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Master's Programs

Higher Education

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. 

The interdisciplinary perspective and cross-functional nature of the program prepares you to be successful at navigating the complex world of higher education and to work creatively to address the multifaceted challenges facing higher education today. 

Senior Lecturer James Antony, 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 Bentley University, Gloria Cordes Larson, will join us as the president-in-residence for the 2018–2019 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 eight credits in core courses. Additional credits are made up of higher education-related electives (four courses) and general electives (two courses) 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 Courses

  • 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.
  • A412 The History of American Higher Education (fall)
    This course provides an overview of the development of American higher education from the colonial period to the present, giving students an understanding of the origin of contemporary practices and dilemmas.

Higher Education/Higher Education-related courses:

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. Students can opt to enroll in the HEP internship course taught by program director James Antony to obtain credit for their internship. 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.

Mark Dennis

Community Matters

Community colleges hold a lot of untapped potential, says master's candidate Mark Dennis — especially for underserved communities.

Dantrell Cotton

A Bridge to Higher Education: Dantrell Cotton, HEP'18

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

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 Emily Mendes or call 617.495.3414.


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.