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Master's Programs

International Education Policy

In the International Education Policy (IEP) Program, you will explore some of the most challenging issues facing teachers and learners worldwide — how to educate students in refugee camps; how to improve girls education in Afghanistan; how to deliver effective HIV/AIDS education in Malawi; how to help young people develop the skills they need in the 21st century — and be constantly challenged and asked, “What would you do?”

Working closely with classmates from around the world, you will learn to develop education policy recommendations, design innovative programs, and support their implementation and evaluation in ways that effectively improve access to quality and relevant education, promote peace and understanding, and empower every learner to realize his or her full human potential.

IEP alumni are working as education specialists for international development agencies like Unicef, Unesco, Save the Children, USAID, and the World Bank; as policymakers within ministries of education worldwide; and as social entrepreneurs launching their own global education organizations. If you have bold ambitions and ideas, a commitment to international education, a desire to work in cross-cultural teams and complex global environments, and a passion to serve the world’s most disadvantaged learners, IEP is an ideal fit.

Faculty Director Fernando Reimers on IEP:

Message from the Director

Our extraordinarily promising, challenging and complex times call for new leadership in education worldwide. Education is high on the agenda of societies, governments and international development organizations and there is an urgency for innovation and reform that can help all people improve their circumstances. Effective education leaders can increasingly contribute to creating opportunities to improve the living conditions of most people on the planet, to expand human freedoms and capabilities, to foster unprecedented understanding and collaboration among different people, and to advance peace and sustainability. Each year a diverse group of educators from around the world come to Harvard to prepare themselves to innovate and lead reforms that create those opportunities. The International Education Policy program (IEP) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education provides these leaders with the skills, habits of mind and relationships to achieve their goals.

The inventive leaders who graduate from the International Education Policy program are working, in every corner of the planet, so that children and youth, women and men, from all social circumstances, can gain the capabilities that allow them to become architects of their lives and contributing members of the many communities of which they are a part. These groundbreakers support innovative efforts so that schools and other educational institutions  contribute to peace, progress, social development, developing opportunity, understanding and the expansion of all human capabilities and talents. Working with governments, private organizations and civil society, and often times creating pioneering programs and organizations, IEP graduates bring an acute understanding of how to support systemic school improvement at scale. They advance innovation harnessing the lessons from comparative experience, the power of solid research evidence, the clarity of good analytic thinking and the influence of their leadership to advance effective policy reform and execution to make education more inclusive, effective and relevant.

Fernando Reimers
Program Director, International Education Policy Program
Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education

Program Highlights

IEP is a year-long, full-time graduate program that prepares the next generation of leaders in international education reform. Some of the many strengths of IEP include:

An emphasis on outcomes – Education policy reform is about changing lives and empowering individuals and communities. Every discussion of education policy, program design, implementation and evaluation on instruction, teacher policies and education, or school governance focuses on improving educational outcomes for young people and ensuring that all learners have access to a high-quality education relevant to the 21st century. 

Flexible, broad, and rigorous curriculum – IEP leverages the extensive expertise of HGSE faculty [#anchor] to offer a comprehensive and fully customizable curriculum [#anchor], covering topics as varied as education in armed conflict, education policy analysis, microeconomic data analysis, and case studies of successful educational interventions in developing countries.

Student-led learning experiences – IEP students create opportunities to deepen their knowledge of topics that interest them, through study groups, leadership of student organizations, leadership of topical conferences, or participation in numerous co-curricular programs.

Diverse, experienced classmates – The members of your cohort enrich the learning experience with their diverse professional backgrounds in international development, school reform, research, and policymaking. Roughly half of IEP students are international, and most have lived and worked in several countries and have travelled extensively.

World-class faculty – IEP professors are among the top scholars and practitioners in their fields: education nonprofit management, early childhood development, literacy in developing countries, and more. Even better, these same world-class scholars will be your teachers, mentors, advisors, and connections to professional opportunities.

Internships and field experience – The Field Experience Program at HGSE connects IEP students with for-credit internships at global nonprofits like UNESCO and Teachers Without Borders where you can apply your new skills to real-world projects.

Harvard’s international resources – Harvard, the premier global university, offers numerous resources to deepen your global interests. In addition to taking electives at other Harvard graduate schools like the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, you can participate in seminars and conferences held by Harvard University research centers like the Asia Center, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.


The IEP curriculum is rigorous and flexible, designed to develop your capacity to think analytically, critically and systematically about ways to improve education. By taking courses across three core areas — international education, microeconomics, and research and evaluation — you will learn how to compare and analyze policy alternatives, use data to evaluate the efficacy of existing programs, and develop your own strategies for social change.


Students will complete eight courses (32 credits) and meet the following requirements:

  • At least five courses, including modules, must be taken at HGSE
  • A205 Microeconomics: A Policy Tool for Educators (fall 2016)
    • Students may petition to waive the microeconomics requirement with prior equivalent experience 
  • Two courses in international education, one of which must be an “Issues and Concepts” course
  • One course in research and evaluation

Comparative International Education: Issues and Concepts

International Education

Research and Evaluation


You are free to cross-register for up to three (3) elective courses outside of HGSE. Learn more about course offerings at other Harvard schools, including:


Members of the IEP faculty are more than scholars of international education reform; they are experienced practitioners actively working with governments and NGOs worldwide. Our faculty members are renowned scholars in their fields, including microeconomic analysis, international program monitoring and evaluation, nonprofit management, early childhood development, education outreach in conflict zones, and social entrepreneurship.


IEP students come from richly diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, and share a deep commitment to social justice and an ambitious, entrepreneurial vision for education reform. Most IEP students arrive with professional experience in international education and development, perhaps as teachers or administrators at international schools, Peace Corps volunteers, field researchers with NGOs, or policy analysts with U.S.-based aid organizations. Nearly half of IEP students are international students, bringing a wealth of personal experience to discussions of policy and practice. All IEP students demonstrate a heartfelt commitment to advancing the educational opportunities of the children of the poor and marginalized, and show tremendous potential as leaders in international education reform.


IEP graduates work as leaders within international education nonprofits, NGOs, and government agencies, and as social entrepreneurs running their own initiatives to improve educational quality and access worldwide.

Where Alumni Work


If you are ready to work at the forefront of education reform efforts worldwide, we encourage you to apply to IEP. Visit HGSE admissions to learn more about Ed.M. application requirements and deadlines, and get information about financial aid. Applications are typically 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 benefits of the IEP program, please contact our admissions liaison Laura Amrein at or 617-495-3414. If you have specific questions about IEP program requirements, please contact program coordinator Andrew Hall at or 617-495-4845.