Develop advanced research skills, generate theories and gain expertise in a specific field of educational leadership (e.g., post-secondary education, curriculum design or educational assessment). Our Ph.D. program will prepare you for careers in executive leadership, higher education, research organizations and policy centers.

The ELPS Ph.D. program consists of two years of doctoral coursework in a cohort composed of Ed.D. and Ph.D. students. In the first two years you will take two courses per quarter: one research methods course and one leadership content course. In order to gain a strong grounding in the leadership of educational organizations, research and policy, you will customize your coursework in year three. Successfully defending your dissertation marks the completion of the Ph.D. degree.

Learning Outcomes

The program learning outcomes for the Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies are as follows:

  • Self Aware: Reflective practitioners who seek and embrace critical feedback with the personal insight necessary to continuously improve and are willing to fully dedicate their knowledge, skills and passion towards becoming critically conscious scholars, researchers for social justice and transformative leaders.
  • Critically Conscious Scholar: Critical consumers of knowledge that base leadership and professional practice as a leader and scholar with historical and cultural awareness of the communities served by engaging indigenous and ancestral community contexts and empirical evidence to be an effective, ethical and equity-focused scholar.
  • Researcher Committed to Social Justice: Producers of critical and collective scholarly inquiry, application and development of new knowledge and practice that foster social justice and civic engagement and honor culture and community.
  • Transformative Leader: Culturally responsive leaders who center community perspectives and critique and challenge systems of oppression by moving research to action, advocating for community-based goals and/or assuming leadership or partnering with school, district and community leaders. Transformative leaders who promote inclusive, non-oppressive school contexts that serve the best interests of students, families and communities for a more equitable and socially just education system and society.

Program Requirements

You must complete 90-quarter credit hours and a traditional dissertation.

Download the ELPS Doctoral Program Overview (PDF) for comprehensive information.



At times, students opt to If you are approved to pursue certification for an Administrative License through the Colorado Department of Education (CDE): the Initial Administrator (Superintendent) License or the Initial Administrator (Director of Special Education) License, you must complete the optional six-credit hour administrator internship (300 contact hours) in addition to the Ph.D. program requirements. The University of Denver has not yet determined whether the program meets licensure requirements in a state other than Colorado or in any U.S. protectorates. If you want to pursue licensure in a state other than Colorado, contact the state’s Board of Education to determine whether the program meets licensure requirements.