Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Committee Member

Mimi Wolverton

Number of Pages



Higher education is becoming more competitive as for-profit and non-profit institutions continue to expand. Healthcare educational programs, such as physical therapy, find themselves competing for quality applicants. Understanding this competitive environment and how to thrive within is critical for program survival. The purpose of this study was to determine the competitive strategies being used by entry-level doctorate programs in physical therapy; Eight physical therapy programs, ranked in the top 15% of schools, were purposively selected for the study. Four of the programs were private institutions represented by the University of Southern California (USC), University of Miami, Northwestern University, and Creighton University. The four public campuses include Northern Arizona University (NAU), University of Iowa, University of Nebraska, Omaha (UNMC), and University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC); A qualitative, multi case design was used to evaluate the variances in competitive strategy. Programs were assessed through documented materials faculty interviews, and site assessments. Data from all three sources were triangulated revealing twelve consistent categories. A cross comparison of programs was performed assessing presence of competitive strategies; Competitive advantage can be gained through cost leadership, differentiation, and/or focus. The four public institutions (average cost of {dollar}29,500) demonstrate a significant cost leadership advantage when compared to the private institutions ({dollar}81,250). Campus and program orientation revealed significant program differentiation relative to Carnegie Classification, supportive programs, and institutional environment. Specifically, significant differentiation was noted for five research extensive institutions. In addition, the presence of a PhD program and a medical campus location were also distinguishing features. USC and Iowa exhibited all three differentiation elements. All eight programs exhibited some level of focus. Miami revealed a cost leadership focus. Each of the four public programs demonstrated significant differentiated focus through program delivery while the four private schools had a strong curricular design and recruitment focus; Although there is some overlap, institutional type fosters differences in competitive strategy. Public institutions have a significant cost leadership position that when combined with perceived value can result in a strong competitive position. These four public programs create value by taking advantage of their educational environment and providing exceptional educational delivery. In contrast, the four private programs must combat the impact of cost by creating a differentiated educational environment. The four programs in this study have combined multiple elements, such as curricular design, medical environment and research to create a perceived value that exceeds normal student expectation.


Competitive; Cost Leadership; Competitive; Cost Leadership; Design; Determining; Education Nature; Physical; Physical Therapy Education

Controlled Subject

Education, Higher; Physical therapy; Medical sciences--Study and teaching

File Format


File Size

4874.24 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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