Doctoral Degree Programs

PhD in Policy Studies in Urban Education: Social Foundations of Education

Before applying to the Social Foundations Concentration of the PhD program in Policy Studies in Urban Education, please contact program coordinator Nicole Nguyen at

Faculty Focus:  The Research on Urban Education Policy Initiative analyzes needed change in urban early childhood literacy policy.
Student Spotlight:  Jessica Gottlieb shows how state policy changes and evaluations affect teacher morale.

The Social Foundations in Education (SFE) concentration of the PhD program in Policy Studies in Urban Education allows students to  pursue a program of study that focuses on the social, cultural, political, economic and global contexts of education, particularly for urban schools. Students will have the opportunity to engage in critical, activist scholarship on diversity, equity and social justice in education. Coursework and research will equip students to conduct research from theoretical perspectives drawn from the broad field of Social Foundations.

This focused, yet flexible program allows students to pursue their interests related to how the social, cultural and political contexts of urban areas affect educational opportunities, especially for underrepresented and low-income children and youth. The program also focuses on change, education policy, and policy processes and their role in educational learning opportunities and outcomes.

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Degree Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 100 semester hours of coursework beyond the bachelor's degree, or 68 semester hours beyond the master's degree, including the dissertation. For students admitted to Fall 2010, please see your faculty advisor for degree requirements.

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.

Social Foundations of Education Required Courses (16 semester hours)

  • EDPS 505 Social Theory in Educational Foundations

Plus three additional courses (12 semester hours) from the following:

  • EDPS 500 City Schools: Education in the Urban Environment
  • EDPS 502 Advanced Foundational Studies in Philosophy of Education
  • EDPS 503 History and Historiography in Education
  • EDPS 555 Political Economy of Urban Education
  • EDPS 563 Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Education
  • EDPS 565 Globalization and Education
  • EDPS 566 Cultural Studies in Education
  • EDPS 567 Economics of Education
  • EDPS 570 Historical & Philosophical Analysis of Education Policy
  • EDPS 572 Sociology of Education
  • EDPS 582 Cultural Pluralism and Education Policy
  • EDPS 583 Women in Education
  • EDPS 588 Critical Race Theory: Race and Racism in Education
  • EDPS 594 Special Topics in Educational Policy

Social Foundations of Education Elective Courses (8 semester hours)

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

Dissertation (12 hours)

  • EDPS 599 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 an additional 2 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 two opportunities to pass all portions of the comprehensive exam 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 preliminary examination.


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

Before applying to the Social Foundations Concentration of the PhD program in Policy Studies in Urban Education, please contact Elise Wilson at

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.

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