Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at KU

A close-up of students in a classroom gazing at a subject of interest

Program Overview

The Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy at the University of Kansas is a research degree that prepares individuals for roles as researchers, policy analysts, educational leaders, and faculty members for policy, K-12, and higher education settings. This degree distinguishes itself by its focus on preparing graduates to be researchers who are making original scholarly contributions to the knowledge base in the field. Students typically take some courses in graduate programs in related fields such as sociology, public administration, and economics.

Career Outcomes in Educational Leadership & Policy

Students pursue the Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy at KU with varying career goals in mind. Ph.D. students should expect to engage in “co-curricular” activities above and beyond the specific degree requirements appropriate to their career aspirations. These include conducting and presenting research at conferences, engaging in internships with policy organizations, etc. It prepares graduates who are qualified to conduct theoretically grounded, original research on crucial issues in education policy and scholarship. Potential position titles after graduation could include:

  • Professor,
  • Policy maker,
  • Policy analyst,
  • Political activist,
  • Lobbyist,
  • Researcher.

The Ph.D. program does not lead to initial or advanced educator licensure in the state of Kansas.

Concentration Areas

All doctoral students must complete a program that provides a broad understanding of educational leadership and policy as well as a concentration in one of the following areas:


Educational Administration

Prepares individual to assume positions such as faculty roles in PK-12 administrator preparation programs, policy analysts, and state level leadership roles. Studies stress fundamental fields of knowledge and educational policy development.

Higher Education

Prepares current and prospective college/university staff members and administrators with theoretical knowledge of higher education and supporting disciplines, plus advanced research skills necessary to work in a variety of higher education related organizations.

Policy Studies

Features a multidisciplinary approach to policy analysis. Students complete education-related courses in addition to other supporting disciplines. Students prepare for roles as researchers, higher education faculty, and educational leaders.

Social and Cultural Studies in Education

Features a broad examination of educational theory and its practical application on local, national, and international levels. Emphasizes social, philosophical, historical, comparative, and interdisciplinary inquiry into the relationship between human aspirations and the aims and methods of education. (This concentration is temporarily on hiatus due to faculty retirements.)

Thinking about educational leadership and policy studies?

Let us know you’re interested in the program. We would love to connect with you to discuss the program’s curriculum, steps necessary for admission to KU, affordability options, and perhaps what to expect during your time on campus once you have become a Jayhawk.

Ed.D. or Ph.D.

The Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs are typically distinguished by the outcome goals of each program. Both degrees are considered terminal degrees, meaning the highest degree one can achieve in the field of education.

Ed.D. or Ph.D.


Emphasizes the knowledge and skills to prepare scholars to be a faculty member or a researcher at a college, university, or related agency. The focus is on developing the academic and methodological skills necessary to equip students for faculty positions in higher education or research positions in related agencies.


Designed for current practitioners who see themselves advancing in leadership of pre-K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and related agencies. The focus of this program is the application of theory to practice.

brag points

Public School of Education & Human Sciences
Average number of admitted students annually

Joseph R. Pearson Hall
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
University of Kansas
School of Education and Human Sciences
Joseph R. Pearson Hall , Rm. 421
1122 West Campus Rd.
Lawrence , Kansas 66045-3101