Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Lynch School of Education

Program Of Study And Requirements

Doctoral Program

Program of Study

As part of the individualized nature of the Higher Education Program, doctoral students have significant flexibility in designing their program of study. At the beginning of their studies, doctoral students should complete a program of study form outlining the proposed course of study. The program of study should include all core and school requirements as well as electives. Recognizing that the field of higher education is multidisciplinary, doctoral students are encouraged to include coursework from another academic department or school at Boston College (for example in the Sociology department or in the School of Management) in their program of study. The doctoral student should discuss this with his/her faculty advisor and complete the program of study. The program of study must be completed and submitted to the Department Chair for approval before the comprehensive examinations. However, it is recommended that it be submitted as early in the student's program as possible. Once the program of study has been approved, the student can make changes or course substitutions with the permission of the faculty advisor by submitting a change of program form. Both the program of study form and the change of program form are available from the LSOE Website.

Program of Study Forms

Doctoral Candidacy Requirements

Part I: Comprehensive Exams

Comprehesive exams are given in January and August of each year.  Doctoral students are eligible to take the exams after completing a minimum of 27 credits.

Nature of the examination
  The goal of the exam is for the student to demonstrate his or her substantive and integrative knowledge of higher education and its professional literature in coherent essays. The knowledge base for the examination is, in general, the "core" (ELHE7101 and ELHE7301) and "foundations" courses (EDUC9803, ELHE7201, ELHE7103, ELHE7404, and ELHE7202) in the higher education program. Other relevant material may, of course, be used. A take-home examination, students must effectively use the relevant higher education literature as foundation and evidence for their responses in the comprehensive exam.
The format of the examination
  The comprehensive examination will consist of two questions selected by the student from a choice of three. The questions will require students to synthesize and reflect on course content and will not require students to conduct new research. A take-home format, students will be given 48 hours to complete the examination and return it to Campion 205 by the designated time. No late examinations will be accepted. Late examinations must be repeated at another time as determined by the faculty. Typically, exams will become available on a Friday afternoon and returned the following Monday morning. Student examinations will be assigned an identification number and prepared for "blind" review by the faculty. Each response must be a minimum of 2,200 words and a maximum of 3,200 words. The essays must follow the American Psychological Association (APA) style and manuscript guidelines. These guidelines include double-spacing between all lines of the manuscript, uniform margins of 1 inch at the top, bottom, right, and left of every page and no more than 25 lines of text on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch page.

After completing the bulk of the program coursework including all of the core courses but excluding dissertation direction), doctoral students must pass a comprehensive examination that integrates the content of the broad areas of the core courses. This examination must be taken within one semester of the completion of relevant course work. Students should meet individually with their faculty advisors to discuss the details of their exams. Well before the examination, students receive information concerning the examination and advice about preparing for it. Most students form small study groups to review material and prepare for comps. Students must sign up to take the exams in the Higher Education-Educational Administration department office, Campion 205, by the publicized deadline. The examination will generally be given twice a year, once during the winter break or shortly after the beginning of the semester, and once in the summer, typically directly after the end of classes. Please note that summer exams will not be evaluated until the fall semester. The specific dates are determined by those students who sign up to take the examination in consultation with the Higher Education Program coordinator. The registration procedure involves submitting an unofficial copy of the transcript, a copy of the approved program of study, and a completed registration form (including signatures from the core faculty) to the Program office.

The exams questions are written and graded by the core faculty. Grades awarded are pass, pass with distinction, or fail. To pass with distinction, the student must show outstanding analytical skills, command of the topic areas considered, and effective writing. If a student fails one section, he or she may be asked to rewrite the question. If successful the second time, the student will pass. If a student fails the entire exam, s/he will have one more opportunity to retake the exam the next semester. Students may re-take the comprehensive examination only once.

Part II: Qualifying Paper

When the student has successfully completed the comprehensive examination, they must complete the research Qualifying Paper (QP) as the second part of the doctoral examination. The student and the advisor must select a topic for the QP which will relate to the doctoral dissertation topic of the student. The QP may be a substantive literature review essay or an alternative extended essay that relates in an appropriate way to the dissertation topic. The QP must be a minimum of 30 pages (double-spaced). The QP must be completed within four months of being assigned. The QP will be evaluated by the advisor and two other members of the Higher Education Program faculty. For more information, contact your faculty advisor.  The QP is due four months after the comprehensive exam date.  Students must have the QP completed in order to enroll in the Seminar in Research in Higher Education, ELHE 9502, offered each fall.

Part III: Ph.D. Candidacy

After successfully completing the comprehensive exams and the qualifying paper, a doctoral student is awarded the status of Ph.D. Candidate. Often referred to as A.B.D. ("all but dissertation"), Ph.D. Candidacy means that the student has completed all of the requirements necessary for a doctoral degree except for the dissertation. This preliminary status is an important indicator of students' likely completion of the Ph.D., and is usually an eligibility requirement for dissertation fellowships and grants. For information on the required time period for completion of the degree, see the Lynch School of Education's Policies and Procedures.