Doctoral Degree: Educational Policy and Leadership Concentration

Specialization in International Education

The specialization in International Education provides educators with the opportunity to study the role of education in the context of Asia, Africa, and Latin America and other developing areas. The specialization has courses related to both formal and non-formal education theory and practice; on education for children, adolescents and adults; and on basic, primary, secondary, and higher education in developing countries. Students may focus on a wide variety of topics in international education, including comparative education, education reform, policy issues, teacher quality and development, institutional capacity building, project planning/management/monitoring and evaluation, social theories of education, education in crisis and conflict contexts, and gender issues in development.

Students in international education are expected to become aware of social justice issues in education and to understand participatory and popular education approaches to education. Graduates should have developed an in-depth awareness of cultural differences; the ability to apply critical theory and pedagogy in both schools and communities in domestic and/or international settings; and practical skills in training, project development, research, and evaluation.

Frequently asked questions about the international education concentration.

Students in the international education concentration also have the opportunity to be closely linked to the Center for International Education (CIE). The Center’s work can support students in exploring the relationship between academic studies and the practical realities of international development work. Many students receive financial support from projects in CIE. For those interested, active involvement in applied projects and research activities and a participatory community structure can add to a student’s experience in the program.

Admissions Process

The admissions process for the educational policy and leadership concentration’s specialization in international education starts by completing the UMass Amherst Graduate School online application. We ask that applicants for the PhD submit at least two writing samples. We will also conduct a phone or Skype interview with finalists.

We are happy to answer questions or help you obtain the needed forms if necessary. If you have questions before applying, we encourage you to contact Jennie Southgate, Department Administrator, at for help or further information.

Admissions Criteria

The international education specialization in the educational policy and leadership doctoral concentration leads to a PhD degree. It is designed for professionals with extensive relevant international field experience. We expect applicants to demonstrate a professional commitment to working in education in developing countries, a commitment to issues of social justice, and career goals congruent with the program.

Successful candidates are usually early- or mid-career professionals who have experience working in development education with marginalized populations, particularly in developing countries. We look for applicants who have meaningful experience of immersion in another culture while engaged in education and development-related work, often at the community level.

Degree Requirements

The PhD student, together with their faculty guidance committee, formulates an individualized study plan which typically includes study at three interrelated levels:
1) theoretical - to investigate, for example, the relationship between education and socioeconomic or political change or gender issues in education.
2) practical -  to develop skills, such as research and evaluation design and methods, planning and policy analysis, curriculum and materials development, training and management.
3) contextual - to focus on specific sectors, such as literacy, health or agriculture, as well as different sociocultural settings. In addition, most students seek to strengthen their knowledge of current conditions in a particular country or region of the world.

PhD students have two required courses within the International Education specialization:

  • Foundation in International Education (3 credits, first semester)
  • Introduction to Inquiry (3 credits, first semester)

In addition, PhD students are required to take four research courses, two of which much be quantitative methods courses, as well as one course outside the College of Education (see the Program of Study below).

The PhD requires a minimum of 42 course credits beyond the Master’s degree, the successful completion of comprehensive exams, a minimum of 12 dissertation credits, and the successful defense of a dissertation. Typically:

a)   4 to 6 semesters are devoted to courses and study on campus.

b)   Course work is followed by the comprehensive examination, the form and content of which are related to the individual's program of study and are determined in consultation with a faculty committee.

c)   After successful completion of the comprehensive exams, the student has achieved candidacy and enrolls in dissertation credits, develops a research proposal, conducts independent research, and writes the dissertation. A public oral defense of the dissertation is required by the Graduate School.

See examples of recent doctoral dissertations.

Program of Study

Contact Information

Associated Faculty

Sangeeta Kamat (Professor), Jacqueline Mosselson (Associate Professor), Bjorn H. Nordtveit (Associate Professor), Cristine Smith (Associate Professor).

Affiliated Faculty

 David R. Evans (Professor Emeritus), John Comings (Adjunct Professor), Ash Hartwell (Adjunct Professor), Sharon F. Rallis (Dwight W. Allen Distinguished Professor of Education Policy and Reform), Gretchen Rossman (Professor, retired).