Higher Education, Ed.D.
Graduate Studies

Immaculata’s doctoral program in higher education inspires and equips insightful, ethical administrators and faculty leaders.

If you aspire to be a leader who serves directly in an administrative role, or an educator with direct academic responsibilities, this program will provide the perfect balance of theoretical structure and application-to-practice.

The Doctor of Education in Higher Education is designed for college and university administrators or faculty members who seek to advance their career opportunities by expanding their knowledge of current trends in higher education and developing their leadership skills.

The program is also designed for individuals working in fields related to higher education, such as nursing administration, law, and organizational or educational consulting, who seek career advancement through an appointment at a college or university.

Offering the opportunity for specialization within the broad field of higher education, you will select one of three concentrations:

Areas of concentration are supplemented by a core curriculum that focuses on topics vital to higher education today. These include:

  • Contemporary global issues and challenges
  • History and philosophy of American higher education
  • Change theory and strategic thinking
  • Research techniques and applications
  • Higher education leadership, ethical decision-making, equity and diversity

From the beginning of the doctoral program, students are mentored and guided in their course of study by program faculty and practitioners in the field to select an area of research, review the relevant literature on the topic, and design a research plan, culminating in the completion and defense of the dissertation.

Learn more about the Ed.D. Higher Education admissions requirements and deadlines.

Accelerated and Synchronous Online Format

Designed specifically for individuals who are working full-time, the Ed.D. Higher Education is delivered in an accelerated format. Courses offered during the fall and spring semesters are scheduled in a seven-week term, with a synchronous online class session held during weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7. Courses offered during the summer are scheduled in a five-week term, with a synchronous online class session held during weeks 1, 3 and 5.

This format eliminates time-consuming commuting while retaining the ability to network with peers in the doctoral program, building a strong learning community facilitated through synchronous sessions and other online course activities.

The curriculum assumes students will take two courses during each 14-week semester as well as two courses in the summer. During the semesters and summer courses are scheduled in tandem so students focus on a single course at a time.


Each student selects an area of specialization. Selective courses are designed for each concentration, and in addition students may focus on this area of specialization through assignments in the core and research curricula. Areas of specialization include:

  • Academic Administration and Instruction – preparing students for administrative and faculty roles in both public and private colleges and universities
  • Community Colleges – designed for students who are administrators and faculty members in two-year institutions
  • Nursing Education – preparing nurses with an MSN for administrative and faculty roles in collegiate nursing programs


Cohort Model

Students enroll in classes during the fall and spring semester as part of a cohort, which creates a professional learning community to enhance student-to-student interactions and support throughout the program. This format is especially helpful for working adults who study part-time and move through the degree program as a cohort.

Through the cohort, students become professional colleagues (as well as good friends!), forming bonds that graduates continue to engage long after completing their studies.

Students may undertake any of the three concentrations regardless of the cohort in which they are enrolled.

New cohorts are initiated at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, as well as the summer term, once a threshold number of new students are in place to form the cohort.

Applied Field Experience

An applied field experience, taken near the end of the course of study, allows you to sharpen the knowledge and skills you have developed in the program. During this 90-hour field experience seasoned professionals offer you personalized professional development opportunities and guidance related to issues and trends impacting higher education.

Examples of recent field experience engagements and their locations include:

  • Development of IT technical skills to creation of Open Source Language training through video (Montgomery County Community College)
  • Clery Center for Security on Campus (Wayne, PA)
  • Space Study for facilities management (Immaculata University)
  • Website Update: Center for Teaching and Learning (Kutztown University)
  • Assessment Project: Evaluating Pathways to Success through Summer Bridge Programs (Penn State commonwealth campuses)



The capstone of the higher education program is your successful completion of a research study in your area of interest. You will select a chairperson at the start of the dissertation writing process who will work with you until the completion of your study. As a culminating experience, you will defend your research study to a panel of readers and university administrators.

Examples of the breadth of dissertation topics include:

  • Faculty Validation of Students: An Exploration of Validation Theory through a Survey of Faculty Attitudes
  • Correlating Self-Directed Learning Activities to Lifelong Learning Orientation in Baccalaureate Nursing Students
  • Pathway to the Presidency: The Perceived Impact of Race, Gender, and Other Identity Structures on the Journey Experiences of White and African American Women College Presidents
  • Adult Learners and Their Motivation to Strive for Academic Success in an Accelerated Undergraduate Program
  • Behaviors of Online Faculty that Influence Course Completion and Student Success
  • Intercultural Sensitivity toward Military Culture: Community College Staff Perceptions of Student Veterans
  • Title IX and Services at Community Colleges
  • Perceived Transferability of Writing Skills of Second Language Students from ESL to English Composition


Course Preview

Higher Education Administration and Leadership

This course provides an overview of the basic organizational structure of higher education and how leadership at every level must facilitate change and innovation. The role of each leadership unit (academic affairs, student affairs, enrollment management, finance, institutional advancement) is examined.

Diversity and Multiculturalism

This course emphasizes development of the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to be a multiculturally-competent higher education faculty member or administrator, through the lens of structural inequality and diversity. It emphasizes the practitioner’s responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities for creating and sustaining affirming, pluralistic, and inclusive campus communities for all students.

Change and Innovation in Higher Education

An investigation of the processes of change and innovation through concepts such as analysis of context, relationship building, organizational culture, resistance, disruption, frameworks for innovation, accountability, design thinking, managing chaos. Current case studies inform discussion; projects focus on change initiatives.

Applied Field Experience

Students complete a minimum of 90 hours in a field experience related to higher education leadership as determined in conjunction with their advisor. A seminar and internship-based project is designed to serve as a vehicle for applying and extending the knowledge learned in the program coursework.


Program Faculty

Affiliated Faculty

The Higher Education Program is enhanced by the teaching and scholarship of affiliated faculty. This group is comprised of individuals currently serving in administrative and faculty appointments at colleges and universities in the Philadelphia region and beyond.

Curriculum (54 total credits)

Foundational Core (12 credits)

  • HED 700 Seminar in Doctoral Studies (3)
  • HED 705 Foundations of American Higher Education (3)
  • HED 712 Higher Education Administration and Leadership (3)
  • HED 721 Diversity and Multiculturalism in Higher Education

Research Core (9 credits)

  • HED 702 Methods of Research (3)
  • HED 703 Quantitative Research Methods (3)
  • HED 704 Quantitative Analysis and Mixed Research Methods (3)

Concentration (15 credits)

Administration and Instruction:

  • HED 715 Change and Innovation in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 725 Finance and Strategic Planning (3)
  • HED 732 Assessment of Student Learning (3)
  • HED 748 Enrollment Management (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience in Higher Education (3)

Community Colleges:

  • HED 715 Change and Innovation in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 725 Finance and Strategic Planning (3)
  • HED 732 Assessment of Student Learning (3)
  • HED 757 The American Community College (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience in Community Colleges (3)

Nursing Education:

  • HED 770 Program Development and Evaluation (3)
  • HED 771 Instructional Design (3)
  • HED 772 Learning Theory (3)
  • HED 773 Advanced Scientific Inquiry (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience in Nursing Education (3)

Dissertation Sequence (12 credits)

  • HED 794 Dissertation Research and Evaluation (3)
  • HED 795 Dissertation Design (3)
  • HED 798/799 Dissertation I and II (3)

Electives (6 credits)

  • HED 706 Adult and Student Development (3)
  • HED 711 Special Topics (3)
  • HED 715 Change and Innovation in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 725 Finance and Strategic Planning (3)
  • HED 731 Best Practices in Teaching and Learning (3)
  • HED 732 Assessment of Student Learning (3)
  • HED 735 Public Policy and Analysis of Issues (3)
  • HED 740 Academic Curriculum: Design, Delivery and Assessment (3)
  • HED 745 Strategies for Institutional Advancement (3)
  • HED 748 Enrollment Management (3)
  • HED 750 Student Services in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 755 Program and Institutional Evaluation (3)
  • HED 757 The American Community College (3)
  • HED 760 Current Issues in Higher Ed / Community College / Nursing Ed (3)
  • HED 765 Advanced Topics in Higher Ed / Community College / Nursing Ed (3)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience (3)

Program Outcomes

Area Student Learning Outcomes
Historical Foundations Apply information, principles, and references from the historical foundations of higher education to current issues and practices including the recognition that social and cultural systems develop out of adaptation to environmental and historical circumstances
Contemporary Global Issues & Challenges Apply theory to practice in analyzing potential solutions to contemporary issues facing higher education worldwide
Leadership & Ethics Evaluate and employ leadership values, beliefs, and styles in the context of ethical decision making; demonstrate acquisition of professional identity consistent with the goals of scholar and practitioner with a doctoral education
Strategic Thinking Illustrate strategic thinking in institutional planning, academic direction and programming,  organizational budgets, operations, and institutional assessment and evaluation at all levels
Equity & Diversity Articulate diverse perspectives and incorporate diverse viewpoints and cultural paradigms into program development, implementation, assessment, and personal interactions
Curriculum Evaluate and employ current paradigms of curriculum design, delivery and assessment
Student Development, Access, and Completion Evaluate and apply best practices in access, retention, and completion for all students in the context of student development theory and institutional environments
Administration & Operations Evaluate current administrative, operational, legal and public issues and trends in higher education
Use of Research Interpret with accuracy research in the field
Conducting Research Conduct and disseminate current research
Administration & Instruction Concentration Evidence breadth of understanding of factors influencing and supporting higher education, its purpose, and its practices viewed from the perspective of administration or faculty
Community Colleges Concentration Demonstrate knowledge of profile, issues, strategies, and practices of two-year collegiate institutions reflective of the varied constituents impacting or impacted by this area of the higher education community
Nursing Education Concentration Conceive evidenced-based strategies to design, implement, evaluation, and improve nursing education to reflect modern theory and trends in higher education, healthcare, and nursing practice
Design curriculum and programs in nursing education including planning for development, implementation assessment, and evaluation using 12st century delivery and assessment methodologies
Contribute to the advancement of the science of nursing education through intellectual inquiry and creative scholarship.

Future Careers

Recent graduates of the program, along with doctoral candidates, have received teaching and administrative appointments in numerous colleges and universities. Among these are the following schools:

  • Bloomsburg University
  • California Lutheran University
  • Central Pennsylvania College
  • Chestnut Hill University
  • Community College of Philadelphia
  • Delaware County Community College
  • Eastern University
  • Harrisburg Area Community College
  • Holy Family University
  • Georgia State University
  • Gwynedd Mercy University
  • Immaculata University
  • Kutztown University
  • Lincoln University
  • Messiah College
  • Montgomery County Community College
  • Pennsylvania College of Medical Sciences
  • Penn State University – Brandywine
  • Penn State University – Harrisburg
  • Rowan University at Burlington
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Ursinus College
  • West Chester University

Christine Brown: Ed.D. Dissertation Wins National Award

Earning her Ed.D. from Immaculata and winning the American Association of University Administrators’ dissertation award have positioned Brown to start making the change in higher education for which she advocates. 

“Taking classes and producing a doctoral-level dissertation improved my critical thinking skills, writing ability and confidence levels. I gained more respect from my colleagues and was offered more opportunities than I would have otherwise experienced,” she says, mentioning the faculty promotion she received after earning her doctorate from IU.

Learn more about Christine’s story.

Just the facts


Average Cohort Size


Years to complete the program


Percent of graduates employed in higher education

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