International Education Ph.D.

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.

map of the world with post-it notes on countries where people have traveled

Course of Study

The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 42 course credits beyond the master’s degree, the successful completion of comprehensive exams, a minimum of 10 dissertation credits, and the successful defense of a dissertation.

Course Description Credits
  Required Courses: 2 courses 6
EDUC 733 Seminar in International Education 3
EDUC 739 Introduction to Inquiry  3
  Research Courses (4 courses minimum, 2 must be quantitative*) 12
EDUC 555 Introduction to Statistics I* 3
EDUC 619 Qualitative Research Methods 3
EDUC 652 Mixed Methods Research* 3
EDUC 656 Introduction to Statistics II* 3
EDUC 661 Education Research Methods I* 3
EDUC 671 Survey Research Methods* 3
EDUC 718 Action Research 3
EDUC 790E Social Network Analysis* 3
EDUC 797A Qualitative Data Analysis 3
EDUC 697SD Secondary Data Analysis* 3
EDUC 815 Researching Language, Literacy, and Culture (2 semesters) 3
EDUC 819 Alternative Research Methods 3
  Specialization Courses: 2 courses minimum 6
EDUC 626 Social Theories in Education 3
EDUC 635 Issues in Literacy Program Development 3
EDUC 678 Cultural Studies and International Development 3
EDUC 719 Theory and Practice of Non-formal Education 3
EDUC 720 Theories of International Development for Educators 3
EDUC 881 Comparative Education 3
  Focus Areas and Electives (6 course minimum, one must be outside College of Education) 18
EDUC 899 Dissertation credits 10

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. 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.

Ph.D. 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, Ph.D. students are required to take four research courses, two of which must be quantitative methods courses, as well as one course outside the College of Education.

The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 42 course credits beyond the master’s degree, the successful completion of comprehensive exams, a minimum of 10 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.

EDUC 739 Introduction to Inquiry

This seminar forms the base of the research offerings for students in the Ph.D. in Policy & Leadership Studies. In the course, we will explicate knowledge production through systematic inquiry in education, including processes, questions, and strategies used to conduct meaningful research in educational systems including U.S. K-12 public schools, U.S. higher education, and international education. We explore the intersection of theory and practice with emphasis on the epistemological assumptions and design of thoughtful, ethical inquiry about education.  We also emphasize sound academic writing principles and provide structured guidance in developing those skills.

EDUC 555 Introduction to Statistics I

The purpose of this course is to give students in the social sciences and, in particular, education, skills in statistical reasoning so that they will be critical readers of research literature in their fields and in a position to design research studies and analyze data on their own.

EDUC 652 Mixed Methods Research

Examines the history and philosophy as well as purposes and characteristics of mixed methods research, types of research problems addressed, major mixed methods designs, data collection, and analysis strategies. 

​​​​​​​EDUC 790E Social Network Analysis

Explore how Social Network Analysis is used to examine connections between educational stakeholders (i.e. teachers, parents, administrators, students, etc.) and how these networks constrain and/or support diffusion of innovation, school improvement, and student learning.

EDUC 815 Researching Language, Literacy, and Culture

Examination of ethnographic theory, methods, and techniques of researching language, literacy, and culture in educational settings.  It involves conceptualizing and conducting a full ethnographic study and learning how to use reflection on the fieldwork experiences to construct (or deconstruct) and articulate the theoretical basis, methods, and findings of your research. The course is organized to highlight both knowledge acquisition and reflection. Year-long course.  

EDUC 678 Cultural Studies and International Development

Examination of the central issues in cultural studies in the context of international development education, with primary stress on the relationship between knowledge and power to confront and critique notions of intellect and institution.

EDUC 719 Theory and Practice of Non-Formal Education

Non-formal and popular education approaches to human development programs, particularly in international settings. An introduction to the basic philosophical and conceptual works in the field, including the theories of  Freire, Illich, and others. Assumptions and theories of non-formal and popular education to practice in adult basic education, community, and health education; critical issues in the planning and implementation of non-formal education.

EDUC 720 Theories of International Development for Educators

Examines capitalist, socialist, and humanist theories of social and economic development. Identifies the assumptions, underlying values, and operational principles characteristic of specific theories and explores their  implications as international educators. A theoretical perspective for analyzing the role played by education in  different development perspectives.

EDUC 881 Comparative Education

Processes and problems of educational development in selected areas throughout the world. Interrelationship between education and culture, in a multicultural context. While historical antecedents are recognized, major emphasis on cultural forces responsible for contemporary educational practices.



The International Education doctoral program will not be accepting applications for the Fall 2023-Spring 2024 academic year.   Information about Fall 2024 admissions for the doctoral program will be posted in spring 2023.

We regret this decision, but it is necessary due the continued negative budget outlook that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. The College of Education has also decided to prioritize funding for continuing students rather than newly admitted students. Combined with concerns about our ability to offer courses without a typically robust cohort and the resulting impact on the doctoral student experience, the faculty have made the hard decision to pause doctoral enrollments in the International Education program for another year.


If you have additional questions, please contact Jennie Southgate (


Applications to the International Education doctoral program are submitted through the Graduate School

Application Timeline

The application deadline for fall admission is January 2. We will also conduct a phone or Zoom interview with finalists. 


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.

Required Materials

  • Two letters of reference
  • Personal statement
  • Résumé/CV
  • Transcripts
  • Online application 
  • Two writing samples
  • English Language Proficiency scores
  • GRE is not required


Jennie Southgate, Department Administrator,