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Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Higher Education Program

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - Higher Education

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. 

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. Applicants must specify their interest in the CCL Cohort in their Statement of Intent. For more information on the 2019 CCL Cohort and Course Schedule click here

We welcome applicants with diverse but relevant backgrounds.

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 examination 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 for this degree.




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

    • LHA 3803H Doctoral Seminar: Recurring Issues in Postsecondary Education (0.5 FCE), to be taken at the beginning of the program.

    • LHA 3804H Doctoral Research Seminar in Postsecondary Education (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.

  • Thesis reporting the results of original research in postsecondary education.

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 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.

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 Higher Education program: 


Faculty in the Higher Education 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: 

  • 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

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.  

We are not accepting applications for a CCL Cohort for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Program-specific information

Minimum admission requirements

  • ​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

  • Transcript(s) from each post-secondary institution attended
  • Two letters of reference (one academic and one professional)
  • Résumé
  • 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.



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

After November 15, 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