivery format is hybrid, with a combination of synchronous face-to-face instruction and asynchronous online instruction. This typically means that students meet for synchronous face-to-face class sessions bi-weekly. During asynchronous online weeks, students are responsible for completing readings, engaging in discussions with peers, and other activities related to course content. Consistent with our commitment to applied and experiential learning, program faculty strive for a high level of social presence during asynchronous online weeks. The program also features a distance education option for students who reside outside of the Wilmington area. These students attend the synchronous face-to-face class sessions using Zoom, a platform that allows them to be part of the classroom experience virtually.

Information for Prospective Students

We accept students from a variety of backgrounds into the program and actively seek to craft a diverse cohort each year. This diversity of experiences and skills gives students the opportunity to learn inside and out of the classroom and to build professional relationships that can last their entire career. Successful program applicants have a master’s degree in higher education, student affairs, or a related discipline. Moreover, successful program applicants are able to demonstrate strong academic performance (3.0 GPA minimum) in undergraduate and graduate coursework. Lastly, successful program applicants are able to explain how a doctoral degree fits in their career trajectory and how the educational and professional experiences have prepared them for a rigorous academic program. For more information about applying for the program, please visit this website: https://uncw.edu/ed/el/edd/admissions.html.

Priority Deadline for Fall Admissions: January 15

Program Faculty

Program Inquiries

Questions about the higher education specialization can be sent to hededd@uncw.edu