As working professionals, our doctoral students are managing education policy and practice issues such as multiple and conflicting educational aims and purposes, evaluating student achievement and teaching effectiveness, and reducing inequalities in student opportunities and outcomes.

Our PhD program equips educational leaders with the research and analytical skills to examine these issues, among others, and the leadership tools to identify and implement innovative policy strategies and solutions. 


Our program features a balance of courses in educational leadership and policy taught by faculty in the School of Education and Human Development along with courses in public policy taught by faculty in the Muskie School of Public Service. 

Utilizing real-world cases, we examine the role of the local, state, and federal government in creating policy to address contemporary education-related issues. As a doctoral student, you’ll gain an advanced understanding of how policy is formed, adopted, implemented, and evaluated.

Visit the Academic Catalog for 2023-2024 to learn more about the program requirements and courses.

  • Analyses of primary, empirical, and peer-reviewed studies of educational reform policy formulation and implementation
  • Exploration of the appropriate research designs for analyzing education reform policies
  • Practice in data collection and analysis methods best used for the study of education policy
  • Evidence-based reviews and analyses of the design, implementation, and impacts of current international, national, and state education policy, initiatives, and reforms
  • Examination of state and local policy implementation and development of accountability systems
  • Presentations with state policymakers  
  • Concepts and analytical tools of microeconomics
  • Policy formulation, adoption, implementation, and evaluation 
  • Effective policy communication
  • Organizational management and leadership in government and nonprofits
  • Theoretical and conceptual frameworks that guide policy analysis
  • Data collection and analytic techniques


One of the most powerful tools in advancing education policy is research, and this is a central component of our program. You’ll gain experience in a broad range of research designs including:

  • Qualitative and mixed methods case studies
  • Interview studies
  • Content analyses
  • Survey research
  • Correlation studies
  • Experimental studies
  • Ex-post /causal-comparative studies

The University is home to the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation (CEPARE), which co-directs the Maine Education Policy Research Institute (MEPRI). You’ll have the opportunity to engage with the Center’s policy researchers and their work.


Through the dissertation process, you’ll put your research and analytical skills into practice while contributing new knowledge to the field of educational leadership and policy.

During the dissertation proposal seminar in the second year of the program, you’ll refine your education policy interests and define the issue you’re most compelled to address. 

During the second and third years of the program, you’ll engage in doctoral research, data collection, and analysis. Throughout the process, you’ll receive support and guidance from your dissertation committee.

Dissertation Committee

You’ll select the members of your dissertation committee based on research area. Each three-member committee includes:

  • A program chair within the University’s School of Education and Human Development.
  • Two additional faculty who specialize in the research area of the dissertation. These can be faculty of the University of Southern Maine or another college or university.

View alumni dissertations.