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Ph.D. Educational Leadership, Higher Education

Our graduate programs at Clemson University build on the rich experiences and expertise of faculty and students to provide an educational environment in which both groups share in research, exploration, and inquiry. The result of this synergy is impact — on our community and beyond.

  • Overview

    Clemson’s Ph.D. program in educational leadership is designed primarily for working professionals to provide a strong background in five domains: leadership, research, policy, ethics and diversity. Two concentrations, P-12 and higher education, are offered for candidates pursuing the Ph.D. in educational leadership.

    The Ph.D. prepares students to discover, integrate and apply knowledge as leaders in schools and postsecondary educational institutions and agencies. This is accomplished through close association with, and apprenticeship to, faculty members experienced in research, teaching and leadership. Doctoral students in educational leadership work closely with faculty on shared interests focused on leadership issues from the point of admission through their dissertation defense. Alumni of the Ph.D. program serve P-20 schools, community and state agencies, and institutions of higher education as ethical leaders providing research-based educational policies and services for increasingly diverse students and societies. Alumni also serve in leadership roles as faculty in schools and higher education; as college deans, directors and presidents; or as principals, district office leaders and superintendents.

    Introduction to the Higher Education Ph.D. Program
    Clemson’s Ph.D. program in educational leadership in higher education focuses on developing professionals’ knowledge and research abilities in this applied multi- and interdisciplinary field. Because many of the higher education Ph.D. students in this field remain connected to their professional roles, this program is paced to accommodate each student’s timeframe while ensuring steady progress to degree completion.

  • Program Goals

    Doctoral students collaborate with their advising committees to plan an individualized program within program requirements including courses and non-course milestones culminating with the dissertation. The overall design requires a minimum of 58 graduate-level course credits beyond the master’s degree and completion of an 18-hour dissertation project. The categories of courses include a preliminary core, concentration courses, research courses, cognates, an internship, a post-comps core and research hours.

    The preliminary core consists of a minimum of nine credits completed within the first two years of enrollment, concluding with the preliminary exam, a non-course requirement. The doctoral advisory committee, in consultation with the student, uses the results of the preliminary examination to establish an individualized program of study, including a minimum of 18 credits of courses in the chosen concentration (P-12 or higher education), research courses and a minimum of 12 credits through internship and cognates.The internship experience focuses on a research-based approach to the common dilemmas of knowledge and practice in the applied field of educational leadership. Cognates are courses selected from academic fields supporting each Ph.D. student’s research agenda. Upon completion of a program of studies course work, students qualify as doctoral candidates by successfully completing the comprehensive exam. Doctoral candidates then complete nine credits of post-comps core in preparation for their proposal defense and then move to 18 hours of dissertation studies before defending their dissertation research. The timeframe for completing this program is controlled by Ph.D. students with support from their doctoral advising committees.

  • Admission Requirements

    To be considered for admission, you will need a complete Graduate School application, a competitive GRE composite score, transcripts from baccalaureate and master’s degree programs, three letters of recommendation, a two-page letter discussing your reasons for pursuing this degree (especially focused on the field of educational leadership, higher education) and a résumé/curriculum vita listing educational background, work experiences, professional service and other related experiences. Apply on the Web at the Graduate School. Applications should be received by October 1 for spring admission and by March 1 for summer or fall admission. Every required item in support of your application must be on file by the deadline date for consideration.

    Required Documents:


    Mail all documents to:
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    Clemson University
    E-209 Martin Hall
    Clemson, SC 29634

    For additional information on the higher education concentration, please contact the Program Coordinator, Pam Havice.

    For additional information on the P-12 concentration, please contact the Program Coordinator, Frederick Buskey.

  • Program Requirements

    Download the Ph.D. Program Handbook

    In accordance with departmental policy, the program of study in educational leadership will include a minimum of 58 graduate level course credits beyond the master’s degree and an 18-hour dissertation project.

    These required courses represent a basic body of knowledge in educational leadership. A student must demonstrate a proficiency in this material through the comprehensive examination. The following is a list of core courses:

    Program Core: 18 hours

    Preliminary Core:
    EDL 9100 Introductory Doctoral Seminar
    EDL 9000 Principles of Educational Leadership
    EDL 9050 Theory and Practice in Educational Leadership
    EDL 9110 Systematic Inquiry in Educational Leadership or EX ST 801 Statistical Methods

    Candidacy Core:
    EDL 9880 Directed Research
    EDL 9890 Advanced Seminar in Educational Leadership
    EDL 9900 Clinical Research in Educational Leadership

    Research and Assessment Methodology: 16 hours (All courses must be approved by the committee.)

    • Introductory courses in both qualitative and quantitative methods
    • Advanced course work in either qualitative or quantitative methods

    Concentration: 18 hours
    The field of specialization may be either public school administration (P-12) or higher education. The courses for specialization should be selected in close consultation with the student’s advisory committee. These courses allow the student and advisory committee to tailor the program to the unique needs of the student within the overall philosophy and structure of the program. An 18-hour minimum is required as approved by the student’s committee.

    Possible courses for higher education specialization are:

    EDC 8040 Student Development Theory (Required Core)
    EDL 7650 Assessment in Higher Education
    EDL 8200 Politics of Education
    EDL 8390 Research Methods in Educational Leadership
    EDL 8850 Selected Topics in Educational Administration
    EDL 9500 Educational Policy Studies
    EDL 9550 The Two-Year College
    EDL 9600 Legal Principles in the Administration of Institutions of Higher Education
    EDL 9620 Higher Education Governance (Required Core)
    EDL 9650 Higher Education Finance
    EDL 9700 Foundations of Higher Education (Required Core)
    EDL 9720 Ethics in Educational Leadership
    EDL 9750 College Teaching
    EDL 9760 External Effectiveness of Higher Education
    EDL 9770 Diversity Issues in Higher Education (Required Core)
    EDL 9800 Current Issues in Educational Leadership

    Internship: three hours
    The purpose of the research internship (EDL 9860) is to provide students a research apprenticeship, preferably under the guidance of their major advisers or any other member of their doctoral advising committees, to build their curriculum vita and emerging research agenda for their dissertations. The research internship provides students an opportunity to develop viable research questions from the problems and issues of practice and then participate in the development of the research design, data collection, analysis and reporting phases of research studies. Student products from the research internship include conference proposals, presentations and manuscripts.

    Cognates: six hours (18-21 recommended)
    Cognates are courses from academic fields outside of educational leadership supporting students’ research agendas. As part of the program of study, each student must complete six graduate semester hours in a cognate area. All six hours must be from the same discipline and approved by the student’s graduate committee.

    Dissertation: 18 hours
    EDL 9910 Doctoral Dissertation Research

  • Faculty

    Boettcher, Michelle Counselor Education, Student Affairs 864-656-1446 mboettc@clemson.edu
    Cawthon, Tony Counselor Education, Student Affairs 864-656-5100 cawthot@clemson.edu
    Croom, Natasha Higher Education/Student Affairs 864-656-1485 nncroom@clemson.edu
    First, Patricia F. Educational Leadership 864-656-0328 pfirst@clemson.edu
    Flowers, Lamont A.
    Educational Leadership; Executive Director, Charles H. Houston Center 864-656-0313 lflower@clemson.edu
    Havice, William (Bill)
    Educational Leadership 864-656-2062 whavice@clemson.edu
    Havice, Pamela Counselor Education, Student Affairs; Higher Education 864-656-5121 havice@clemson.edu
    Knoeppel, Robert
    Department Chair
    Educational and Organizational Leadership Development 864-656-1882 rck@clemson.edu
    Lindle, Jane Clark
    Educational Leadership, Ph.D. P-12 864-508-0629 jlindle@clemson.edu
    Marion II, Russell A.
    Educational Leadership 864-656-5105 marion2@clemson.edu
    Phelps-Ward, Robin Higher Education/Student Affairs 864-656-4278 rjphelp@clemson.edu
  • Find Out More

    For more information, please fill out this form or visit the Clemson University Graduate School website. If you have additional questions or need assistance, please contact Alison Search.