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. In addition to an elective focus in administration or curriculum, the program has a specialty offering in nursing education, designed for higher education professionals who work as nurse educators.

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.

Throughout the curriculum you will focus on topics vital to higher education today, such as:

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

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

Program Highlights

Hybrid Format

The Ed.D. Higher Education is delivered in a hybrid format that seamlessly blends face-to-face and online delivery, allowing you to experience the intimacy of the classroom as well as the convenience of distance learning.

Each fall and spring semester consists of 14 weeks alternating weekly with seven of those weeks face-to-face and seven spent in online learning. Students normally take two courses each semester, meeting on the same night.

In the summer terms, courses vary with most offered in a four-week, accelerated format with one intensive-learning weekend face-to-face.

Specialization Electives

You will develop an area of specialization (e.g., academic affairs, student engagement, enrollment management, and nursing education) within higher education through the selection of elective courses, independent study courses and topics, the practicum experience, and dissertation study. Your academic advisor will work with you to help design an area of specialization that builds upon your interests and career goals.

Study Abroad

Students may choose to study higher education in a selected country. This faculty-led trip provides opportunities to contrast and compare how the higher education system in the travel country varies from the system in the United States in light of current issues such as fund, access, and assessment.

Cohort Model

Students attend 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 within a standard semester framework. Students take six credits per semester in order to maintain cohort status.

Cohorts meet for classes on the Immaculata University campus in Malvern, PA, at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg, PA, at Montgomery County Community College University Center in Blue Bell, PA, or at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA.


The practicum 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:

  • Title IX and Services at Community Colleges
  • Perceived Transferability of Writing Skills of Second Language Students from ESL to English Composition
  • Full-Time and Part-Time Faculty Engagement at a Suburban Community College
  • Exploration of the Pipeline to the Presidency for African American Women

Course Preview

Higher Education Administration

Change and Innovation

Taken early in the student’s program, 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.

Doctoral Competencies and Professional Ethics

A two-part course offered at the end of each spring semester on the Immaculata campus. With a focus on frameworks for ethical leadership, the course provides the doctoral student with opportunities for mentorship, networking, and professional engagement. Students also begin to identify and pursue a dissertation topic and focus.

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.

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.


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.


Foundational Core (24 credits)

  • HED 705 Introduction to Higher Education (3)
  • HED 712 Higher Education Administration, Change, and Innovation (3)
  • HED 721 Diversity and Multiculturalism in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 725 Finance and Strategic Planning (3)
  • HED 732 Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes (3)
  • HED 735 Public Policy and Legal issues (3)
  • HED 766 Doctoral Competencies and Professional Ethics – Part I (1.5)
  • HED 766 Doctoral Competencies and Professional Ethics – Part II (1.5)
  • HED 820 Applied Field Experience and Seminar (3)

General Elective Courses (15 credits)

  • HED 706 Adult and Student Development (3)
  • HED 711 Special Topics (3)
  • HED 731 Best Practices in Teaching and Learning (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 760 Current Issues in Higher Education (3)
  • HED 764 Global Topics in Education (3)
  • HED 765 Advanced Topics in Higher Education (3)

Nursing Education Concentration Courses (replace general electives) (15 credits)

Learn more about the Nursing Education Concentration here.

  • HED 770 Program Development Evaluation in Nursing Education (3)
  • HED 771 Instructional Design and Curriculum Development in Nursing Education (3)
  • HED 765 Advanced Topics in Nursing Education (3)
  • HED 772 Learning Theory and Practice for Classroom and Clinical Nursing Education (3)
  • HED 773 Advanced Scientific Inquiry in Nursing and Health Care (3)

Research Core (12 credits + 9 for dissertation)

  • HED 702 Methods of Research (3)
  • HED 703 Quantitative Research Designs (3)
  • HED 704 Qualitative Analysis and Mixed Methods Research Design (3)
  • HED 790 Dissertation Research Seminar (3)
  • HED 798 Dissertation I, II, III (3)

HED 797 Comprehensive Examination

Program Outcomes

AreaStudent Learning Outcomes
Historical Foundations1. 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 & Challenges2. Apply theory to practice in analyzing potential solutions to contemporary issues facing higher education worldwide
Leadership & Ethics3. Evaluate and employ leadership values, beliefs, and styles in the context of ethical decision making; demonstrate acquisition of a professional identity consistent with the goals of scholar and practitioner with a doctoral education
Strategic Thinking4. Illustrate strategic thinking in institutional planning, academic direction and programming, organizational budgets, operations, and institutional assessment and evaluation at all levels
Equity & Diversity5. Articulate diverse perspectives and incorporate diverse viewpoints and cultural paradigms into program development, implementation, assessment, and personal interactions
Curriculum6. Evaluate and employ current paradigms of curriculum design, delivery and assessment
Student Development, Access, and Completion7. Evaluate and apply best practices in access, retention, and completion for all students in the context of student development theory and institutional environments
Administration & Operations8. Evaluate current administrative, operation, legal and public policy issues and trends in higher education
Use of Research9. Interpret with accuracy research in the field
Conducting Research10. Conduct and disseminate current research
Nursing Concentration Outcomes also include11.a. Conceive evidenced-based strategies to design, implement, evaluate, and improve nursing education to reflect modern theory and trends in higher education, healthcare, and nursing practice
11.b. Design curriculum and programs in nursing education including planning for development, implementation assessment, and evaluation using 21stcentury delivery and assessment methodologies
11.c. 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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