Individually Designed Concentration

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education

Pelema I. Morrice

Pelema Morrice knows first hand the important role that educational institutions play in providing opportunities for personal and professional growth.

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Current or prospective doctoral students may have research interests that cut across our designated doctoral concentrations. In keeping with our traditions of interdisciplinary scholarship, rather than requiring students to choose a concentration that may not be the best preparation for the work they wish to do, we offer an Individually Designed Concentration option. Students interested in this option may propose an Individually Designed Concentration by preparing a formal request within one year of initial enrollment. The request should include:

Profiles of student and alumni ambassadors who have participated in the higher education programs provide additional information about who fits in a program and what they might do after graduating.

Plan of Study

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, and on the basis of shared professional interests. The Individually Designed Concentration should combine work in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education with work in other departments and schools within the university.  Together, the student and advisor develop a plan of study and assistantship experiences that are appropriate to the student's background and career interests. The formal request must be approved both by the student's advisor and the director of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education.

Higher education course descriptions, including syllabi, are available online. As a student's interests and ideals are honed with gained knowledge and experience, a change of advisor may be in the student's best academic interest. Faculty work closely together in an annual academic review of student progress to help ensure each student's needs are being met and that all students are achieving progress toward degree.

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 faculty assess student progress toward degree completion (successful completion of courses, Comprehensive Qualifying Examination, professional experiences in research, teaching, administration, etc., and other indicators of progress).

For more on Rackham and CSHPE GPA and grade requirements, as well as the incomplete course resolution policy for doctoral students, see CSHPE Minimum Grade and Incomplete Policy

Comprehensive Qualifying Examination (CQE)

The Comprehensive Qualifying Examination (CQE) serves as a bridge between completion of required courses and independent scholarship associated with the student's dissertation research. Students typically take the CQE in their third year. The CQE is a rigorous, semester-long activity which involves a critical, integrative literature review focused on a significant issue or problem (topic) in higher education. CQE Guidelines are available for downloading.


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 CQE, students must submit a request to the Office of Student Affairs to advance to candidacy. 

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). 

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

Program Faculty

Program Support

Program Ambassadors

Within This Section

Center for the
Study of Higher and
Postsecondary Education

8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

610 E. University Avenue, Room 2117
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259

Phone: 734.764.9472

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