Fielding University


Fielding University


Providing access to graduate education

Name of the institution(s)

Fielding Graduate University

Qualification level concerned



Country concerned

Global scope, initiated in Santa Barbara, California (United States)


Mission/Role of Professional Higher Education



Blended learning, work-based learning


Fielding Graduate University is an accredited non-profit leader in blended graduate education, combining face‐to‐face and online learning. Fielding has a global, distributed community of professionals that is dedicated to lifelong learning, social justice and innovation and the advancement for individuals, organizations, communities, and society. Fielding offers a curriculum with quality degrees and courses for professionals living and working anywhere in the world. It delivers a personalized graduate education that fosters individual development, community collaboration, and societal engagement. This approach is part of a vision to excel in scholarship and practice that create a more humane, just, and sustainable world:

·         Community: Supporting a collaborative learning environment built on inclusion and mutual respect.

·         Diversity: Honoring differences as a source of strength.

·         Learner-centered Education: Creating an interactive experience that responds to the interrelated personal and professional lives of our students.

·         Social Justice: A commitment to reducing the many forms of inequality.

·         Transformational Learning: Inspiring a re-examination of one’s worldview and underlying assumptions to enable a deeper understanding of self and society.

Fielding caters to about 1500 PhD students with an education that’s of high quality but available to students in terms of where their life is. Fielding offers a curriculum that makes sense for the students in terms of their personal circumstances and social context.

Fielding targets adult learners who wish to pursue a PhD, EdD, Master’s or a certificate without moving from their homes. Learners who are seeking to continue their career while earning a degree or certificate. Learners who are self-directed learners and appreciate choice and flexibility in a learning environment. Learners who are comfortable with – and interested in – collaborating with others via on-line and off-line technologies.

Most of the students are between the ages of 30-50. They often have been working for a while and have already started their careers, but have decided to pursue a PhD at Fielding. The student population is very diverse, there’s a large number of African-American students and Native American students. 80% of the students are women. A lot of students are social activists and driven by a personal mission to contribute to social change. They want to use their graduate degrees to contribute to for instance environmental issues, social justice issues and human rights issues.

Overall Programme design

The School of Educational Leadership for Change (ELC) develops educational leaders who are agents of change in their own communities and across the globe. The students learn to understand, evaluate, and change conditions in the world that are responsible for social and ecological injustices. Through collaborative and customized programs, they can acquire the skills and knowledge you need to implement meaningful change where you live and work.

The School of Human & Organizational Development (HOD) offers a multidisciplinary path to scholarship for professionals who want to expand their knowledge, improve their research skills, and create a more reflective practice. Guided by principles of social responsibility, the School of HOD emphasizes a scholar-practitioner model of engaged learning. The students and alumni use their degrees as consultants, educators, and professional to inform relevant action and discover theoretical insights in support of a more just and equitable world.

The School of Psychology pioneered a distance education model comprised of blended and distributed learning that has served adult professionals for over thirty years. By creating flexible opportunities for individuals with career, family, and community responsibilities to achieve their advanced educational goals, Fielding’s community of scholar-practitioners helps define the future of psychology at every level—from theory to practice and research.

One of the most important methodological tools for Fielding is competency based education. Where traditional universities focus more on what you know, Fielding focuses both on what you know, how you can use it and how you can demonstrate you know it. Fielding values the competencies you bring before you start and you get credit for it. Credits are given based on a prior learning assessment. In this way Fielding recognizes and values prior learning: what people can do with what they know and what they’ve learned outside of the classroom. Very few universities work with competency based education on a PhD level, so this makes Fielding very unique.

Fielding also set up centers and initiatives to provide a means to unite academic scholarship and community practice:

The Alonso Center brings psychologists and psychiatrists, educators, organizational development experts, and the public together to strengthen our understanding of and support for adaptive, resilient human relationships.

The Institute for Social Innovation helps individuals and organizations address societal problems via research, leadership, and organizational development. The Institute uses faculty leaders and student fellows to work in communities to address critical issues of nonprofit organizations, businesses and doctoral communities in general through dialogue, research, and community service projects.

The Marie Fielder Center for Democracy, Leadership, and Education explores Dr. Fielder’s work and related topics. The Center supports new research and advances new theories and policies to enhance our understanding of social change and leaders who facilitate change. This, in turn, will help strengthen democratic institutions through education, effective leadership, and public discourse.

Under the Institute for Social Innovation (ISI), WNGE is a global community of scholars and activists who are committed to research and action in support of knowledge and change, related to women’s and gender issues.

Final outputs of the project are diverse students with PhD who are able to serve society with their knowledge and research.

Lessons learnt

Fielding keeps a careful record of their degree completion rate.

The degree completion rate is over 80%, which is well above the national average in the US of 60%.

Another indicator is time to degree and accreditation. The time to degree average depends on the program and ranges from 5-8 years. It is important to mention here that Fielding works with a self-paced PhD, which allows the flexibility necessary for their students.

Finally an important indicator is accreditation from the country and international professional societies.

Additional information 

Fielding Graduate University was founded in March, 1974, in Santa Barbara, California, the realization of the vision of three founders: Frederic Hudson, Hallock Hoffman, and Renata Tesch—all distinguished higher education administrators and educators. Each contributed an essential ingredient to the establishment of the university. Many others, through their diligence, hard work, and firm belief in the national need for mid-career professional education, gave substance to the dream.

The founders envisioned a nationally recognized graduate school that would serve mid-career professionals wanting to pursue an advanced degree but whose educational and professional objectives could not be met by traditional institutions of higher education. Their success was predicated on two basic, rather advanced, notions: 1) Changing demographics were altering the world of higher education. The founders speculated students seeking advanced degrees would be mid-career adults who wanted to enhance already well-established academic and professional skills; who would be committed to effecting a mid-life career change; and all of whom, by the nature of their quest for a quality graduate education at mid-life, would be interested in being part of a lifetime-learning community. 2) Adults learn in ways that are significantly different from adolescents and young adults. The traditional pedagogical method of education—active teacher, passive learner—would not be appropriate to this new experiment in adult professional education. To accommodate and capitalize upon the learning styles of its students, Fielding developed a rigorous, supportive learning model that today remains flexible, adult-centered, self-directed, task-oriented, and competence-based.

Fielding is based on distributed learning. This approach doesn’t require a specific, physical location in order to facilitate learning. Some of the characteristics of a distributed environment include:

The incorporation of technology, in-person, distance-oriented and other interactive tools to support various learning styles.

An integration of day-to-day life (work and non-work related) into the learning activities.

An emphasis on collaborative learning by peer and community interaction.

Contact details

Fielding Graduate University, Orlando Taylor


First collected by

IDEAS project (Identifying Effective Approaches to Enhancing the Social Dimension), 2013-2015


Rating of GOOD practices
1-poor ..5-ok .. 10-excellent