Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education

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Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Overview

Do you aspire to a research career in higher education or to advance as a research-grounded professional to positions of leadership in higher education administration or policy?

This PhD program provides the knowledge and research skills you need to pursue careers in colleges, universities, government agencies, professional associations and international organizations as a higher education expert. 


Program Options

The Doctor of Philosophy is available in two delivery models:

  • Regular PhD stream
    • Students are accepted every year into the full-time or flexible-time program.
  • The Community College Leadership (CCL) Cohort (Available in select years)
    • The CCL Cohort is designed for emerging college leaders and focuses specifically on the college system. The CCL is mostly offered in compressed mode, mainly on weekends, to suit working professionals pursuing a flexible-time program.

We welcome applicants with diverse but relevant backgrounds.

For detailed information about the program, please consult the School of Graduate Studies Calendar.

At a Glance

Study Options
Full-time (4 years)
Flexible-time (6 years - maximum)

Program Requirements
Comprehensive Examination

Funding and Tuition
For current information about tuition fees, funding, and financial support, visit Tuition & Financial Support.  

Applications for the 2024-2025 admissions cycle are now open. Apply Today !!


Ready to join one of the world’s top universities? Take the next step in your academic journey and start your application to graduate studies at OISE.

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Why I Chose Leadership, Adult & Higher Education

Henry Ssali, OISE Alumni.
Henry Ssali (Master of Arts 2019)

Founder and Executive Director, University of Toronto African Alumni Association

"OISE has one of the most vibrant student communities in the entire University of Toronto. As a public relations professional and community leader, I see it reflected in the number of campus clubs and associations OISE students participate in on a regular basis."

Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Admission Requirements

General Admission Requirements

Please visit the OISE Admissions website for detailed information about the application process, including general minimum admission requirements and supporting documents. 


Program-Specific Information (Minimum Admission Requirements)

  • Applicants are admitted under the General Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies.
  • ​A relevant MEd or MA degree, or its equivalent, with an average of at least B+ or demonstrated comparable research competence. In individual cases, students with a highly relevant master’s degree or other equivalent graduate degree may be admitted, but additional courses in Higher Education may be required.
  • To be admitted on a flexible-time basis, applicants should be active professionals who demonstrate connections between their professional work and their proposed course program, and/or between their professional work and their proposed research. Applicants should have the capacity to secure blocks of time to enable concentrated study.



Required Supporting Documents

All applicants must submit: 

  • Transcript(s) from each post-secondary institution attended.
  • Two letters of reference (one academic and one professional).
  • Resumé that provides clear and complete information about the applicant's work or field experience related to their proposed studies.
  • Answers to faculty admissions questions (applicants are to answer each question in an essay format).
  • Applicants who hold an MEd or other non-thesis master's degree must submit written evidence of their ability to define a research question or problem, devise a research design, and analyze and report research findings – all in an academically rigorous manner. This sample of written work may be an undergraduate  or master's thesis, long essays or papers written for master's level courses, reports and studies written as part of employment, or other documents that demonstrate the ability to conduct research at the doctoral level.

Program Information


Students must complete a minimum 3.0 full-course equivalents (FCEs) as follows:

  • Doctoral Seminar: Recurring Issues in Postsecondary Education (LHA 3803H, 0.5 FCE), to be taken at the beginning of the program.
  • Doctoral Research Seminar in Postsecondary Education (LHA 3804H, 0.5 FCE), to be taken at the beginning of the program.
  • At least 1.0 other FCE in Higher Education.
  • 0.5 FCE in research methods approved by the faculty advisor.
  • 0.5 FCE selected either in Higher Education or in another graduate program at OISE, or, with the approval of the faculty advisor, in another graduate department at the University of Toronto.
Comprehensive Examination

The objective of the doctoral comprehensive examination is to ensure that all students master at least one substantive research area in Higher Education and have the capacity to develop their own written analysis of selected issues within this area. The examination is designed to ensure that students are familiar with the literature and concepts associated with their special area of study within the field of Higher Education.


Reporting the results of original research in postsecondary education.

Collaborative specializations provide graduate students enrolled in participating degree programs with an additional multidisciplinary experience as they complete their home degree program. 

Learn more about the collaborative specializations offered to students in this program:

Faculty in the Higher Education program have multi-disciplinary teaching and research expertise in a wide range of fields. 

Our faculty's expertise includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Higher education, globalization and neoliberalism
  • Comparative higher education and international academic relations
  • Educational leadership and change
  • Higher education policy and politics in Canada
  • Minoritization in postsecondary institutions
  • Indigenous college student experience
  • Politics in higher education
  • Sociology of knowledge
  • Students in the full-time option must register continuously and pay the full-time fee until all degree requirements have been fulfilled.
  • Students in the flexible-time option must register full-time during the first four years and may continue as part-time thereafter, with their department's approval.
  • Students cannot transfer between the full-time and flexible-time PhD options.
  • Students cannot transfer between the EdD and PhD programs.

At this time, the Department of Leadership, Higher & Adult Education admits one (1) funded international applicant to its full-time Ph.D. programs each year – rotating between the programs of Adult Education & Community Development (AECD), Education Leadership & Policy (ELP), and Higher Education (HE).  

In doing so, HE will admit one international student in 2023, AECD will admit one international Ph.D. student in 2024, and ELP will admit one international student in 2025, and onwards in the order of HE, AECD, ELP.  

However, the Department may consider applications from international applicants where home governments, international organizations or funding agencies can provide them with funding. The funding must minimally have the value and duration of the graduate funding package that is offered and should be indicated on the application. Please review the Graduate Funding Package website.

Ready to join one of the world’s top universities?

Take the next step in your academic journey and start your application to graduate studies at OISE.