Education, Ph.D.
(Policy, Leadership and School Improvement)

Program Description

Policy, Leadership and School Improvement (PLS)

The aim of the PhD program in Policy, Leadership and School Improvement (PLS) is to prepare leaders who will influence the direction of educational organizations at home and around the world. The program produces scholars, administrators, and analysts for leadership roles in K-12 systems, universities, research organizations and policy-making bodies. It does so by developing students’ understanding of the societal, political and economic conditions affecting schools; the capacity to analyze educational problems and their proposed solutions; and the ability to design innovations and implementation processes that work.

The PhD program in PLS is among the few programs at elite public universities in the nation to offer opportunities to study with a faculty whose work in K-12 administration, education policy, and school improvement is internationally known. As leaders in these areas, our faculty work collaboratively with students to develop research questions and hypotheses, study them in state and national settings, and link findings to practice. Faculty and students in PLS are engaged in the examination and critique of today’s important and contested issues in education, including:

  • Teacher quality
  • Turn-around schools
  • High school effectiveness
  • Resource allocation
  • Principal instructional leadership
  • Issues of class, gender, immigration and race in education

In addition to disciplinary core and research courses, students pursue programs of study that include courses in policymaking, education program evaluation and policy analysis, school law, leadership, educational innovation, implementation, and taking reforms to scale. In combination with courses in quantitative, qualitative and mixed research methods, students develop their research skills through a professional seminar and assistantships with faculty.
Committed to professional service, our faculty are also members of editorial boards and advisory forums at the national, state and local levels. They also work directly with school systems, consulting on issues of staffing, instructional delivery, and governance. PLS faculty are currently working with the federal Race to the Top initiative in North Carolina and a national education research center funded by the U.S. Department of Education.


Applications for the Fall 2019 Admission Term are due
February 12, 2019

A bachelor’s degree is required for application to the Ph.D in Education program. Applicants with Master’s degrees are also encouraged to apply.

For detailed application instructions please visit our Admissions page.