EdD in Higher Education Leadership

APU’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Higher Education Leadership is a practitioner-focused degree program preparing men and women to apply knowledge to improve educational practice at a broad range of colleges and universities.

For more information: (626) 815-5584

The Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership is a 51-unit degree program, inclusive of dissertation. It develops professional educators and leaders who are able to apply their knowledge in order to improve educational practice primarily at the institutional level. The dissertation for the EdD is a culminating research project utilizing a three-year cycle model of action research beginning in the first year.


Students begin each academic year with a one-week intensive at APU in June, and also attend classes on campus one weekend (9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday) a month, with the exception of May and August. Students take two courses a term, and three terms per academic year, for a total of six courses (17 units) per academic year. In between campus visits, students work online to complete course assignments and communicate with faculty and fellow students. Students travel internationally during May of their second year. The coursework for that session will be the focus of the trip. All in-country costs of the trip are included in the program tuition, but students are responsible for their international airfare.

Dissertation Courses

The dissertation process is embedded in the EdD program, as students take Guided Inquiry Project I in their first year and Guided Inquiry Project II in their second year. Each course in the program supports the development of the dissertation proposal and the final dissertation study. The dissertation proposal course begins in the third year. If students do not successfully defend their dissertation proposal in HEDL 785, they must continue to enroll in HEDL 785 each term until the proposal is successfully defended. Once students successfully defend their dissertation proposal, they enroll in HEDL 787 for one semester (3 units) and then in HEDL 789 (3 units) for each semester thereafter until the dissertation has been successfully defended. Enrollment in these courses entitles a student access to faculty and university resources, including library databases and the services of the doctoral research librarian. Continuous enrollment in dissertation courses is required until the dissertation is successfully defended. Students are considered enrolled full time from the proposal (HEDL 785) through the completion of the dissertation (HEDL 789). Students are expected to continue to come to campus each term during the dissertation phase. Credit for dissertation courses is given for completion of the stated course objectives as outlined in the syllabus. Students who do not meet the designated course outcomes will not receive credit for the course and will be required to retake the course.


The program requires 51 units beyond the master’s degree, inclusive of dissertation; most courses are 3-4 units, with some 1-unit courses. Read the complete course descriptions for more information.

Plan of Study Grid
Year I
HEDL 709 The Philosophy of Action Research 4
HEDL 748 Guided Inquiry Project I 1
HEDL 740 Critical Issues in Higher Education 3
HEDL 720 Campus Ecology and Creating Spaces for Thriving 3
HEDL 741 Strengths-Oriented Leadership 3
HEDL 729 The Spirituality of Leadership 3
Year II
HEDL 733 The Changing Worlds of Higher Education 4
HEDL 749 Guided Inquiry Project II 1
HEDL 742 Student Access, Equity, and Success in College 3
HEDL 716 Survey Methods and Quantitative Analysis 3
HEDL 743 Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education 3
HEDL 715 Qualitative Methods in Action Research 3
Year III
HEDL 744 Administration in Higher Education 4
HEDL 785 Dissertation Proposal 1
HEDL 723 Higher Education Law and Policy 3
HEDL 745 Leading Change in Higher Education 3
HEDL 787 Dissertation Seminar 2
HEDL 789 Dissertation Research 1 3-4
 Total Units51
Optional Course
HEDL 799Readings in Higher Education Leadership 21-4

Students enroll for 4 units of HEDL 789 during the last semester of their third year. If they still have not completed their dissertation by the time the semester ends, they reenroll for 3 units each term until the dissertation process is completed.


HEDL 799 may be taken by students needing additional units to complete the program (e.g., transfer students).


University graduate admission and program-specific requirements must be met before an application is complete (see Admission to the University). Program-specific application requirements are available online.

International students should contact Graduate and Professional Admissions for application procedures.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this program shall be able to:
  1. Conduct and disseminate action research that promotes leadership development and makes a difference to campus practice.
  2. Lead effectively, collaboratively, compassionately, and with vision.
  3. Competently effect change at the campus level through creative interventions and program design.
  4. Articulate and evaluate a strengths-based approach to leadership practice.
  5. Articulate and evaluate a Christian perspective on effective leadership in higher education.
  6. Lead effectively with diverse populations and appropriately confront personal and institutional injustice in higher education settings.
  7. Demonstrate a commitment to and ability to foster student development within individuals and institutions.