Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Education & Community Development

Students walking through a hallway at OISE.
Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Education & Community Development

Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Education & Community Development Overview

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

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.

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

At a Glance

Study Options
Full-time (6 years - maximum)
Flexible-time (8 years - maximum)

Program Requirements
Comprehensive Requirement

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.

Speak with our Team

Have questions about our program, admissions, financial support or career options after graduation? Our team has the answer you’re looking for. Contact us for one-on-one support.

Attend an Info Session

We host information sessions, open houses and tours throughout the year. Come discover what it's like to study at OISE. Explore campus and meet our community.

Why I Chose Leadership, Adult & Higher Education

Photograph of Dr. Sheldon Bromfield
Sheldon Bromfield (Doctor of Philosophy 2022)

My PhD journey in Adult Education and Community Development (AECD) has been positively transformative. Within two years after completing my MEd in AECD, I began my doctoral studies in the same program with the collaborative specialization in Workplace Learning and Social Change. My previous academic background is in business administration, and the doctoral AECD program is ideal for those who, like me, are interested in developing a critical perspective within research as opposed to incorporating a traditional lens, often applied in conventional social sciences. The professors I have worked with along my doctoral journey have been highly supportive of my research interests and the development of my professional and scholarly research skills. The program courses and course content delivery are intellectually stimulating, insightful, and most importantly, relevant to examining and exploring timely real-world issues that impact everyday life.

Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Education & Community Development 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)

Minimum admission requirements for this program are:

  • 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 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.

Program Information

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


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 of the total of 3.0 FCEs must be from the Adult Education and Community Development program. Additional courses may be required of some students.
  • At least 1 half-course (0.5 FCE) in research methods.
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.


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 AECD program have multi-disciplinary teaching and research expertise in a wide range of fields. 

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

Information on scholarships available to OISE students.

The Bonnie Burstow Scholarship is specific to the Adult Education & Community Development program.

The Bonnie Burstow Scholarship for Research into Violence Against Indigenous Women: In Memory of Helen Betty Osborne

This scholarship is to be awarded to an outstanding OISE graduate student whose thesis focuses on the violence itself, or the history underpinning it. Approaches to addressing the aftermath of violence can also be considered only if they are vested exclusively in Indigenous approaches. For the purposes of this Scholarship, violence against Indigenous women, girls, and Indigenous and Two-Spirit/Trans people is defined broadly. It includes not only what is conventionally seen as violence, such as murdered and missing, battery and rape, it also includes such international  violence as imprisonment, psychiatrization, and interference by child welfare. 

If in any given year, there is an applicant to the MA or PhD program in Adult Education at OISE whose intended thesis fits the criteria and is deemed worthy by the University, the Scholarship may be offered to the applicant as part of the admissions package. Otherwise, after a competition in which any current OISE student may apply, the Scholarship will be offered to an OISE student, irrespective of program or department, whose thesis centrally involves research in this area. Preference will be given to Indigenous women students and Indigenous students who identity as Two-Spirit.

There is no automatic application process for this scholarship, but rather as part of the admissions process all new applicants to thesis programs in Adult Education & Community Development, will automatically be considered for the award; nonetheless, prospective students are free to draw attention to their suitability for this award in their Statement of Intent.  In the event that no one is given the award during the admissions process, applications for from students who are already in the program will open in the Spring.

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.