This is an archived copy of the 2017-2018 catalog. To access the most recent version of the catalog, please visit

Note: As of catalog publication in April, this program has been approved by the Board of Visitors and sent to the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia for consideration as a new degree program. The university cannot accept applications or enroll students in this program until SCHEV approval has been granted. 

The PhD focuses on leadership, the scholarship of teaching and learning, administration, and assessment. This interdisciplinary, graduate-level curriculum prepares individuals for positions of leadership in teaching, research, and administration at community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities around the globe. The program also prepares students for positions in associations, government agencies, and industries whose activities relate to or impact higher education. Students may concentrate in administration, the scholarship of teaching and learning, or individualized studies (one they create in consultation with an advisor).


Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions.

For specific information, see Application Requirements and Deadlines on the college web site.


For policies governing all graduate degrees, see Graduate Policies.

Reduction of Credit

Students must have a master's degree before being admitted to the PhD. A reduction of credit of up to 24 credits may be received based on the previous master's degree and is determined on an individual basis.

Banner Code: LA-PHD-HEDU

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Students choose from one of three secondary concentrations: Higher Education Administration, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or Individualized Study. Each concentration is designed around a specific sub-field and will be guided by a student's professional and research goals.

Core Courses

HE 702Contemporary and Critical Theories in Higher Education3
HE 703Digital Technologies and Learning3
HE 704The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning3
HE 705Access and Social Justice3
HE 710Leadership in Higher Education3
HE 722Organization and Administration in Higher Education3
Total Credits18

Research Methods

Required Courses
HE 805Research Methodologies in Higher Education3
HE 806Qualitative Methods in Higher Education Research3
HE 807Quantitative Methods in Higher Education Research3
Two Additional Methods Courses
Students will choose two additional methods courses with one being in either advanced qualitative or quantitative methods. 16
Total Credits15

Additional possible advanced methods courses include case study methodology, mixed-methods, structural equation modeling, and multivariate statistics. The advanced methods courses are offered in the Departments of Psychology and Sociology and Anthropology in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the College of Education and Human Development, and must be approved by the advising portfolio committee.

Concentration in Higher Education Administration (HEDA)

Students in the higher education administration concentration will acquire advanced knowledge and understanding of legal issues, finance and budgeting, institutional assessment, leadership theories and practices, and the role of student services.

HE 624Finance and Fiscal Management in Higher Education3
HE 701Higher Education Law3
HE 711Policy Analysis in Higher Education3
HE 712Advanced Institutional and Program Assessment in Higher Education3
One elective course chosen from either the scholarship of teaching and learning concentration or another course at Mason. 13
Total Credits15

Choice of elective will be approved by the portfolio committee.

Concentration in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (STL)

Students in the scholarship of teaching and learning concentration acquire advanced knowledge and understanding of the latest theories and research on pedagogy, student learning, learning assessment, and teaching with technology.

HE 602College Teaching3
HE 603Higher Education in the Digital Age3
HE 605Learning Assessment3
HE 645The Contemporary College Student3
One elective course chosen from either the higher education administration concentration or another course at Mason. 13
Total Credits15

Choice of elective will be approved by the portfolio committee.

Concentration in Individualized Study (INDV)

Students in the individualized study concentration will acquire advanced skills in an area intentionally designed to meet a set of objectives clearly articulated by the student and approved by the portfolio committee. This concentration will likely include courses with a more multidisciplinary perspective and be taken from programs across Mason. When consistent with Mason policy and students' learning goals, students may use master's course work toward individualized study concentration credits.

Select fifteen credits that meet objectives and have been approved by the portfolio committee. 115
Total Credits15


Student select an additional three courses as electives. These are designed to provide additional content knowledge and skills in subjects that relate to both areas of concentrations.

Select 9 credits from the following:9
Diversity in Higher Education
Student Services in Higher Education
Student Development Theory
The Internationalization of Higher Education
Total Credits9

Portfolio Review

Students will engage in a comprehensive portfolio review process throughout their course work to document accomplishments, assess student growth and development, and provide opportunity for faculty to suggest changes that more closely tie student research and professional goals to the program of study. Three portfolios must be submitted:

  1. the first after a student completes 18 credits (portfolio 1)
  2. the second after the completion of 36 credits (portfolio 2)
  3. and the third once course work is completed to finalize dissertation plans, steps, and timeline.

The portfolio review process requires a committee of three faculty members who review the portfolios and meet with the student after each portfolio is submitted.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students must advance to candidacy within six years of enrollment in the program and graduate from the program within nine years. Students will advance to candidacy after completing all course work successfully completing all three portfolio reviews, and successfully completing HE 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal with an approved dissertation proposal.


To enroll in HE 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, students must have a dissertation chair. Once students enroll in HE 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, students are required to form a dissertation committee consisting of three faculty with one designated as a chair. At least one member of the committee must be from the Higher Education Program unit. Students must also have two additional members with graduate faculty status who could be from another department or college at George Mason University.

The dissertation should use theoretical and social science or humanities methods to address a problem within higher education research, teaching, and practice that is framed by the empirical literature. The dissertation process begins after the student has successfully completed all required 48 credit hours and successfully completed three portfolio reviews.

Once enrolled in HE 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, students in this degree program must maintain continuous registration in HE 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal or HE 999 Doctoral Dissertation each semester (excluding summers) until the dissertation is submitted to and accepted by the University Libraries. Once enrolled in HE 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Research. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of HE 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

Students complete a minimum of 3 credits of HE 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and a minimum of 3 credits of HE 999 Doctoral Dissertation. They must apply a minimum of 15 dissertation credits (HE 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and HE 999 Doctoral Dissertation combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

HE 998Doctoral Dissertation Proposal1-3
HE 999Doctoral Dissertation1-12
Total Credits2-15