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Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Adult Education and Community Development Program

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - Adult Education and Community Development

Are you interested in bringing about positive social change where you live or work? Do you want to teach from a cutting-edge perspective and become a leading critical scholar? Consider applying for this program. 

The PhD in Adult Education and Community Development (AECD) program focuses on learning that happens individually and collectively among adults in communities, workplaces, social movements, the street, and the virtual world—any place where people come together to create social change.

The PhD degree program is designed to provide opportunities for advanced study in the theoretical foundations of adult education and community development and in the application of such knowledge to practice.

We welcome applicants with diverse but relevant backgrounds. Indigenous, Marxist, feminist, anti-racist, environmentalist, anarchist, arts-based, anti-psychiatry and other critical perspectives are welcome.

Study options: Full-time; flexible-time option available. Designed for practicing professionals, the flexible-time option enables students to continue working while pursuing their studies.  

Components:  Coursework, comprehensive requirement and thesis 

Length: 4 years, 6 years flexible-time

For detailed information about the program, please consult the School of Graduate Studies Calendar and the OISE Bulletin

Check the application tips. 





Except for the time to completion, requirements for both the full time and flexible-time programs are the same. 

1. Coursework: Students are required to complete 3.0 full-course equivalents (FCEs), including:

  • Doctoral Thesis Seminar (LHA3102H, 0.5 FCE)
    Designed for first or second year students, this seminar explores key elements of the doctoral studies journey: crafting a research topic, developing a thesis proposal, choosing a committee, planning for comprehensive, fostering effective writing strategies, and planning for publication
  • At least 1.5 FCEs from the Adult Education and Community Development program 
  • At least 1 half-course (0.5 FCE) in research methods

2. Comprehensive requirement: Normally, a major paper between 5,000 and 7,000 words in length (including tables, figures, and references). It consists of a comprehensive discussion of one or more literatures and/or debates of significance to Adult Education and Community Development.

3. Thesis

Registration information

  • 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 continuously until all degree requirements have been fulfilled. They register full-time during the first four years and may continue as part-time students thereafter, with their department's approval.
  • Students cannot transfer between the full-time and flexible-time PhD options.

Explore courses

Collaborative specializations

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 PhD students in the AECD program:


Faculty in the AECD program have multi-disciplinary teaching and research expertise in a wide range of fields. To learn more about our faculty, check out our program's faculty listing for profiles.

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

  • Community organizing and development
  • Workplace and organizational learning for social change
  • Social movement learning and the social economy
  • Comparative international education and development
  • Popular education
  • Indigenous education
  • Education for sustainability
  • Community healing and peacebuilding
  • Adult literacy
  • Feminism, anti-racism and migration


Career paths

Our graduates are leaders, making an impact in communities and organizations everywhere. Here's what some of them are up to. 


Independent Scientist,
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Evaluation Research and Learning Unit,
Aga Khan Foundation

Social Service, Immigrant and Refugee Program,
Seneca College


Funding and tuition


We are pleased to offer OISE Graduate Funding Packages to full-time PhD students in years 1 to 4 (excluding flexible-time programs).


The following are the annual tuition fees for 2021-2022. These figures include all non-tuition related ancillary and incidental fees. 

  • Domestic full-time students: $7,979.99
  • International full-time students: $8,735.99

For detailed and up-to-date information about tuition fees, funding, and financial support, visit Tuition and Financial Support.  

Admissions and application information

General information

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

  • An appropriate master's degree from a recognized university in a relevant discipline or professional program, with a minimum standing equivalent to a University of Toronto B+.

  • Applicants who have completed an appropriate master's degree that did not include a thesis or research project are required to complete a Qualifying Research Paper (QRP) to a standard satisfactory to the admissions committee. The QRP must be submitted electronically to the LHAE Department, (  by January 21, 2022. Please note that in the case of an extension of the application deadline, QRPs submitted after the January 21 deadline will still be reviewed.

  • Applicants to the flexible-time option 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. Capacity to secure blocks of time to enable concentrated study is required.

  • Applications are assessed based on four criteria: strength of admission documents;  grades; work, community or volunteer experience; and fit with the program offerings.

Required supporting documents

All applicants must submit: 

  • Transcript(s) from each post-secondary institution attended

  • Two letters of reference (one academic and one professional)

  • Résumé which 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)

  • Sample of written work


The main application deadline is November 15, 2021. Tguarantee consideration for admission and a OISE Graduate Funding Package(if applicable), applicants should submit their application and supporting documents by this date. 

After November 16, admission to some programs may remain open. For the most up-to-date information on application deadlines, please visit OISE Admissions


Questions about applying? Please contact the OISE admissions office at 416-978-4300 or

Questions about the program? Please contact the program assistants at 416-978-1251 or