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PhD Program

Application Deadline: 12/01/23

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Program Information

Students can specialize in either K12 or Higher Education. Coursework includes topics in educational leadership, organizations, educational policy, or critical studies in education.

Independent research in an area chosen by the student will be the basis of the final dissertation. Assistantships are available to full-time students (20 hours a week and receive a stipend along with a full tuition waiver.)

For most studies, the following information should be explained in separate sections of your proposal document:

Problem Statement and Research Questions

What is the problem to be investigated? In other words, what is the purpose of the study? What are the specific research questions the study will seek to answer?

Conceptual Framework & Related Literature

What theories, concepts, and research provide the best framework to explain or study the problem? Offer conceptual definitions of study variables where appropriate.


Why is the problem important? How will the proposed study fill an important need for knowledge or chart a new area for investigation?


Include methodological considerations such as:

(A) sample or data sources
(B) data collection procedures
(C) instrumentation or measurement tools and issues,
including operational definitions of variables where appropriate
(D) study design (including checks on possible bias or threats to study validity)
(E) data analysis

Assumptions and Limitations 

What are the assumptions and expected limitations of the study?


What might be the implications of this study for future scholarship and educational practice?

How have your doctoral course work, assistantship and/or internship, and
previous experience prepared you to do this scholarly work?


What is the expected timeline for completing your study?

Pre-Defense to Publication, A Checklist for Graduate Students

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At a Glance

Program Emphasis
K12 and Higher Education
Credit Hours
Application Deadline
Application Fee
Degree Conferred


Application Fee

For domestic applicants the application fee is $55, for international applicants, the fee is $65. You can pay your fee online through the Slate application system.


All applicants should upload an unofficial copy of their academic transcripts in the online application. Current students or graduates of the University of Utah will not be required to submit their U of U transcripts. If you are admitted to our program, you will be required to provide an official copy of your transcripts, sent directly from your previous school to the address below:

The University of Utah
201 S 1460 E
Room 250 S SSB
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Under the Program Information section on the application, first choose your program of interest, Educational Leadership & Policy PhD. Then choose your area of emphasis – either Higher Education or K12.

A Master's Degree is required with a minimum 3.0 GPA (or enrollment in joint MPA/PhD program).

Please upload the following under the appropriate sections on the Slate application:

-RESUME that includes professional and leadership experience.


Describe the following:

• Your educational journey to this point and your career aspirations upon completing a PhD
• How you see the ELP PhD program fitting into your academic and professional trajectory
• Concise statement of your research interests
• Which ELP faculty member(s) best match your research interests and why


Select and answer one of the following essay topics:

Topic A: Education has long been viewed as the "great equalizer" through which individuals and groups that have traditionally been marginalized in the broader society can attain greater economic and social equity. However, evidence suggests that education has fallen short of this goal, particularly in relation to historically marginalized students in educational settings (e.g., students of color, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, immigrant students, LGBT students, and students living with disabilities).

In the face of enduring challenges to provide all students with high-quality learning opportunities in higher education, what role, in your opinion, does educational leadership and/or policy play in creating more socially just educational environments?

Topic B: It is often believed that education is beneficial to both individuals and society. Describe some of the major individual and societal benefits of education. Is it possible that educational attainment is differentially beneficial for particular groups in the population (e.g., racial, social, sexual identity, gender, ability, etc...)? Discuss the idea of education as a public versus private good. What role do educational leaders and policymakers play in ensuring that the benefits of education are equitable for all? Please limit your response to 1000 words or less.

Letters of Recommendation -- Three recommendations are required as part of the application process. These should be written by those who can speak to your leadership and academic ability and potential. We HIGHLY recommend that at least one letter be written by a faculty from whom you have previously taken a class. This can be done through the Slate application website.

All application materials are provided on or prior to the application deadline of December 1. Applications that are incomplete at the deadline will not be considered.

If you have questions or concerns at any time please contact our Academic Coordinator, Marilynn Howard, at 801-581-6714 or

Degrees are awarded when students have completed the Graduate School Thesis Editor's requirements for release to the Registrar.


Dr. Paula Smith – Director of Graduate Studies

Marilynn Howard - Graduate Student Coordinator

Student Stories

Amber Roderick-Landward

Director of Instructional Supports Educational Leadership & Policy PhD, 2019 Amber is a strategic thinker,...

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