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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Leadership

The Ph.D. programs in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (Cohort) at Purdue University develop leaders for the schools of Indiana and the nation. The graduate programs at West Lafayette offer preparation in educational leadership for PK-12 schools and school districts. The Cohort Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership concentrates on PK-12 superintendent preparation and features the use of hybrid distance learning technologies. Although it utilizes distance learning technology such as interactive video (WebEX) and on-line conferencing such as Blackboard to supplement class discussions, it is not an on-line degree program.

Program Rationale

As a performance-based, NCATE-accredited preparation program, the curriculum focuses on the six Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) standards for district administrators. Within that structure there is a heavy emphasis on visionary leadership, policy and planning, management and operations, learning environments, school culture, community building and ethical behavior. The core curriculum explores contemporary educational issues as they play out in urban settings, in suburbia, and in rural America. The reforms associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) demand that schools educate all students. Developing these schools requires school leaders with competencies in systems analysis, planning, fostering change, and building consensus and collaboration. Above all, these school leaders must first be educators with a compelling vision of what education can mean for students. The Cohort Doctoral Program strives to develop leaders with those qualities.

Cohort Format

Each year a select group of 8-10 students is admitted as a cohort. Students usually have two required on-campus Saturday class meetings for their core course each semester with weekly video-conferencing (WebEX) classes or on-line class discussions (Blackboard). Weekend on-campus summer courses are also required.


The Ph.D. program involves a minimum of 60 semester hours, preliminary examinations, and a dissertation. Applicants are expected to have earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and/or hold a principal’s license.Courses in the cohort program are coordinated with superintendent licensing course requirements. Upon completion of Ph.D. or Ed.S. degrees, graduates are eligible for an Indiana District Administrator license for Superintendent. The program consists of a set of seven core courses in educational leadership. The program is designed so students will complete cohort doctoral core coursework in two and a half years. Students are expected to attend all cohort course courses in sequence throughout the program.

Cohort Doctoral Core Courses

  • EDST 51300 – Educational Facilities Planning (3 hours)
    Systems approach as a basis for planning, construction, and utilization of school facilities. Emphasis on providing facilities to enhance teaching /learning processes in meeting educational needs of diverse learners.
  • EDST 60800 – Business Management in Education (3 hours)
    Management and operation of the school business environment, critical trends and issues in the field, and the internal and external determinants of school fiscal policy.
  • EDST 61200 – Transformational Leadership (3 hours)
    Vision and ethics as components of transformational leadership. Understanding and developing the characteristics associated with transformational leadership.
  • EDST 61300 – Learning Environments (3 hours)
    Management of teaching and learning systems; diagnostic processes and evaluation.
  • EDST 61400 – Leadership for Community Collaboration and Development (3 hours)
    Place of the school district in the larger community. Emphases on building community relationships, communication to diverse audiences, and community development.
  • EDST 61500 – Educational Policy and Decision Making (3 hours)
    Legal, political, and economic relationships to education; policy issues and analysis.
  • EDST 61600 – Analytical Techniques in Educational Management (3 hours)
    Management functions and processes, including applications of technology; organizational change and development.
  • EDST 69500 – Internship – District Administrator (6 hours)
    The “practicum” in which theoretical and research-based work in the core courses is integrated with field-based work of the administrator by working with administrative mentors. A one-hour internship accompanies six of the core courses, for a total of 6 hours.

Supporting Courses

The program contains a sequence of 12 hours of research design and methods courses, 6 hours of related area courses, and 15 dissertation research hours. Students will schedule on a case-by-case basis additional electives and courses that may be required to complete the degree and license.


Applicants from diverse cultural, ethnic, and professional backgrounds are encouraged. Applicants must submit current Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores – Verbal, Quantitative, Analytic, a vitae, official transcripts of previous coursework, three letters of recommendation: one addressing academic potential, one addressing leadership/ administrative potential, a statement of purpose, and responses to a supplemental questionnaire. Completed application materials for Fall admissions are due by June 30th.