Doctoral Degree Programs

PhD in Policy Studies in Urban Education: Educational Organization and Leadership

Ranked #14 in Education Administration by US News and World Report

The Department of Educational Policy Studies (EDPS) offers two doctoral programs focused on educational leadership and policy in urban environments—the Educational Organization and Leadership (EOL) concentration of the PhD program in Policy Studies in Urban Education, and the Ed.D. program in Urban Education Leadership. The Ed.D. program prepares and develops principals and school leaders - learn more about the program. The EOL concentration prepares and develops students who are interested in pursuing careers in educational research on leadership and policy. Graduates of the PhD in EOL have taken positions as faculty and researchers at colleges of universities and leaders of educational policy organizations.

The PhD concentration in EOL is specifically dedicated to the study of policy creation and implementation in urban educational contexts, the role of leadership in promoting equity and improving schools, and the preparation and development of leadership in and for urban schools. This PhD concentration supports students’ research from a range of perspectives, including policy formation and implementation, organizational and leadership theories, and improving equity in schools. EOL also focuses on helping students learn how to use and combine a range of different methods to conduct research, including quantitative, qualitative, historical, and legal methods.

EOL presents unique opportunities for students to learn about policy and leadership specifically in urban settings. Because of its location in the heart of Chicago and affiliation with a nationally-recognized principal preparation program whose graduates are administrators leading dozens of schools and district offices, EOL students have access to urban research sites of significant interest in Chicago and in the region. EOL faculty co-founded, and are all affiliates of, the Center for Urban Educational Leadership, which researches the best ways to prepare leaders for high-need urban schools, advocates for quality models of principal preparation at local, state, and national policy levels, and serves as a hub for information dissemination to other researchers and the public on advancements in school leader development. In addition, EOL faculty work closely with the Research on Urban Education Policy Initiative, which helps education policy stakeholders, including policymakers, the media, and the public, better understand urban education policy by providing timely analysis and recommendations that are grounded in the best available evidence. EOL faculty also have a strong commitment to securing externally funded research, which provides strong research assistantship opportunities for students.

EOL faculty members have a deep commitment to working with doctoral students as advisors and mentors. Faculty members have a strong record of helping EOL students connect with prestigious national opportunities and leading scholars in the field around their research interests. For example, several EOL students have been named UCEA Barbara L. Jackson Scholars as part of a program to develop future faculty of color for the field of educational leadership policy, and have participated in the UCEA David L. Clark National Research Seminar in Educational Administration and Policy, which brings together emerging educational administration and policy scholars with established researchers. EOL students’ dissertations have also earned national awards and recognition.

For more information, sign up for our email list below and contact the Office of Student Services at 312-996-4532 or email Elise Wilson at elise@uic.eduView the application instructions or start the application process here.

Degree Requirements

Students must complete a total of 100 semester hours of coursework beyond the bachelor's degree or 68 semester hours beyond the master's degree, including the dissertation. Candidates select from 1 of 2 concentrations that matches their degree interests – Educational Organization and Leadership or Social Foundations.

Students will pursue a program of study that equips them to conduct research from theoretical perspectives that constitute the Educational Organizations and Leadership field, including organizational theory and research, administration and leadership theory, educational policy processes, educational organization and leadership and educational change.

College Doctoral Core and Research Methodology Core (24 semester hours)

  • ED 504 Urban Contexts and Educational Research
  • ED 505 Introduction to Educational Research: Paradigms and Processes
  • ED 506 Introduction to Educational Research: Designs and Analyses
  • ED 502 Essentials of Qualitative Inquiry in Education
  • ED 503 Essentials of Quantitative Inquiry in Education
  • Plus one additional 4-semester hour course in qualitative or quantitative research methodology that is selected in consultation with the faculty advisor

Educational Policy Studies Core (8 semester hours)

  • EDPS 510 Introduction to Doctoral Education in Policy Studies
  • EDPS 511 Introduction to Academic Writing in Policy Studies
  • EDPS 592 Professional Career Training in Education Policy Studies

EDPS 510 and 511 should be taken within the first year of the program.

Educational Organization and Leadership Concentration Required Courses (12 semester hours)

  • EDPS 571 The Education Policy Process
  • EDPS 579 Organization Theory in Education
  • EDPS 589 Administrative and Leadership Theory in Education

Educational Organization and Leadership Concentration Electives (12 semester hours)

Elective credit hours should be selected in consultation with the faculty advisor

Dissertation (12 hours)

  • EDPS599 Thesis Research

Additional Requirements

Annual Reviews

To monitor student progress effectively, and to provide a vehicle through which students and their advisors will reflect on student progress in a structured way, each student will prepare and submit a formal Annual Review. Each student's Annual Review will follow a program-wide template and each student's progress will be reported to and discussed by the area faculty on an annual basis. One element on which students will be assessed will be their engagement in the scholarly community beyond coursework for the program. Students are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities for professional growth such as colloquia, conferences and preparing papers for publication. The Annual Review provides a structured occasion to examine each student's participation in such professional activities.

Comprehensive Qualifying Examination

Near to or upon completion of required coursework, all students will be administered a comprehensive written exam as part of the requirement for qualification for the dissertation stage of the program. This examination will help students organize and focus their coursework toward dissertation proposal development and research. The comprehensive exam is individually designed for each student by the student's program advisor and at least 2 additional faculty members who compose a comprehensive exam committee. The committee members will together compose and approve questions for the student to answer. The questions will address the student's general knowledge of the field of concentration, specialized knowledge within that field, and the student's use of the methods of inquiry appropriate to research in that field. A student has 2 opportunities to pass all portions of the comprehensive exams to move to the next phase of the program.

Oral Preliminary Examination

After successful completion of the written comprehensive examination and coursework, a 5-member faculty committee shall be constituted to advise the student on the development of a dissertation proposal. At least 2 members of this committee must be full members of the Graduate College. One member must be from outside the student's chosen area of specialization. This committee is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College on the recommendation of the department director of Graduate Studies. When the dissertation proposal is completed, an oral preliminary examination is administered by this faculty committee. The examination focuses on the substantive area of the student's dissertation proposal as well as the proposal itself. The committee may require a written component to this exam.

Dissertation and Oral Defense

A dissertation of original research is required to complete the program. It must be defended before a faculty committee appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College on the recommendation of the department director of Graduate Studies. The committee shall have at least 5 members, of whom at least 2 must be full members of the Graduate College. One member must be from outside the student's chosen area of specialization. This committee may be the same as the committee constituted for the preliminar.


For more information on the program and degree requirements, please consult the Doctoral Student Handbook.

Advising Guide

Advising guides offer a checklist for class completion requirements. If you have any questions, please contact Program Coordinator Benjamin Superfine at or Mike Herkes at in the Office of Student Services.


Options and Outcomes

This PhD program prepares candidates for successful careers in urban educational research and policy analysis. We combine the best of scholarly research and critical analysis with a passion and commitment to generating equitable solutions to the problems of urban educational systems. Our graduates take key positions as faculty members in colleges and universities, and as researchers in and leaders of foundations, government agencies, and educational reform organizations.

Application Process

Application Deadlines

Fall Deadline:  December 1
Summer Deadline: December 1
NOTE:  Faculty recommend new doctoral students for University Fellowships and Abraham Lincoln Fellowships.  In order to be considered for a faculty recommendation, you must submit your application by November 15.  Read more about the Fellowships.

  1. Applicants who are not currently registered graduate students at UIC must complete the UIC Graduate School application. Submit your application fee when completing the application.
  2. Complete the online College of Education application.
  3. The following documents should be uploaded online upon receiving email instructions after completing the UIC Graduate School application. View the Document Upload Guide for more information.
    • Upload undergraduate transcripts for your last 60 hours of the undergraduate degree and all graduate transcripts.
    • TOEFL or IELTS test scores for international applicants only
    • Three letters of recommendation.  These letters should address the applicant's academic qualifications, research ability/experience and ability to carry on advanced degree studies. Letters may be from current or former professors or supervisors.
    • Goal Statement. Discuss the kinds of skills, abilities, and understandings that you would anticipate acquiring in a doctoral program. Describe how this interest relates to your personal experience and to your professional and scholarly goals at this time.  Faculty will evaluate your essay in terms of its clarity and cohesiveness, and how well your interests match those of the faculty. Please limit your essay to no more than 2,000 words.
    • Resume
  4. Submit GRE test score to UIC.

Program FAQs