May 19, 2024  
NCU Catalog - April 2018 
NCU Catalog - April 2018 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Educational Leadership, PhD

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Description of Program

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Educational Leadership (EdL) is a theoretical research degree designed to prepare educational leaders who desire to improve educational policy and research across private and public sectors of PK-12, higher education, military, and corporate learning organizations.  You will acquire skills to ethically address the complex problems within educational practice using data-driven decision-making and other theoretical frames linking systematic inquiry with innovative, research-based solutions.  The degree culminates in the completion of empirical dissertation research with direct implications for educational theory and policy.

Learning Outcomes

  • Examine educational leadership, research, and policy from practice-based, evidence-based, and research-based perspectives
  • Determine the aspects of professional capacity and resource needs for a quality professional learning community within sector-specific learning organizations
  • Develop effective leadership traits to improve educational practice for diverse learning organizations within public and private sectors
  • Devise a research- and theoretically-based examination of a complex problem within educational leadership
  • Conduct theoretically-based empirical research to address a complex problem within educational leadership, research, or policy

Basis for Admission

Admission requires a conferred post-baccalaureate master’s degree and/or doctoral degree from a regionally or nationally accredited academic institution or an international institution determined to be equivalent through an approved evaluation service.

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Leadership (EdL) requires 60 credit hours for degree completion. Coursework includes foundations, educational leadership, research methods, the comprehensive exam course, and the dissertation. Additional credit hours may be allowed as needed to complete dissertation research in alignment with the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and Academic Maximum Time Frame policies. Students who do not complete their program within these requirements may be dismissed

The PhD-EdL degree program has the following graduation requirements:

  • A minimum of 48 credit hours of graduate instruction must be completed through NCU
  • Successful completion of all courses with a “B” or better
  • Official transcripts on file for all transfer credits accepted by the University

The University may accept up to 12 semester credit hours earned with a grade of “B” or better for graduate coursework completed at an accredited college or university and evaluated to be substantially equivalent in content with the required course work for the EdD-EdL program. See the

  for additional information.


Dissertation Completion Pathway

The NCU mission is dedicated to assisting students in achieving their academic aspirations and helping them become valuable contributors to their community and profession. To support our mission, NCU now offers a dissertation completion pathway for students who have successfully completed their doctoral coursework and achieved doctoral candidacy at a previous institution but were unable to complete their dissertation.  NCU’s Dissertation Completion Pathway (DCP) offers a unique opportunity for students to complete their doctorate in one of the doctoral programs offered at NCU (excluding the PhD in MFT and DMFT). Students successfully meeting the entrance and application requirements will complete a minimum of 23 credit hours to earn their doctorate.

Click below for more information on the

Dissertation Completion Pathway  


Time to Completion

NCU allows 7 years to complete all doctoral programs of 60 credits or less.

NCU may accept a maximum of 12 semester credit hours in transfer toward the doctoral degree for graduate coursework completed toward a non-conferred doctoral degree at an accredited college or university with a grade of “B” or better. Transfer credit is only awarded for course work that is evaluated to be substantially equivalent in content with the required course work for the PhD-EdL program.

Students who are unable to complete a degree program within the stated time limits are dismissed. If a student believes they have extenuating circumstances they may document the circumstances and send a request for consideration to their respective School Dean or designee. Exceptions to the policy are determined on a case-by-case basis and are granted only once.

Normal time to completion for this program is 82 months.

Time to completion varies depending upon the pace in which a student completes courses and the number of transfer credits accepted. As most NCU students are working adults balancing educational, professional, and personal commitments, our academic advisors will work with you to develop a program schedule that works best for your needs.

The normal time disclosed above reflects the experience of students who may have entered under different program requirements. In the quest for continuous improvement, academic leadership has revised the program to optimize curriculum and pace, facilitate student learning, and improve chances for success. Therefore, the program is now designed for students enrolling today to take advantage of these revised course structures, lengths, and schedules. New students following the preferred schedule designed by the Dean for this program, and applying no transfer credits, can expect to finish in as little as 45 months.

Certification and Licensing

The School of Education serves educational leaders by providing online graduate studies in education to reach worldwide populations. The PhD-EdL program is designed to reach national and international markets and does not purport to provide licensure or certification in any particular state or country.

Research and Dissertation

The University has developed a logical step-by-step process that assists in completing the dissertation. NCU provides a detailed Dissertation Handbook that explains the process and NCU’s dissertation support structure.

The PhD-EdL doctoral research courses, the PhD-EdL comprehensive course and the PhD-EdL dissertation courses are specifically designed as a guide through the process in an orderly and meaningful fashion and lead to the oral defense.

The dissertation is the capstone academic achievement of the PhD-EdL. The PhD-EdL dissertation is a scholarly documentation of the research. To earn the PhD-EdL the student must demonstrate the ability, motivation, and commitment and NCU will provide the faculty, the academic support and process to assist with the attainment of high academic goals.

The PhD-EdL research is aimed at contributing to the body of research knowledge - either new research or adding to research already studied in the field. PhD-EdL students take EDR-8201 - Statistics I  and EDR-8202 - Statistics II  as part of their program of study. There is also an oral defense.

Dissertation Process

Faculty assists each NCU Doctoral student to reach this high goal through a systematic process leading to a high-quality completed dissertation. A PhD-EdL dissertation is a scholarly documentation of research that makes an original contribution to the field of study. This process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of the dissertation.

A doctoral candidate must be continuously enrolled throughout the series of dissertation courses. Dissertation courses are automatically scheduled and accepted without a break in scheduling to ensure that students remain in continuous enrollment throughout the dissertation course sequence. If additional time is required to complete any of the dissertation courses, students must re-enroll and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when students demonstrate progress toward completing dissertation requirements. The Dissertation Committee determines progress.

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