The Higher Education Division provides students with a broad understanding of higher education and of the most successful practices of campus management.


The Higher Education Division (HED) provides students with a broad understanding of higher education and of the most successful practices of campus management. Our distinguished faculty focus their research on access and equity; diversity and higher education; policy and public financing; civic engagement; organizational change; and the impact of the marketplace on colleges and universities. They are actively engaged with such organizations as the American Education Research Organization, the National Clearinghouse Research Center, the Higher Education Policy Institute, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and the Council of Europe. Their research, supported by grants from the Institute of Education Science, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the American Educational Research Association, the Kresge Foundation, and the National Academy of Education, appears regularly in the American Education Research Journal, Research in Higher Education, Educational Researcher, Academe, Journal of Higher Education, Review of Higher Education, and other prestigious journals. 

Programs focus on higher education administration with specialized electives in policy, finance, law, fundraising and development, and organizational theory. Students are prepared for careers as leaders at colleges and universities and as scholars of higher education.

The Higher Education division offers a complete set of degree programs: a master's degree, a traditional format Ed.D. for early and mid-career professionals, and a Ph.D. in the Higher Education program as well as an executive format Ed.D. for senior academic leaders through our Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management.

Students have additional opportunities to participate in faculty research through a number of research projects as well as through the work of four organizations at Penn GSE:

  • Institute for Research on Higher EducationLed by Dr. Joni Finney, IRHE conducts research on higher education relevant to policymakers and educational practitioners.
  • Center for the Study of Race and Equity in EducationLed by Dr. Shaun Harper, the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education unites University of Pennsylvania scholars who conduct research on race, racism, racial climates, and important topics pertaining to equity in education. 
  • Center for Minority Serving InstitutionsLed by Dr. Marybeth Gasman, the Center for MSIs brings together researchers and practitioners from across the spectrum of Minority Serving Institutions to harness the collective strengths of these institutions and to solve the challenges they face.
  • The Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD): Led by Drs. Laura Perna and Matt Hartley, AHEAD is dedicated to promoting the public purposes of higher education in the U.S. and around the globe.


Degree Programs

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
More about this ProgramThe Ph.D. in Higher Education prepares students for an academic career in the field of higher education. The program is highly individualized and students work closely with their academic advisor to draw from courses from the division and from other areas on campus that relate to their area of inquiry. Through coursework and a research assistantship with their advisor, students develop the skills they need to conduct quality primary research in higher education.

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
More about this ProgramThe Ed.D. in Higher Education is aimed at preparing practitioner-scholars, professionals who wish to use research to make a difference in the lives of students and colleges and universities by focusing on pressing problems of practice. Ed.D. students attain a broad comprehension of higher education through completion of courses that convey core knowledge and facilitate their understanding of research, which prepares them to complete their dissertation.

Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management (Ed.D.)More about this Program
The Executive Ed.D. in Higher Education Management provides a leadership curriculum designed especially for senior-level higher education leaders through an innovative format designed to meet the needs of working professionals.

Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.)
More about this ProgramThe M.S.Ed. in Higher Education consists of 10 course units and may be completed in one academic year of full-time study. The program is designed for people who are in the early stages of their higher education careers and seek a better understanding of how the enterprise of higher education is structured, governed, financed, and managed. M.S.Ed. students range from recent college graduates to career-changers to young professionals with a few years’ experience in higher education.

HED News

  • White House Summit on Educational Excellence for African Americans at Penn GSE

    Led by Dr. Shaun Harper, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, the White House Summit on Educational Excellence brought over 400 educators, public officials, community members, and students to Penn to address ways to increase the number of Black youth who graduate from high school, and to empower attendees to prepare students for future success.

  • Taking on the job of dad, FAR steers dozens to success

    Exec Doc in Higher Education Management alumnus Thomas Bullock believes that one caring adult in student's life can forever change the course of their future. For the past two decades, Bullock has been that caring adult for more than two dozen students at The Georgetown Institute of College Preparation. Nearly every one of his students goes on to graduate high school and pursue to higher education.

  • Penn center for minority serving institutions co-hosts global meeting

    The Center partnered with Salzburg Global Seminar and Educational Testing Service to host a five-day seminar from Oct. 11-16, in Salzburg, Austria. The director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, Dr. Marybeth Gasman, co-chaired the first global meeting for colleges and universities serving traditionally marginalized students.

  • Loans not the solution to closing higher education attainment gaps

    The U.S. must close persistent gaps in educational attainment among families from different income levels in order to remain globally competitive, but the growing reliance on student loans to pay the costs of higher education carries important downsides, according to a recent editorial in "The Hill" by Higher Education Division Chair and Penn AHEAD Director Dr. Laura Perna. The op-ed outlines key individual and economic consequences of the increasing reliance on student loans, and provides evidence-supported recommendations for federal policymakers.

  • Why state leadership matters for improving access to higher education

    While many look to the federal government for providing financial aid to increase college access, states are responsible for the lion's share of policies for raising the educational attainment of their populations. An article in "Inside Sources" by Professors Laura Perna and Joni Finney of the Penn GSE Higher Education Division stresses the need for state policy leadership, drawing from their in-depth examination of state policies presented in their 2014 book The Attainment Agenda: State Policy Leadership for Higher Education.


Ross Aikins, Ph.D.

University of California, Los Angeles

Peter Eckel, Ph.D.

University of Maryland, College Park

Diane Eynon, Ed.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Joni Finney, Ph.D.

Pennsylvania State University

Marybeth Gasman, Ph.D.

Indiana University

Shaun Harper, Ph.D.

Indiana University

Matthew Hartley, Ed.D.

Harvard University

Eric Kaplan, Ed.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Laura W. Perna, Ph.D.

University of Michigan

Alan Ruby, Associate

Institute of Education, University of London

Robert Zemsky, Ph.D.

Yale University

"I cannot put a price on the relationships I built with my cohort and my faculty and the invaluable professional opportunities I have received because of my connections with Penn GSE."

Paola “Lola” Esmieu

M.S.Ed. graduate ('13), HED
Ed.D. Student, Higher Education

Read Lola’s Story


Where are our students now?

Our students are prepared for careers as leaders at colleges and universities and as scholars of higher education.

Recent Ph.D. graduates have landed such distinguished positions as:

  • Associate Professor of Higher Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York NY (Noah Drezner, '08)
  • Research Analyst, Institute for Higher Education Policy, Washington DC (Jamey Rorison, '14)
  • Assistant Professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ (Keon M. McGuire, ‘14)

Recent Ed.D. graduates have landed such distinguished positions as:

  • Vice President/WK Kellog Professor, University of Texas, Austin, TX (Gregory J. Vincent, ‘04)
  • Deputy Vice President for Human Resources & Administration, Yale University, New Haven, CT (Janet Lindner, ‘08)
  • Dean of Students, Duke University, Durham, NC (Suzanne Wasiolek, ‘08)

Recent M.S.Ed. graduates have landed such distinguished positions as:

  • Assistant Director, Academic Resources, Haverford College, Haverford, PA (Lionel Anderson, ‘07)
  • Assistant Director of Marketing, New York University, New York, NY (Jenna Pally, ‘11)
  • Senior Major Gifts Officer, Columbia University, New York, NY (Ashaki Charles, ‘09)

Meet some of our Current Students


View the Full List of Alumni Careers


Higher Education Division

University of Pennsylvania
Graduate School of Education

3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Ross Aikins, Ph.D.
Program Manager and Lecturer
(215) 898-8398

Karen Carter
Coordinator: Higher Education Division
(215) 898-2444

Questions for current students?
(215) 746-2923
E-mail Higher Education Division Graduate Assistants at: