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Student Handbook: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Program Policies

Requirements for the Ed.D. involve three general stages: coursework, qualifying paper, and dissertation. The manner in which an individual candidate fulfills these requirements must be approved by the adviser, the Degree Programs Office and the Ed.D. Steering Committee. Ed.D. candidates should read this section carefully and consult with their advisers and the program staff concerning any questions that may arise. Students should also read the Ed.D. Student Guide, available on the program website, for further help in planning and carrying out their graduate study.

Coursework and Residence 

All students are required to complete at least 64 credits for the Ed.D. degree, with at least half of their total coursework at HGSE. Students who have graduated with an Ed.M. or C.A.S. within three years of enrolling as Ed.D. candidates may receive doctoral credit (academic only) for up to 16 credits completed during their Ed.M. or C.A.S. course of study. Transfer credit from other institutions is not accepted.

Annual Academic Progress Review 

HGSE requires that all Ed.D. students maintain academic standards and complete their degree within seven years. Ed.D. students’ academic progress will be reviewed by the Ed.D. Steering Committee on an annual basis at the end of each academic year. Additionally, the Ed.D. Steering Committee will conduct a mid-year academic review of students with fall semester directives established by the Ed.D. Steering Committee. At the end of the spring semester, each student will be required to submit a written report of their progress, academic achievements, and plans for the coming year.

Students who do not meet relevant early benchmarks or who demonstrate difficulty meeting the program’s academic and conduct standards – including the Standards of Conduct in the Harvard Community outlined in this handbook – will be informed of the faculty’s concern about their progress. The purpose of this notification is to provide early warning and intervention for students who may be struggling in the program.

A student who is experiencing academic difficulty will receive a letter from the program Faculty Director explaining the reasons for the Committee’s concerns and specifying a probationary period in which the student should work with their adviser to return to good academic standing. The student will be expected to report back to the Faculty Director about their progress within the time specified in their letter. If there is insufficient evidence of adequate performance, or if there are serious concerns about a student’s conduct, behavior, or capacity to succeed, the Steering Committee may vote to terminate the student’s degree candidacy.

Criteria for satisfactory performance used in these reviews include the following: satisfactory performance in and completion of required coursework, number of years in the program, timely progress toward all Ed.D. program milestones, and adherence to the Standards of Conduct in the Harvard Community outlined in this handbook. Ed.D. students must maintain at least a B+ average in their courses. (See the HGSE Grading System section of this handbook for an explanation of the grading system and how averages are calculated.) 

Qualifying Paper 

Toward the end of the coursework phase, all Ed.D. students must write a qualifying paper. The student first submits the required qualifying paper proposal (which must be approved in advance by the student’s adviser(s) and committee of readers) to the Degree Programs Office. Submission of the proposal does not require the completion of all coursework. Approval of the proposal does not relieve the student of the responsibility of achieving the B+ average in all courses that is needed to graduate. Specific details pertaining to the structure and formatting of the proposal and qualifying paper are provided in the Ed.D. Student Guide, available on the program website.

Dissertation Proposal, Dissertation, and Dissertation Defense 

The formal process of this doctoral research, described in detail in the Ed.D. Student Guide (available on the program website), begins with a Committee on Degrees (COD)-approved dissertation proposal, followed by the Dissertation Committee Meeting (DCM) with the student’s appointed committee, and then the work of generating the dissertation. Once the dissertation has been read by all committee members and deemed acceptable by the chair, the student engages in a dissertation defense. Following the defense, the student makes any final revisions, and then submits the dissertation electronically for inclusion in a public database accessible to scholars and practitioners worldwide.

Ed.D. students are expected to complete their dissertation proposals and begin writing their dissertations during their fourth or fifth year of study. Once the dissertation proposal passes, students have two years to write, defend, and submit the dissertation.

Completing the Dissertation Defense is a requirement for all Ed.D. students who passed their dissertation proposals after May 2012.

Confidentiality of the Dissertation 

Because of the University’s commitment to make the results of research publicly available, requests for confidentiality of dissertations (via embargo) are granted only in rare circumstances and only for limited periods of time.

2022-2023 Ed.D. Dissertation Submission Deadlines 

See the program website for 2022–2023 Dissertation Submission dates. 

Students will be given the weekend following the readers’ approval deadline to make final edits and complete any required paperwork. Final, approved dissertations must be submitted via the online system by the following Monday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time (if the following Monday is a holiday, submissions will be due the following Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time). In all cases, students must have all readers’ approvals by the Friday deadline at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time. No exceptions will be granted.

Research and Collaboration 

While the primary goal of the qualifying paper and dissertation is for Ed.D. students to engage in independent inquiry, it is often the case that students will collaborate with colleagues or others in some aspect of their research or writing. Students occasionally receive assistance in collecting data, in analyzing the data, and in other aspects of their work. Students should be very clear about how they are working with others and what types of assistance, if any, they are receiving. Students should disclose to their committees any plans for professional assistance on editing, statistical work, the design of instruments, or other matters central to completing their work on the qualifying paper or dissertation. The student’s committee, in discussions with the student, may approve only those kinds and levels of assistance that support, rather than supplant, the student’s research, writing and learning. The goal of this oversight is to preserve the status of the work as the student’s own genuine intellectual product.