Higher Education Leadership

Doctor of Education


Wilmington University’s Higher Education Leadership program is designed for practitioners who are currently employed in higher education and who aspire to lead not only at their institutions, but more broadly in the field of higher education. Our degree program focuses on practical application, problem-solving, and leading change in higher education.

Our students learn to apply their leadership skills to advance the field of higher education. At the same time, they value and understand the history and current state of higher education. They understand, can respond to, and influence the larger political, social, economic, legal, and cultural contexts of higher education.

We are committed to developing higher education leaders who:

  • commit to and promote lifelong learning.
  • empower others.
  • advocate for continuous improvement.
  • value reflection and feedback.
  • act with integrity, fairness, and sound ethics.


Program Competencies

Students in the EDD in Higher Education Leadership will also demonstrate the following ACPA/NASPA competencies:

  • Advising and Supporting
  • Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
  • Law, Policy, and Governance
  • Leadership
  • Organizational and Human Resource
  • Personal and Ethical Foundations
  • Social Justice and Inclusion
  • Student Learning and Development
  • Technology
  • Values, Philosophy, and History


Program Design

The Doctor of Education program in Higher Education Leadership reflects the College of Education and Liberal Arts’s Conceptual Framework as well as Wilmington University’s institutional values, especially those related to innovation and career-focused practical applications.

The program is designed to combine knowledge, theory, practice, and applied inquiry with the overall goal of enhancing students’ effectiveness as innovative leaders in higher education environments.

The degree program is organized into three components: the Professional Core, the Research Core, and the Guided Study Core.

The Professional Core consists of 21 credits of coursework, offered in an enhanced asynchronous online environment. An enhanced asynchronous learning environment is one in which content is fully delivered online and supplemented with synchronous meetings, called Course Roundtables, facilitated by the instructor throughout each term.

During Course Roundtables, students may discuss weekly topics, collaborate with classmates, hear from guest speakers, and make brief presentations related to course activities.

Learning activities in the Professional Core address academic writing skills; deepen students’ knowledge of issues related to higher education; explore practical applications of case studies, theories and concepts; and propose alternative solutions to problems confronting higher education leaders.

Instructors will offer several opportunities for Course Roundtables over the course of the term, with students selecting at least 7 hours that best fit their schedules.

The Research Core, comprised of 15 credits, is designed to provide students with comprehensive preparation in approaches to problem-centered research and applied inquiry. A 6-credit Applied Inquiry Project is the culminating activity for the degree. Should students not complete their Project within the allotted 6 credits, they must register for an additional 3 credits of Applied Inquiry each block until the project is complete.

Early in the program, students will identify a problem of practice within the field of higher education.

Throughout the Research Core, students continually develop and refine their topics, leading to an approved Applied Inquiry Project. At the conclusion of the project, lessons learned from the project are presented publicly to an audience of practitioners and peers.

Finally, the Guided Study Core contains 15 credits of Guided Study, in which students and their mentors will design individualized one-on-one learning experiences based on students’ interests and career goals.  Guided Study Core courses do not meet as regular class sessions.  100% of the time normally allocated in a traditional course for Face-to-Face class sessions and independent work is spent in the field, working 1:1 with a mentor.

For each Guided Study course, students will identify a topic and be matched with a Faculty Mentor who is an expert/practitioner in that area. Students will work with the Faculty Mentor to identify and measure personalized learning outcomes.

The Guided Study experience allows students to identify what they already know, what they’d like to learn, how they’d like to learn it, and what evidence they can provide to show the amount and quality of learning that took place.  Each Guided Study course includes opportunities for students to create their own approaches to demonstrating course competencies.

Throughout the program, students continuously develop a leadership portfolio, which highlights their experiences, their growth in knowledge and skills, and how their new knowledge and skills will affect their current and future behavior as higher education leaders.

Upon completion of each course, students add projects and artifacts to the portfolio.

Similarly, students include projects and artifacts from their Guided Study experiences in their portfolios. This provides a comprehensive collection of the student’s application of concepts learned through coursework, guided study, and research-based inquiry. At the end of each year, students present their progress through their portfolio and professional development plan to a panel of faculty.

The program is offered online in an enhanced asynchronous format.  Content is delivered fully online; however, students are required to attend one hour of synchronous discussion per week. At least two times will be offered weekly; students may attend the time that works best for them each week

Students will enroll in 6 credits per term in the fall, spring, and summer terms and thus complete 18 credits per year.

Guided Study
Candidates will utilize the 15 credits (5 courses) of Guided Study to create their own specializations within Higher Education Leadership. All Guided Study plans must be approved by the Program Chair.

As students progress through the program, they maintain a portfolio of artifacts that demonstrate their mastery of program and University competencies. Portfolios are submitted and evaluated annually.

Students are raised to candidacy (i.e., eligible for Applied Inquiry project enrollment) when they have: passed each course with a B or higher, maintained a minimum GPA of 3.0, and have received a satisfactory rating on their portfolio.

Transfer Credit
Up to 12 credits of doctoral-level work may be applied to the doctoral program. Doctoral coursework must be no older than five years and must be directly matched with courses in the EDD in Higher Education Leadership. To be eligible for transfer, grades must be B or higher.

Time Away from the Program
The program requires continuous enrollment. Students must apply for Leave of Absence for any term they are not enrolled. More than one year away will require reapplication and readmission to the program.

While the program can be completed in three years, it must be completed within five years from the date of first enrollment. If the program is not completed within a five-year period, students will be required to reapply and may need to repeat some or all courses and fulfill the requirements for that catalog year.


Program Requirements - 51 Total Credits Minimum

All courses require a B or higher. Grades of B- or lower must be repeated.


HEL 8000 Professional Seminar in Higher Education

HEL 8001 Advanced Academic Research & Writing

HEL 8002 Leadership Strategies for Innovation & Change

HEL 8100 History of American Higher Education

HEL 8101 Equity & Inclusion in Higher Education

HEL 8102 Ethical Decision Making in Higher Education

HEL 8103 Seminar: Current Issues in Higher Education

GUIDED STUDY (15* Credits)

HEL 8501 Guided Study

* Each course in the sequence is worth 3 doctoral credits.

RESEARCH CORE (15-18* Credits)

HEL 8200 Methods of Applied Research & Design

HEL 8201 Problem Centered Research 1

HEL 8202 Problem Centered Research 2

HEL 9000 Applied Inquiry Seminar 1

HEL 9001 Applied Inquiry Seminar 2

HEL 9004 Applied Inquiry Sustaining Credit

* Continuing inquiry only if needed.

Applied Inquiry Project

The Applied Inquiry project (6 credits minimum) will be supervised by a research advisor mutually agreed upon between the student and program chair. Students can choose from a variety of project formats; however, Applied Inquiry projects are expected to focus on applied research (i.e., a solution to a "problem of practice") in the field of higher education. Students have the liberty to select the topic and format of the project, provided they have approval of the research advisor and program chair.

Qualifications for Degree

To qualify for the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree in Higher Education Leadership, students must complete the prescribed 51-credit hour program with a minimum 3.0 grade point index. In addition to the required coursework, and Applied Inquiry Project, students are required to complete a portfolio of activities that demonstrate the ACPA/NASPA professional competencies

This information applies to students who enter this degree program during the 2024-2025 Academic Year. If you entered this degree program before the Fall 2023 semester, please refer to the academic catalog for the year you began your degree program.