Skip to Content


Course Requirements

The Ph.D. program requires 60 units beyond the master’s degree, including the required dissertation units. Most courses are four units, with one two-unit elective. The required research seminars each term meet between sessions, often in conjunction with professional conferences. Please read the complete course descriptions for more information.

Total60 units
Required Courses58 units
HED 701
Strengths-Oriented Leadership
HED 702
The Nature of Inquiry
HED 703
Critical Issues in Higher Education
HED 705
Student Access, Equity, and Success
HED 710
Research Design and Statistics
HED 711
Qualitative Research Methods
HED 721
Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education
HED 722
Global Policy Analysis in Higher Education
HED 724
Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
HED 725
Administration in Higher Education
HED 730
Advanced Quantitative Methods
- or -
HED 731
Advanced Qualitative Research
HED 732
Leading Change in Higher Education
HED 760*
Research Seminar
HED 791
Dissertation Proposal I
HED 792
Dissertation Proposal II
HED 794
Dissertation Research I
HED 795
Dissertation Research II
Elective Courses2 units
Choose one of the following:
HED 704
Ethical Issues in Higher Education
HED 761
Strengths-Oriented Research and Programming
HED 798
Special Topics
Independent Study
Students may petition to take an independent study course to substitute for an elective course.
HED 799
Readings in Higher Education
* Repeated for a total of 4 units

Comprehensive Examinations

All students enrolled in the Ph.D. in Higher Education program must pass all of their comprehensive examinations before defending their dissertation proposal and advancing to candidacy. The comprehensive examination process consists of demonstrating competence in four key areas: Leadership and Change (through a portfolio and case study), Student Success (through a creative design project), Diversity and Social Justice (through a video “Ted Talk”), and Critical Issues in Higher Education (through a manuscript submitted for publication or an institutional improvement project).

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.

Sequence of Courses

All students in an entering cohort take the same sequence of courses, with the exception of the timing of the elective units, unless doctoral units have been officially transferred from another program.

Year 1
July: HED 701 and HED 702
January: HED 703 and HED 705

Year 2
July: HED 710, HED 721 and HED 760 (1 unit of research seminar)
October/November: 2 elective units (online or at a professional conference): HED 704, HED 761, or HED 799
January: HED 711, HED 722 (including international travel for a week in late May), and HED 760 (1 unit of research seminar)

Year 3
July: HED 724, HED 725, and HED 760 (1 unit of research seminar)
November (at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education): HED 791 (Dissertation Proposal I)
January: HED 730 or HED 731, HED 732, and HED 760 (1 unit of research seminar)
March: HED 792 (Dissertation Proposal II), taken online or on campus

Year 4
October: HED 794 (dissertation research)
March: HED 795 (dissertation research)

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.


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 2013-14 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.