Higher Education Leadership and Policy

Doctoral Program

Department of Educational Leadership and Policy

The Program in Higher Education Leadership and Policy (PHELP) is devoted to the scholarly study of higher education, its students and institutions, and its place in society. This program prepares, trains, and educates students to become researchers in academia and the private sector. 

Our faculty and students are in the vanguard of understanding and shaping the dynamic environment of higher education now and in the future. Higher education is being reconceived and reorganized through:

  • increased access and challenges in retention and completion for more diverse student communities,
  • intensified accountability and governmental oversight,
  • the need for lifelong avenues of learning and re-training, and
  • the opportunities presented by digital innovations both in and out of the classroom.

Students seeking a Ph.D. receive a thorough grounding in the functioning of postsecondary institutions and in the skills of administration, decision-making, and leadership. They develop an understanding of the particular role of postsecondary institutions in society as both distributors and creators of knowledge, the historical context from which those institutions have emerged, and the ethical considerations that must surround and guide the enterprise.

Finally, the program prepares doctoral students to be consumers and producers of postsecondary research and scholarship, while socializing students towards possible careers in academia and higher education leadership. This degree emphasizes preparation for a research career in which the graduate will add to the core of knowledge that is the basis for informed practice. The curriculum is oriented toward the development of theory and research skills in a variety of methodologies and includes a strong secondary emphasis in a cognate field of study.

This program starts in the fall semester. Inquiries: phel@utexas.edu

Program Details

Semester Start: Fall

Deadline to Apply: December 1

GRE Required? No

Location: On Campus

Schedule: Full time or part time permitted per discussion with program head

Length of Program: 48 months, minimum 66 hours including dissertation

All graduate students are required to apply to the state application system ApplyTexas. We strongly encourage you to start this process well in advance of the deadline to allow us time to process your information. Visit our “How to Apply” page.

The GRE is no longer required for those applying for admission to the PHEL Ph.D. program. If applicants choose to submit GRE scores, they will not be reviewed or considered by the admissions committee.


  1. A master’s degree from an accredited U.S. institution, or proof of equivalent training at a foreign institution in education, the social sciences, or related field. 
  2. A statement of purpose that describes:
    • why you are interested in a doctoral degree in the Program in Higher Education Leadership and Policy (PHELP) at UT Austin;
    • what life experiences have contributed to your decision to apply to our program;
    • what personal experiences, achievements, and accomplishments would compel the department to evaluate your contributions to the University’s diversity mission;
    • what type of research you would be interested in conducting and which faculty member(s) you would like to work with; and
    • what your career aspirations are once you complete your degree. 
  3. Submission of a 4-6 page writing sample (e.g., master’s thesis, published article, paper prepared for a professional conference, etc.) after you receive an acknowledgment email from the Graduate School). This email will also contain your UT EID. Please upload your writing sample to the “Miscellaneous Admissions Document” section.

Upon satisfactory completion of at least 30 semester credit hours of the required and elective coursework, preparation begins for Advancement to Candidacy. Upon advancement, the student is authorized by the Department and the Graduate School to proceed with the dissertation. Advancement requires the following:

Mid-Program Review and Specialization Qualifying Examination
The Departmental Mid-Program Review and the Specialization Qualifying Examination (SQE) are required. 

Advancement to Candidacy
When the student and the mentor are satisfied that the above requirements have been met, the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee is presented with the coursework completed or planned, the results of the examinations, an abstract of the proposed dissertation, and the proposed chair and membership of the dissertation committee. Upon final approval by the Committee, a recommendation is forwarded to the Graduate School that the student be advanced to candidacy and permitted to proceed with the dissertation.

Learn more about doctoral program milestones on the department’s wiki.

Photo of faculty member Norma V Cantu
Ken McIntyre Professor for Excellence in School Leadership

Teaches topics in civil rights and the intersection of law and policy in education; served as assistant secretary of education for Civil Rights during the Clinton administration.

Photo of faculty member Stella M Flores
Associate Professor

Examines the effects of state and federal policies on college access and completion outcomes for low-income and underrepresented populations including immigrant and English Learner students.

Photo of faculty member Denisa  Gandara
Assistant Professor

Higher education finance and policy, with a focus on equity in policymaking processes and the effects of policies Current research topics include: • the differential effects of free college (or Promise) programs on students and higher education in...

Photo of faculty member Liliana M Garces

Expertise on the intersection of law and educational policies and practices focused on access, diversity, and equity in higher education, including affirmative action, freedom of expression and inclusion, and the use and influence of research in law.

Photo of faculty member Michael A Goodman
Assistant Professor of Practice

Focuses on student governance and involvement in the areas of college student government, the student body presidency, sorority/fraternity life, equity and justice issues, queer students and issues in higher education, and educational crises and emer...

Photo of faculty member Manuel J Justiz

Bringing the experience of 28 years as dean of the College of Education, Justiz shares his expertise in topics of public policy, the politics of education, and providing equal access for minorities in education.

Photo of faculty member Marilyn C Kameen

Interests include academic administration, faculty in higher education, and college student development with research on college teaching and minorities in higher education.

Photo of faculty member Richard J Reddick
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Undergraduate College

Examines the experiences of faculty of color at predominantly White institutions; mentoring relationships between faculty and Black students; and work-life balance in academia.

Photo of faculty member Victor  Saenz
Associate Dean for Student Success, Community Engagement, and Administration, College of Education

Leads the Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success Initiative focused on Latino males in education; seeks to advance research-informed policy solutions that enhance educational outcomes for underserved students in secondary and ...

Photo of faculty member Lauren  Schudde
Associate Professor

Studies how to ameliorate social inequities in the United States through higher education policy; focuses on college pathways at broad-access institutions, including community colleges.

The following core faculty will be taking new doctoral students for the 2024-2025 academic year: Dr. Stella M. Flores, Dr. Denisa Gándara, Dr. Liliana M. Garces, Dr. Michael A. Goodman, Dr. Victor Sáenz and Dr. Lauren Schudde.

Photo of faculty member Cassandre G Alvarado
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Moody College of Communication

Focuses research on student success and graduation initiatives, including innovative college readiness assignments, student success programs and understanding the completion agenda.

Photo of faculty member Carrie Lou  Bloom
Director - National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes

Photo of faculty member Mike  Bohlig
Associate Director of Research, Center for Community College Student Engagement

Research interests center on student success at community colleges and the effects of enrollment status and developmental education on persistence and completion.

Photo of faculty member Linda L Garcia
Executive Director, Center for Community College Student Engagement

Oversees the Center’s community college relations and serves as a point of contact for state leaders, funders and national higher education organizations.

Photo of faculty member David W Gardner
Adjunct Professor

Interests include higher education policy and planning focused on expanding participation in higher education, improving graduation rates, and ensuring success in the workforce.

Photo of faculty member Douglas C Garrard
Assistant Professor of Practice

Serves as Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Senior Associate Dean of Students and teaches courses related to on-campus culture in higher education.

Photo of faculty member Matt S Giani
Research Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts

Focuses on policies, practices, and interventions that promote social mobility and reduce socioeconomic stratification in K12 and higher education.

Photo of faculty member Sharon H Justice
Assistant Professor of Practice

Interests include: student affairs administration, professional staff development, college student development, retention programs for students of color.

Photo of faculty member Mylon  Kirksy
Assistant Vice President of Residence Life, University Housing and Dining

Teaches courses that examine the intersectionality of culture, organizations, and systems of privilege, power, and difference in higher education.

Photo of faculty member Edward J Leach
Executive Director, National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development

Executive Director of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development, a consortium of community and technical colleges that share a philosophical commitment to support excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership.

Photo of faculty member Charles  Martinez
Dean, College of Education

Focuses on identifying factors that hinder or promote the success of children and families from vulnerable and underserved populations.

Photo of faculty member Celena  Mondie-Milner
Associate Vice President, Strategy and New Student Support and Executive Director, New Student Services, Vice President for Student Affairs

Photo of faculty member Soncia  Reagins-Lilly
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Shares her expertise in student affairs, higher education policy, administration and finance, strategic planning, and leadership development.

Photo of faculty member Victor  Saenz
Associate Dean for Student Success, Community Engagement, and Administration, College of Education

Leads the Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success Initiative focused on Latino males in education; seeks to advance research-informed policy solutions that enhance educational outcomes for underserved students in secondary and ...

Photo of faculty member Justin T Samuel
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, College of Pharmacy

Focuses research on South Asian American college students, diversity training efficacy for student leaders, and work/life integration for student affairs administrators.

Photo of faculty member Julie  Schell
Assistant Dean, Instructional Continuity and Innovation, College of Fine Arts

College teaching and learning, online teaching and learning, online education, higher education, postsecondary education, distance education, remote learning, virtual learning, technology and education, design pedagogy, design education, design think...

Photo of faculty member Betty Jeanne Taylor
Assistant Professor of Practice

Focuses on university-wide campus climate initiatives such as developing inclusive classrooms, campus climate issues and support, and recruitment/retention of faculty of color at predominantly white institutions.

Photo of faculty member Aaron W Voyles
Director, Residential Experience, University Housing and Dining

Serves as the Associate Director for Student Learning and Development and researches post-qualitative and post-structuralist methodologies, discourse analysis, and gender performance.

Photo of faculty member Joe  Wilcox
Program Director and Faculty Specialist

Expertise in Title IV policy and administration and higher education fundraising. Focused on issues of college affordability, under-represented student recruitment, and donor relations.

Photo of Liliana Garces

Program Co-coordinator
Liliana Garces

Photo of Lauren Schudde

Program Co-coordinator
Lauren Schudde

Photo of Michael Goodman

Program Co-coordinator
Michael Anthony Goodman

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