Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Formative Education

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Formative Education

Drawing faculty from the diverse disciplinary traditions of history and philosophy, anthropology and humanistic psychology, design thinking and the learning sciences, this program prepares future scholars and practitioners to examine the normative dimensions of formal and informal education, the development of the whole human being in sociocultural context, and the grand social challenges that now demand a fuller educational response. 


Interested in learning more about the program?
Schedule a time to meet with Professor Chris Higgins,
Chair of the Department of Formative Education, or Cristiano Casalini, Professor and Endowed Chair of Jesuit Pedagogy and Educational History.


At a Glance

How many courses?

Students with a masters will take 18 courses and an ongoing colloquium.

How long will it take?

Full-time students with a master's degree are expected to complete the program in 5 years. Part-time students with a master's degree and students admitted directly from the B.A. are expected to complete the program in 6 years.

When can I start?

Students can begin the program only in the fall semester.

"We can no longer afford to treat education like a technical matter, tinkering with means to a given end. Our programs seek to catalyze conversations about the ends themselves. What does it mean to be educated? What are the formative dimensions of our contemporary grand challenges? How do we form ourselves to lead flourishing lives and foster just communities?”
Chris Higgins, Chair, Department of Formative Education



  • Credits: 54 (up to 12 additional credits for direct admit)
  • Comprehensive Exam


Financial Aid

Education should level the playing field. We feel the same way about financial aid.

The Lynch School of Education and Human Development provides more than $10.8 million in financial aid to students each year. As a result, the quality of BC’s instruction, the benefit of our alumni network, and the impact a BC degree will have on your employment options is both affordable and invaluable. 

A Future in Formative Education

  • Scholars exploring topics such as transformative dialogue and critical consciousness, spiritual formation, design of learning environments, the formative power of the arts, social imagination and hope, experiential learning, pluralism and civic education, experimental higher education, ecological change;
  • K-12 educators poised to challenge the narrow instrumentalism of contemporary schooling to advocate for a holistic vision of growth that reunites thinking and feeling, knowing and making, the moral and the technical, the intellectual and the existential, character and calling.
  • Professors prepared to teach in institutions that value interdisciplinarity, design thinking, and formative teaching and mentoring;
  • Designers and others working in the private and public sectors seeking to promote humane learning, transformative practices, and just communities.




Application & Deadline

Apply Now

A non-refundable application fee of $75 is required. The fee is waived for select applicants.


Fall 2024:

  • December 1, 2023
    This program does not offer rolling admission after the deadline.


To be uploaded to your online application.

In addition to your academic history and relevant volunteer and/or work experience, please include any licenses currently held, any social justice-related experience, any language skills other than English, and any research experience or publications.

Personal Statement

In 1,000-1,500 words: 

  • Describe how your academic and professional background, and any life experiences, have informed your interest in completing doctoral work in the DFE department.
  • Describe your research interests and future research plans.
  • Explain why you are a good match for the Formative Education Ph.D. program at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development. A good statement of purpose will indicate 1-3 specific faculty whose program of the research aligns with the research interests of the applicant and describe how specific faculty can support the applicant’s scholarly and research interests.

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required with at least one required from an academic source. Applicants may submit one additional recommendation of their choice. Academic letters are a better indicator of your qualifications for doctoral work as compared to professional letters. Ideally, academic letters should be as recent as possible, and from faculty who are in fields related to education.


Transcripts from all college/university study are required.

Applicants who have received degrees from institutions outside the United States should view the "International Students" section for additional credential evaluation requirements.

Please begin your online application before submitting your transcripts. Details on how to submit transcripts and international credential evaluations can be found within the application. In order to ensure your transcript reaches our office, it is important to review and follow the instructions.

Standardized Tests

GRE scores are not required. If you wish to send GRE scores, the Lynch School GRE code is 3218.

Please view the "International Students" section for information on English Proficiency test requirements.

Writing Sample

To be uploaded to your online application.

All applicants to this program are required to submit either one longer or two shorter pieces of work demonstrating graduate-level writing ability. If submitting two pieces, please combine and upload as a single document. Applicants are welcome to preface the sample with a brief summary that explains the background of the piece(s) to provide context for the Admissions Committee. There is no word limit for this submission.

International Students

Applicants who have completed a degree outside of the United States must have a course-by-course evaluation of their transcript(s) completed by an evaluation company approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). Submission of falsified documents is grounds for denial of admission or dismissal from the University.

Applicants who are not native speakers of English and who have not received a degree from an institution where English is the primary language of instruction must also submit a TOEFL or IELTS test result that meets the minimum score requirement.

Please click the link below for full details on these requirements.

Requirements for International Students

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