About the Program

Core Values

APU’s Department of Higher Education programs are driven by these core values:

  • A commitment to rigorous research that makes a difference in real-world settings
  • A commitment to enable students to become “big picture” thinkers who are people of character and integrity
  • A strengths-oriented perspective on learning and leadership that encourages students to reach their full potential and teaches them how to lead effectively by developing the strengths of others
  • A commitment to diversity and an international perspective that enhances learning and leadership effectiveness
  • A commitment to mentoring doctoral students academically, professionally, and personally

Program Format

The Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education program meets on campus full time for two weeks each July and two weeks each January. At each visit, students conclude two courses and begin two new ones. Between sessions on campus, faculty and students are in communication with one another and assignments are submitted electronically. This schedule enables working professionals from the U.S. and abroad to participate in the program.

In addition, all students join a faculty-led research team for their second and third years of the program. These research teams often meet at professional conferences in between the January and July intensive sessions, and afford students the opportunity to not only conduct research, but to publish and present at professional conferences. Each student earns one unit of doctoral credit per semester on a team; four units are required for graduation.

In late May of the second year in the program, all students in the cohort join the faculty for a required international trip as part of the Global Policy course. In-country trip costs are included in the program fees and can be packaged as part of student loans.

The Ph.D. in Higher Education is a four-year sequenced curriculum of 60 units, inclusive of dissertation. Students in the cohort take all classes together in the same sequence, unless they transfer in specific units from other regionally accredited doctoral programs. Components of the dissertation process are embedded throughout the curriculum so that students are able to complete the full degree, including the dissertation, within four years. A guaranteed tuition plan ensures that students who follow the course sequence not only graduate on time, but never pay a higher tuition rate than when they entered the program.

Transferring Units

Students in the Ph.D. program may transfer up to 16 units of coursework with a grade of B or higher from another regionally accredited doctoral program. Official transcripts and course descriptions must be submitted to the department chair, who will determine the courses that successfully transfer.

The APU Experience

APU’s doctoral programs in higher education are intensive programs for the working professional. As such, there are distinctive features of these programs that make the APU experience a life-changing one for our students.

The Cohort Model

Students are admitted to the intensive program as part of a cohort. Cohorts are typically 15–18 students who are employed full-time in higher education or a related field. They take courses in a carefully designed sequence and stay with their cohort throughout the program. This model affords students the benefit of a network of professional colleagues with whom to study and conduct research. Our students report that their fellow students are one of the highlights of being in the intensive program.

Course Schedule

In the intensive program, students come to APU twice a year for two weeks each time. Morning classes are offered 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m. and afternoon classes meet 1:30–5 p.m. Two courses are offered each term. Each class consists of five days in July and five days in January; each term, two classes are starting and two classes are concluding. In between terms, students are working online on course assignments and attending professional conferences with their research teams.

Registration and Books


Students register for classes online. Payment for doctoral courses is due each term. A textbook list is sent in advance to students. Doctoral students are expected to complete some assigned reading in advance of each session.

Housing

Because housing is not available on campus during the intensive class sessions in January and July, the department has arranged for a specially negotiated group rate at the Best Western Glendora located three miles from campus. All housing arrangements are made with the department for ease of payment; housing costs typically average $600 per person (double occupancy) for each intensive.

Support from Your Home Institution

Students in this program hail from many different kinds of institutions throughout the world. Their home institutions provide various levels of support for these professional students who are pursuing graduate education. Please consider asking your home institution to support you in your advanced educational efforts. Types of institutional support students receive from their home institutions include the following: release time for professional development (2-4 weeks); funds for airfare, housing, and meals (as if attending a professional conference); book purchases; and tuition subsidy (faculty/staff development funds or benefit packages).

Local Airports and Transportation

Ontario International Airport (ONT) is the closest airport to APU, located approximately 25 minutes away. The Burbank (BUR), Los Angeles International (LAX), Long Beach (LGB), and John Wayne (SNA) airports are all about an hour from campus. Shuttle vans are available from the airport for a fee; however, most students arrange for a rental car. Ph.D. students receive a list of students who are flying in for the intensives each year, so that car pooling and airport pickups can be arranged.

Program Outcomes

At APU, 84.5% of students who begin the Ph.D. program graduate, compared to a national rate of 46.5%. Graduates of the Ph.D. in Higher Education are expected to:

  • Conduct and disseminate original research that extends the theoretical knowledge base of higher education policy and practice and answers meaningful questions.
  • Competently engage the critical issues and help shape the conversations that affect the future direction of higher education at the national and international level.
  • Lead effectively, collaboratively, and with vision.
  • Articulate and evaluate a strengths-based approach to teaching, learning, and leadership development.
  • Foster optimal learning in the students they serve, through effective pedagogy and institutional practices that are learning-centered.
  • Articulate and evaluate a Christian perspective on effective leadership in higher education.
  • Effectively address personal, institutional, and systemic injustices through competent policy analysis, formulation, and revision, as well as individual actions.

Additional Requirements

Grading and Grade-point Average

Throughout higher education, and particularly at the doctoral level, commitment to learning should outweigh the pursuit of grades. Nonetheless, grading and the grade-point average continue to play a crucial role in students’ careers. For doctoral students, the grade of B is considered average; a grade below B- is not applied toward doctoral degree requirements.

A doctoral student whose cumulative grade-point average falls below 3.0 or who has any grade below B- is placed on academic probation. Students whose cumulative grade-point average has not reached 3.0 by the end of two terms on probation may be dismissed from the program.

A doctoral student whose grade-point average falls between 3.0 and 3.2 or who earns eight credits or more of B- grades is required to meet with his/her advisor to identify academic skills that may need to be strengthened and to plan appropriate action.

Policies regarding incompletes and withdrawals are set forth in the Academic Policies and Procedures section of the academic catalog.

First-year Review

To evaluate success in meeting program goals and uphold the mission and objectives of the university and the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences, the program design includes an extensive array of procedures for quality control and assessment. These include a first-year review, which calls for completion of the problem statement for the dissertation. The student’s academic performance is also reviewed. Continuation in the program is contingent upon a successful first-year review. A second-year review focuses on self-assessment as well as peer and faculty assessment.

Dissertation Proposal

Students in the Ph.D. program may enroll in HED 791 and begin the dissertation proposal after completing 48 units of coursework.

Critical Issues Conference

Christian perspectives and moral and ethical issues in higher education form an essential strand in the doctoral program and are embedded within all courses.

In addition, students must attend two of the annual program conferences on research or current issues in higher education that are offered each July on the Azusa campus.

Advancement to Candidacy

Following successful completion of all coursework and approval of the dissertation proposal, students are advanced to doctoral candidacy status.

Dissertation

The final step in the doctoral program is to design, implement, and write a research-based dissertation. Standards and procedures for the dissertation are defined by the doctoral faculty and are provided to students in a Dissertation Handbook.

Continuous enrollment in HED 791, HED 792, HED 794, and HED 795 is expected until the dissertation has been successfully defended.

The student defends the dissertation in a meeting with the faculty committee that is open to all faculty in the department. Subsequently, the student participates in a public presentation of the research.

Study Load

To be classified as a full-time doctoral student, one must be enrolled in at least 6 units per term. Half-time status is 3 units per term. At the dissertation level, students are considered full time if they are enrolled in any one of the following courses: HED 791, HED 792, HED 794, or HED 795.

Time to Degree Completion

Doctoral students are permitted eight years from the date of initial enrollment to complete all requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Extensions beyond the eight-year limit may be granted at the discretion of the department chair and the dean of the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences. Students needing an extension due to unusual circumstances must make their request to the department chair in writing, stating the reasons for the extension and the expected date of degree completion.

Note: This information is current for the 2014-15 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.