Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education with a Concentration in Academic Affairs and Student Development Requirements

Progress Towards Degree

At the time of admission, each student is assigned an academic advisor from among the faculty members of the concentration in which the student has been admitted, on the basis of shared professional interests.

Together the student and advisor develop a plan of study and assistantship experiences that are appropriate to the student's background and career interests. As a student's interests are honed with gained knowledge and experience, a change of advisor may be in the student's best academic interest. Faculty members work closely together in an annual academic review of student progress to ensure each student's needs are being met and that all students are achieving progress toward degree.

Plan of Study

Doctoral study in higher education through the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE) is characterized by the following:

For a summary of doctoral degree requirements, see the Doctoral Worksheet for Higher Education Programs.

The doctoral program of study is organized as follows. A total of 60 hours of graduate courses must be taken. Most courses are offered for 3 credits; numbers of credits listed for each category are minimum requirements.

I. Common Curricular Experiences (9 credits)

Three curricular experiences are required of each student. The first two provide broad overviews of postsecondary education, from both contemporary and historical perspectives. The last experience listed is one in which the student integrates concepts from scholarly literature to answer a question posed by the student.

II. Gateway Courses to Concentration Areas (minimum of 6 credits)

A gateway course provides an introduction to a concentration and typically serves as a prerequisite course for advanced study within the concentration. Students are required to take two of the following three gateway courses:

III. Research Requirements (minimum of 15 credits)

Since the PhD is a research degree, the research requirement consists of several courses:

IV. Concentration Courses (minimum of 12 credits - students select these after consultation with his or her advisor)

Each concentration consists of a set of courses comprising in-depth study in the concentration. Students choose the appropriate combination of coures in consultation with their advisors.

V. Cognate Courses (minimum of 6 credits)

Cognate courses are those that are in a discipline or area different from a student's field of study but are related or connected with some aspect of this field. Students choose the appropriate cognate courses in consultation with their advisors. Course credits from a graduate degree outside education may be used to fulfill the cognate requirement, with approval of the student's advisor.

VI. Electives (remaining credits to meet 60 hour requirement)

Elective courses may be used to constitute the remainder of the 60 hours to complete the program of study. These may be School of Education courses or non-School of Education courses. They may be taken from within the preceding categories of courses (gateway, research, concentration or cognate).

VII. Dissertation, Precandidacy, and Candidacy

Review the School of Education's dissertation procedures.


Approval of substitutions or waivers can be requested at any time after initial registration, but should be done as early as possible. When requesting course waivers or substitutions, please attach approved copies of all Request for Course Waiver or Substitution forms to this Worksheet. Download the necessary forms online at: It is the student’s responsibility to initiate and to obtain supporting materials. A separate form should be submitted for each course or requirement for which a substitution or waiver is requested. The definition of course waivers and substitutions are as follows: A course waiver means that a student has already completed equivalent coursework or has sufficient career-relevant experience and, therefore, enrollment in the course at the University of Michigan is deemed by a student’s advisor to not be required. (Career-related experiences may not reduce the minimum 60 hours of coursework required.) Substitution involves a request to replace a regular CSHPE requirement with a relevant University of Michigan course or educational experience. All coursework requested for waiver or substitution must have been completed within five years prior to matriculation in the CSHPE program.

Decisions about course substitutions and/or waivers are the responsibility of the advisor.

The Rackham Graduate School requires all entering PhD students to complete responsible conduct of research and scholarship (RCRS) training before advancing to candidacy. For CSHPE doctoral students entering Fall 2015 and beyond, this requirement is satisfied through the successful completion of EDUC 622, EDUC 792, and EDUC 793.

Cognate courses are those that are in a discipline or area different from a student's field of study but are related or connected with some aspect of this field. All cognate coursework must be approved by your advisor. See for full details. Graduate courses cross-listed across Schools, “meet together” courses, or courses offered through another program within the Educational Studies program in the School of Education may count as cognate courses. Non-higher education graduate-level course credits taken within five years prior to matriculation as a doctoral student in CSHPE may be used to fulfill the cognate requirement; discuss this decision with your advisor. All cognates require a grade of B- or above.

The School of Education requires a student to complete all required degree coursework, submit a signed doctoral worksheet, and pass the Qualifying Paper to achieve candidacy. The Rackham Graduate School requirements can be found at

PhD in Higher Education Timelines

Pre-Candidacy Coursework

Typically, students spend the first two to three years of their doctoral studies completing courses selected in consultation with their faculty advisors as part of the student's plan of study.

Annual Progress Review: Each winter, the CSHPE faculty assess student progress toward degree completion (successful completion of courses, Qualifying Paper, professional experiences in research, teaching, administration, etc., and other indicators of progress).

Qualifying Paper (QP)

The overall goal of the Qualifying Papers is for students to conduct an in-depth, critical analysis of the existing literature relevant to a specific topic (QP A) and, based upon one researchable question from this literature review, to develop a conceptual framework or theory (QP B). The QP process certifies the student’s ability to engage in independent scholarship, and often the response becomes a basis for the dissertation. Whereas the goal of a dissertation literature review is to rationalize a particular empirical approach to a question, the QP involves a comprehensive and critical analysis of relevant literature. In the QP, writers must create thoughtful portraits of the existing literature on their topics. This consolidation process involves the identification of key crosscutting themes, evaluation of the knowledge claims made by others, assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the extant literature, and articulation of the various questions that follow logically from one’s interpretations of the readings. 


Admission to candidacy is an acknowledgement of a student's potential to complete the requirements for the doctoral degree. Advancement to candidacy is not automatic. Upon successful completion of the QP, students must submit a request to the Office of Student Affairs to advance to candidacy. For more detailed information, please see Candidacy Information and Deadlines for School of Education Students.

Dissertation Proposal

All doctoral candidates are required to develop a dissertation proposal, detailing the intended research and the rationale behind it. The development of the proposal is guided by a proposed committee chair (typically the student's faculty advisor). Comprehensive instructions for the proposal process, the formation of a dissertation committee, as well as several other dissertation-related procedures are found in the school's dissertation procedures.

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