Doctoral Handbook

The Higher Education Administration Doctoral Handbook provides information about the program and offers advice on how to succesfully complete the degree in a timely manner. Jump to a specific section using the links below.

Faculty Advisor
Ed.D & Ph.D Defined
Residency Requirements
Program Requirements
Events Timeline
Retention & Dismissal Policies
Professional Organizations
Committee Formation & Program of Study
Preliminary Exam
Proposal Defense & IRB Proposal
Dissertation & Finalizing the Degree Program

Faculty Advisor

As students enter the doctoral program they are assigned a faculty advisor. The faculty advisor will help each student get started in the program until a chair has been identified. The chair will then work with the student to identify a committee, formalize a program of study, and complete a dissertation or project.

Ed.D & Ph.D Defined

Graduate study in Higher Education Administration at the University of Wyoming aims to provide a balance between theory and practice. Attention is directed toward the union of learning that is required by circumstances and learning that enriches life. These nationally recognized graduate programs in Higher Education Administration offer courses of study that prepare individuals to work in diverse areas. Two types of doctoral programs are offered. Each is distinguished on several levels. The following sections describe some of these distinctions.

The Ed.D (terminal professional degree in education) is designed for practitioners who desire to improve their practice as educators and leaders. The Ed.D is especially appropriate for those who intend to work as administrators, instructional leaders, directors, and in related practitioner positions. The student’s graduate committee approves degree requirements and course work. The writing of a problem-based dissertation or project is required and must be completed within four years of completing the preliminary exam.

The Ph.D prepares students for careers of scholarly inquiry and teaching in higher education. The program consists of (1) continuous research or inquiry, (2) courses and professional experiences in education and related fields designed to develop a comprehensive academic basis for future work in research and teaching, and (3) teaching and other related experiences tailored to individual needs and career goals. Each student works closely with a chair and faculty committee to select courses, topics of research and inquiry, and teaching experiences. Successful Ph.D applicants typically have high aptitude for research and inquiry. Ph.D students have a one-semester residency requirement involving research and teaching, must take 12 hours of advanced research courses, 12 hours of dissertation credits, and 9 hours of college core courses.

Residency Requirement

Ed.D students are required to complete a residency requirement that consists of one fall orientation meeting. The meeting lasts one day and is conducted at the University of Wyoming, Laramie campus. Students are asked to attend the meeting during their first fall semester.

PhD students in the College of Education are required to complete a one semester residency, with experiences in teaching and research designed in consultation with their chair. Please see the guidelines on the College of Education website. Ph.D students are not required (but are welcome) to attend a fall orientation meeting described above for Ed.D students.

Program Requirements

Ed.D Program
The Ed.D program requires students to successfully complete 75-77 credit hours, depending on admission date. Beginning Spring Semester 2017, we welcome students to take up to six credits of required courses (two courses), no exceptions, as a non-degree seeking student prior to admission. Any hours taken can be transferred into the program of study if the student is admitted within four years of taking the course. All courses are delivered either online or through a blended format.

PhD Program
The PhD program requires students to complete 81 credit hours. Beginning Spring Semester 2017, we welcome students to take up to six credits of required courses (two courses), no exceptions, as a non-degree seeking student prior to admission. Any hours can be transferred into the program of study if the student is admitted within four years of taking the course. Classes are delivered either on campus, online, or through blended format.

  • Review the required course list
  • Review the extended course schedule
  • Review Ph.D Program Plan guide

Events Timeline

While individual situations may vary, below is an approximate timeline for completing milestones in the program in order to fulfill a goal of completing the degree within four years.

Near end of 1st Year (after completing 3-4 classes): Select a chair and committee members. Complete and file Program of Study.

During the 3rd Year (after completing all coursework except EDRE 5660): Prepare for Preliminary Exam.

Near start of 4th Year (after completing preliminary exam): Defend Dissertation Proposal and obtain UW IRB approval.

Near end of 4th Year: Defend dissertation and graduate with the degree.

The University of Wyoming requires that students seeking doctoral degrees complete their degree within eight years of entrance (since Fall 2016) and four years after completion of the preliminary exam. However, the doctoral programs in Higher Education Administration are designed so that they may be completed within four years.

Retention & Dismissal Policies

Retention policies and procedures are based on the expectation that students who enroll in our programs are self-directed and academically motivated. We expect our students to have a scholarly curiosity about the field of Higher Education Administration and its implications for research and leadership practice.

A student’s acceptance into any program does not guarantee fitness to remain in that program. The faculty members are responsible for assuring that only those students who continue to meet academic program standards and who make adequate yearly progress toward degree completion are allowed to continue. Faculty members seek to identify additional help that students may need to be successful.

Continuous Registration

All students are required to demonstrate annual academic progress. A component of this progress is that each student is expected to complete an average of at least 9 credit hours per year towards the program of study. Under some circumstances (e.g., work schedule, family situations, travel) a student may be unable to enroll in courses for a semester. During these times, the student should enroll in one credit hour of continuous registration. Continuous registration credit hours do not count towards course requirements but maintains active registration. If a student does not enroll in classes two consecutive semesters, his/her status will be become inactive and the student will have to apply for readmission to the program in order to continue. In addition, students must be enrolled every fall and spring semester in order to keep a UW email address. Summer registration is not required. 


Students are expected to earn a minimum grade of B or S in each graduate-level course taken. Depending on course grades, a student will be (a) allowed to continue enrolling in coursework, (b) placed on a remediation plan, or (c) dismissed from the program.

Remediation Plan. If a student is making unsatisfactory progress in coursework (a grade of C or U in a graduate level course), the student must ask to meet with his/her faculty advisor to discuss the problem, review appropriate measures of correction, and establish a timeline for change.

Dismissal. The program defines unsatisfactory performance in graduate level course work as a grade of U, D, or F in any course, two Cs, a cumulative GPA below 3.0, or failure to meet all requirements of a remediation plan. Any of these will result in program dismissal. If a student is dismissed for unsatisfactory performance, that student will not be allowed to enroll in the program’s courses even as a non-degree seeking student.

Professional Organizations

One purpose of a doctoral program is to help students transition from a student role into a professional colleague role. Active participation in professional organizations can accelerate this process and help to form networks that span a career. 

Several organizations emphasize Higher Education Administration, including:

We recommend that all doctoral students join at least one professional association. We also encourage students to attend and present at an annual conference.

Committee Formation & Program of Study

As a student progresses through coursework, he/she should identify a faculty member to serve as a chair. The chair should be someone whose research interests and work style are a good match for the student. Following the agreement of the faculty member to serve as chair, the student and the chair will work together to identify other potential committee members. It is the student’s responsibility to contact each proposed committee member and invite him/her to serve. After proposed committee members all agree to serve, the student will work with the chair to complete the “Committee Assignment Form,” gather required signatures, and submit the form to the office associate for Higher Education Administration to be processed and recorded by the registrar’s office. 

Program of Study
After the committee form has been filed and accepted by the registrar’s office, the student and chair will work together to develop the student’s Program of Study. The Program of Study lists the courses that will be takes in order to meet program requirements, as well as courses that will be used from the master’s program (up to 30 credit hours). The student may also solicit advice of committee members to select courses. The student will gather signatures from all of the committee members and submit the form to the office associate for Higher Education Administration to be processed and recorded by the registrar’s office.

Preliminary Exam

When the student has completed all coursework except EDRE 5660, the student will work with his/her chair and committee to schedule the preliminary exam. The exam consists of two parts: a written response to three to four questions and an oral defense of responses. The questions will be written by the committee and are related to the foundations of the field, current practices, scholarly research, and research methodologies. Student responses to each question should be between ten to twelve pages (excluding references) and should be written in accordance to current APA guidelines. The student will have one to two weeks (timing is a committee decision) to write responses to these questions. Following completion of the written exam, the student will schedule a committee meeting for the oral defense. The university allows a minimum of two weeks for the committee to evaluate the written exam; the student should schedule the meeting with ample time for the committee’s review. After the oral defense, the committee will determine whether or not the student has passed the exam. If the student passes the exam, he/she will be admitted into candidacy and will have four years to complete and defend a dissertation. If the student has not passed, by university guidelines, the student is allowed to retake the exam as early as the following semester.

While each student must take this exam independently, students are encouraged to think about and prepare for it well in advance. Seeking advice from a chair, committee, and faculty who teach research methods courses is encouraged. In addition, in preparation for the exam, students should review course syllabi and associated bibliographies, as these materials may provide an effective starting point. The following are additional ideas to consider:


  • Who are the key theorists in the field?
  • How do their theories compare and contrast with each other?
  • How do these theories influence practice?
  • How do courses in your program of study fit together to make you a better professional?
  • How does information from these courses intermix and combine to deepen your understanding of the field?

Current Practice

  • How does the field influence your current profession?
  • How does your profession influence the field?
  • What are some advantages and limitations of program theories based on your work environment?

Scholarly Research

  • What topic are you interested in studying for your dissertation?
  • What facets of this broader topic are you interested in exploring in depth?
  • What have other researchers said about these facets?
  • How credible, relevant, accurate, and timely are these sources?
  • What does previous research suggest about the state of the field?

Research Methods

  • What are some potential research questions that you are interested in examining as part of your dissertation?
  • What quantitative or qualitative methods best address these questions? What is your background/knowledge in the use of these methods?
  • What are some advantages and disadvantages of using particular methods?
  • Where are some potential research sites? Who might participate in your study? What are some selection criteria that you could use to recruit participants? What are some advantages and limitations of using these selection criteria? What benefits and risks might your participants face?
  • Can you adequately examine your research questions at this site with these participants?
  • How might your collected data help you to answer potential research questions?
  • How might you analyze your data?

Students typically will have questions on the following topics:

  1. literature review focused on a general topic of the student’s interest and how it is linked to research in adult education/higher education administration
  2. application of knowledge gained from doctoral coursework in adult education/higher education administration
  3. research methodology to illustrate broad knowledge of various methods

Proposal Defense & IRB Proposal

Prior to beginning dissertation research, a student must defend a dissertation proposal before the committee. Generally, a proposal contains advanced drafts of the first three chapters of the dissertation (or a suitable document if the student will be completing an alternative project). These include an introductory chapter that introduces the topic, research questions, and significance of the study, a literature review, and a detailed methods chapter.

Students are expected to work closely with their chairs to develop the dissertation proposal. After the chair approves the proposal, the student will send it to the other committee members for their review and then schedule the proposal defense. As usual, the committee members should have at least two weeks to read the proposal prior to the defense. At the defense, committee members will likely ask the student to revise the proposal, ranging from minor to substantial changes. When the committee members approve the proposal, the student will work with the chair to develop a proposal to the Institutional Review Board for their approval to collect data from human subjects. (Some chairs recommend that the IRB proposal is shared with the committee prior to the proposal defense.) Only after IRB approval may the student begin data collection.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Proposal
Before conducting research that involves human subjects, permission must be obtained from the Institutional Review Board at the University of Wyoming. Please review the guidelines for obtaining approval from the IRB. The Board meets monthly to review applications for human subjects research and to determine if participants and researchers will be effectively protected during data collection and dissemination of research.

Although IRB proposals are accepted at any time, they must be approved prior to any data collection. In general, review of materials can take 2 to 3 weeks before feedback and/or approval are provided. Additional time may be needed to make changes to the IRB proposal.

Prior to submitting an IRB proposal, students and faculty supervisors (chair, in this case) must have completed the online CITI training. CITI training must be updated every three years.

Dissertation & Finalizing the Degree Program

After the dissertation proposal has been approved and the student has also obtained IRB approval, data collection can begin. Students should be careful to follow procedures described in both the dissertation proposal and the IRB proposal. In addition, students should always keep the committee chair advised of progress. If any difficulties are encountered, such as unforeseen participant risks, procedures outside of the student’s control that influence data collection, etc., these must be reported to the chair and, very likely, to the Institutional Review Board.

Students must allow adequate time to complete their dissertation research. Even though the committee chair and committee members desire that their students complete their work in an efficient and timely manner, the most important criterion for completion is submission of a high-quality dissertation. Students are expected to work closely with their chair on the dissertation; the chair is responsible for ensuring the quality of the dissertation and that the students follow university guidelines. In addition, students must be enrolled in dissertation research (or continuous registration when dissertation research hours are complete) while working on a dissertation.

When the committee chair approves the dissertation for distribution, the student should submit it to other committee members and schedule the dissertation defense. As usual, the student should allow a minimum of two weeks for committee member review. The dissertation defense is a formal occasion and consists of a brief public presentation followed by discussion with the committee. Similar to the proposal, committee members will likely require revisions prior to their final approval.

Upon successful completion of the defense and any required revisions, both EdD and PhD students must submit the dissertation electronically to ProQuest prior to the university’s awarding of the degree. In addition, the student must complete the Anticipated Graduation Date Form and pay the graduation fee. Finally, the student should plan to attend commencement and should also ask the chair to do the ceremonial hooding, signifying an advanced degree.


Contact Us:

Jonathan Carrier

Higher Education Administration
Doctoral Program Coordinator
(307) 766-6400

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