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Master's Programs

Higher Education

The Higher Education Program (HEP) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education will prepare you to take on leadership roles within American colleges and universities, and with the nonprofit organizations and government agencies that shape national higher education policy. We offer a comprehensive curriculum that will serve you in every facet of higher education administration, policymaking, and research.

Faculty Director James Soto Antony on HEP:

Message from the Director

Welcome to Harvard’s Higher Education Program. We are an intellectually vibrant community of students, faculty, and alumni who share a common interest in ensuring the successful future of colleges and universities and enhancing the opportunities they provide their students.  

If you join us here on Appian Way, you will experience an intellectually intense and personally invigorating academic year.  Your courses will give you the knowledge and skills essential for your professional advancement through many positions during your career in higher education. 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. You may also choose to complement your coursework with custom-designed internships that provide professional development in an ongoing or new field of interest. There is probably no geographic area with more varied and exciting higher education institutions and higher education related organizations than greater Cambridge and Boston.

But students at HGSE are not just studying hard; they are also engaging in wonderfully stimulating conversations with their classmates who hail from wide-ranging backgrounds and have equally diverse interests. Some students have worked in higher education previously, in entry and mid-management administrative or faculty positions; some are interested in making a career transition into higher education; and a select few come directly from undergraduate studies where they were highly accomplished students and student leaders. All have demonstrated the potential to be outstanding professionals who can assume leadership positions in many different areas of higher education and can be collaborative practitioners facilitating change and innovation. 

And then there are our alumni, across the U.S. and the world, who stay in touch and enjoy connecting with current students. We have consciously nurtured a Harvard higher education family and are proud of our alumni’s considerable professional accomplishments and by the many ways that they reach out to help one another.

If all this sounds appealing, please take advantage of the many ways to learn more about us. Come to Admissions events at Harvard or in your local area — or our virtual information sessions if you’re not able to join us in person. Attend classes if you are visiting Cambridge. And reach out through the Admissions office to our student and alumni ambassadors — who, after all, are our very best advertisements for the program!


James Soto Antony
Program Director, Higher Education Program

Program Highlights

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 following are what our students consider some of the greatest strengths of the program:

President-in-Residence – Every year, we invite a distinguished former college or university president 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.

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.

Applied Knowledge – 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.

Harvard and Boston Internships – The majority of HEP students participate in a paid internship, 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.

Alumni Network – HEP alumni share a passion for improving higher education and foster a lifelong connection to HGSE. We’re thrilled that our graduates stay in touch and frequently visit campus to talk to current students. This extended HEP family forms a strong and supportive professional network for finding the best jobs and fellowships after graduation.


The HEP curriculum 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.


You will complete eight courses (32 credits) in the following categories:

  • Three higher education 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.
    • A710P The Economics of Higher Education: Access, Outcomes, and Competition (spring)
      No introduction to American higher education is complete without a comprehensive examination of how price, cost, and value affect who has access to college and how higher education institutions do business.
  • In addition to the three required courses, students in the Higher Education Program must take three additional higher education or higher education-related courses. To meet this requirement, students may select from the list of accepted courses below or petition for permission from their faculty advisor to take other courses whose subject matter relates to higher education.
  • Two electives from HGSE or other Harvard graduate schools. When fulfilling the elective requirements, students in the Higher Education Program are required to choose at least one course that addresses issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Higher Education/Higher Education-related courses:

View all courses in the Academic Catalogue.


When you attend HGSE, you really attend all of Harvard University. Talk to your HEP advisors about enrolling in courses through cross-registration at the Harvard Kennedy SchoolHarvard Business School, and Harvard Law School that match your academic or professional interests. All approved electives count toward your graduation requirements.

HEP Internships

A paid internship at Harvard or in the greater Boston region can also qualify as one of your higher education related courses. To earn credit for an internship, you must enroll in the associated HEP internship course taught by program director James Soto Antony. Popular internship sites include:


HEP draws faculty from across HGSE, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Harvard Business School who are dedicated to the careful study and effective practice of higher education.  Faculty scholarship and expertise spans higher education management and administration, higher education curriculum, college access and affordability, and much more. Equally important, HEP faculty members are actively engaged in the day-to-day work of higher education. They advise state and federal policymakers, consult college and university leaders, serve on boards of trustees, and teach executive education programs.


In 2001, the Higher Education Program launched the “president-in-residence” program, bringing a former college or university president to Harvard to attend classes, meet with students over coffee or lunch, and advise on everything from paper topics to career choices.

On behalf of the Higher Education Program, we are delighted to announce that Gloria Cordes Larson will join us as the president-in-residence for the 2018-2019 academic year. Cordes Larson is the former president of Bentley University, leading from 2007 – 2018. During her tenure, Larson established the newly renamed Gloria Cordes Larson Center for Women and Business, launched PreparedU, an initiative focused on preparing students for the workforce, and established new academic programs, including the Bentley MBA. She serves on the board of directors for several companies and non-profit organizations. 

Past presidents-in-residence include:

  • Mark Gearan, president emeritus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • David Oxtoby, former president of Pomona College
  • Dana Mohler-Faria, former president of Bridgewater State University
  • Barry Mills, president emeritus of Bowdoin College
  • Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president of DePaul University
  • Lawrence Bacow, president emeritus of Tufts University
  • Rob Oden, former president of Carleton College and Kenyon College
  • Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita of Wellesley College
  • Ellen Chaffee, former president of Valley City State University and Mayville State University
  • Tom Tritton, former president of Haverford College
  • Norman Fainstein, president emeritus of Connecticut College
  • Richard Freeland, former president of Northeastern University
  • Tad Foote, former chancellor and president of the University of Miami;
  • John DiBiaggio, former president of the University of Connecticut, Michigan State University and Tufts University;
  • Adrian Tinsley, president emerita of Bridgewater State College;
  • Bernie Harleston, former president of the City College of New York; and
  • Marjorie Bakken, president emerita of Wheelock College.

Many HEP students arrive with professional experience in higher education as admissions counselors, development officers, resident advisors, and faculty at colleges and universities across the country. Others are new to higher education, working previously as high school teachers, business consultants, policy analysts, and more. A select few HEP students come directly from undergraduate studies where they were highly accomplished student leaders. Learn more about the diverse interests of HEP students by reading a sample of abstracts of student papers from the Proseminar in Higher Education.


HEP alumni are working 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 with high school students and families through college readiness and financial planning initiatives.

Where Alumni Work


Visit HGSE admissions to learn more about application requirements and deadlines, and to get important information about financial aid. Applications are due in January of the academic year you plan to enroll.


If you have questions about the admissions process or want to learn more about the Higher Education Program, please contact our admissions liaison Emily Mendes at or 617-495-3414. If you have specific questions about program requirements or experience, please contact program administrator Abbie Bloom at or 617-496-4816.