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Master's Programs

Higher Education

HGSE is dedicated to helping you prepare for an impactful career in education by offering powerful learning experiences and field-based opportunities that will develop critical, professional skills. We are updating our Master’s in Education (Ed.M.) curriculum and structure for academic year 2021-22. The new structure builds on the strengths of our current offerings, and we will continue to support the same range of subjects and roles that are a part of our current degree program. Additionally, the experience will still be one year. Complete the Introduce Yourself form to stay informed about the details of the new Master’s degree program.

The Higher Education Program (HEP) will prepare you to take on a leadership roles within American colleges and universities, and with the nonprofit organizations and government agencies that shape national higher education policy. HEP offers a comprehensive curriculum that will serve you in every facet of higher education administration, policymaking, and research. You will become part of an intellectually vibrant community of students, faculty, and alumni who share a common interest in ensuring the successful future of higher education and enhancing the opportunities they provide to their students.

Students will deepen their understanding and analysis of critical issues across the higher education landscape, develop their professional skills and competencies for success in a variety of workplace settings, and make strong connections with faculty, students, and alumni in preparation for campus and policy organization leadership roles.

Senior Lecturer Francesca Purcell, faculty director

HEP is a one-year, full-time master’s program that will prepare you to make a positive impact on American higher education as an administrator or policymaker. The many strengths of HEP include:

  • President-in-Residence – Every year, a distinguished former college or university president is invited to attend classes alongside HEP students and to anchor academic discussions with real-world experience. Outside of class, the President-in-Residence eats lunch with students, meets one-on-one during office hours, and advises students on important academic and career decisions. Former president of Allegheny College, James Mullen, will join us as the president-in-residence for the 2019–2020 academic year. Additional information on Presidents-in-Residence.
  • Cohort and Community – By enrolling in HEP, you join a remarkable cohort of students with interests ranging from greater equity, affordability, and access, to enhancing student life and academic learning. In classes, in study groups, and over coffee in the HGSE Commons, HEP students animatedly debate such topics as the future of higher education, possibilities of online learning and alternative pedagogies, issues related to student affairs and wellness, the best ways to make campuses inclusive, and state and federal higher education policy. The diverse experiences and perspectives of your HEP classmates will enrich your HGSE experience, and their friendships will endure long past graduation.
  • Internships and Field Work – The majority of HEP students participate in paid internships, either on-campus at Harvard or at colleges, universities, and nonprofits across the Boston/Cambridge region. Interns are given significant responsibilities and can earn credit through an associated HEP course.

Curriculum Information

The HEP curriculum is grounded in the real-world policies and practices of American colleges and universities. Coursework and projects center around hands-on engagement with the issues — case studies, role-playing, debates — not detached academic discussions. You will graduate with an intimate understanding of how higher education works and how you can be successful in leading and navigating change.

The program is structured to provide a strong foundation in higher education administration, governance, and policy, while giving you the flexibility to dive deeply into specific areas of interest. As a HEP student, you will take eight courses (32 credits) in total, including four credits in core courses. Additional credits are made up of higher education-related electives (12 credits) and general electives (sixteen credits) that are selected with the help of your faculty adviser. When fulfilling the elective requirements, you will be required to choose at least one course that addresses issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Core Course

  • A702 Proseminar in Higher Education (fall)
    Offered exclusively to HEP students, this seminar introduces students to the core values, personnel, and processes of higher education; the critical challenges facing colleges and universities; and the strategies and management skills for tackling these issues. The proseminar is also attended by the President-in-Residence.

Higher Education/Higher Education-related courses:

  • A011D The Arts of Communication for Educators (fall)
  • A019 Education Sector Nonprofits (fall)
  • A021 Leadership in Social Change Organizations (fall)
  • A027 Managing Financial Resources in Nonprofit Organizations (fall)
  • A117 Implementing Inclusive Education  (fall)
  • A125 State Education Policy (fall)
  • A608 Leadership, Entrepreneurship & Learning (fall)
  • A710B Mission and Money: Institutional Advancement in Higher Education (fall)
  • A710D The College Admissions Process: Practice, Policy, and Research (fall)
  • A710T College Student Development Theories and their Application to Practice (fall)
  • A710V Practical Issues and Challenges in Student Affairs Administration (fall)
  • A998 Higher Education Internship Seminar (fall)
  • S012 Empirical Methods: Introduction to Statistics for Research (fall)
  • S040 Introduction to Applied Data Analysis (fall)
  • T002 Critical Race Theory in Education (fall)
  • T127A Teaching and Learning Lab Practicum (fall)
  • A011D The Arts of Communication for Educators (spring)
  • A027 Managing Financial Resources in Nonprofit Organizations (spring)
  • A102 Native Americans in the 21st Century: Nation-Building II (spring)
  • A135 Education Entrepreneurship (spring)
  • A222 Higher Education and the Law (spring)
  • A318 New Pathways for College and Career Readiness: Increasing Opportunity and Equity Through Education (spring)
  • A404 Black Education from Slavery to Freedom (spring)
  • A406 The American School and Racial Reform (spring)
  • A710G Intercollegiate Athletics: Implications for Leaders in Higher Education (spring)
  • A710H Community Colleges and the Advancement of Educational and Economic Opportunity (spring)
  • A710J Using Data to Support Decision-Making and Improvement in Higher Education (spring)
  • A770 Reflecting on Leadership, Administration, and Governance (spring)
  • A998 Higher Education Internship Seminar (spring)
  • H341 Inventing the Future: Building Connections from School to Career (spring)
  • H517 Contemporary Immigration Policy and Educational Practice (spring)
  • H614 Understanding Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: The Constituents of a Good Education (spring)
  • S010B Designing Surveys and Questionnaires: Principles and Methods (spring)
  • S010C Large-Scale Data Analysis for Complex and Weighted Survey Designs (spring)
  • S030 Intermediate Statistics: Applied Regression and Data Analysis (spring)
  • S513 Introduction to Qualitative Program and Policy Evaluation (spring)
  • T006 Adult Development (spring)
  • T010T Helping Others to Make Transformational Change: The Immunity-to-Change Approach (spring)
  • T127A Teaching and Learning Lab Practicum (spring)
  • T521 Design and Development of Technology-Enhanced Assessments (spring)
  • S123 Tackling Tough Challenges in Modern American Higher Education: Diagnosis and Solutions (fall)
  • A797 Field Experience in Higher Education: Advising Campus Leaders (fall)
  • H210H Student Political Identity Development: Understanding & Supporting Youth Activists (fall)
  • A710K Community College Practicum (spring)
  • A705 C.R.E.A.M.: Class and Culture on U.S. Colleges and Universities (spring)
  • A712 State and Federal Policy in Postsecondary Education (spring) 
  • T010F Reconsidering Merit(ocracy) in K-12, Higher Education, and Beyond (spring)

View all courses and information on cross-registration.


Program Faculty

HGSE consists of a faculty of the whole and students can work with and take courses with faculty throughout HGSE and Harvard. The faculty that HEP students most often work with include: 

Fieldwork & Internships

There are a wide variety of internship opportunities available to build your professional experience in higher education administration, policy, research, or higher education-related organizational work. Popular internship sites include:

Alumni & Student Profiles

HEP students hail from wide-ranging backgrounds and have equally diverse interests. Many students arrive with professional experience in higher education, in entry-level and mid-management administrative or faculty positions; some are interested in making a career transition into higher education working previously as high school teachers, business consultants, policy analysts, and more. A select few come directly from undergraduate studies where they were highly accomplished students and student leaders. All share a common interest in ensuring the successful future of colleges and universities and enhancing the opportunities they provide their students. 

Our alumni work as campus leaders at colleges and universities nationwide, building stronger institutions and impacting the lives of students. Recent graduates serve as directors and associate directors of admissions, diversity and multicultural affairs, student life, strategic planning, and career services. They work in nonprofit organizations and government agencies as policy researchers and analysts. They also work on issues of college access and with high school students and families through college readiness and financial planning initiatives.

Ewurama Okai

A Deep Commitment to Equity: Ewurama Okai, HEP'19

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Higher Education reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.

Ariana Aparicio Aguilar

Telling Immigration Stories — and Stories of Resilience

The UndocuAllies Initiative and master’s candidate Ariana Aparicio Aguilar bring new urgency to supporting undocumented students at colleges and beyond.

Connect with Admissions

More information about our admissions application requirements and instructions, tuition and financial aid, and answers to frequently asked questions is available on our website. If you have additional admissions-related questions, please contact Leah Belcher or call 617.495.3414.

Introduce Yourself

Receive tailored admissions information about upcoming programs, events, and opportunities to connect with us.

Connect with Program Staff

If you have remaining program-specific questions, reach out to Program Administrator Abbie Bloom. Connect with HEP on Twitter.

Virtual Information Sessions

View the Higher Education recorded virtual information session to learn more about the program from faculty, students, and staff.