Expand your expertise. Build a worldwide network. Advance as a leader in global higher education.

The one-year, executive-style master's degree in Global Higher Education Management prepares working individuals for university leadership challenges in a complex and changing world. Designed and taught by internationally respected GSE faculty and active university leaders from around the world, this unique online program focuses on university management.  Join a cohort and take on pressing problems of practice in both local and international contexts, exploring how to build high-performing universities and producing a capstone project.

What Sets Us Apart

  Penn GSE is a top-ranked Graduate School of Education by U.S. News & World Report
laptop_mac 12-month online program starts in July 2023
diversity_3A selective cohort that connects emerging and experienced higher education professionals from around the world.

About the Program

This online executive program provides the knowledge and global network to lead institutions into the future. Practice-based and problem-focused, the yearlong curriculum draws on Penn’s internationally renowned faculty and extensive practitioner network to help you develop the skills and expertise needed to lead universities today and creating tomorrow’s universities.

Application deadline
Rolling admission
Entry term(s)
Course requirements
10 courses
Duration of program
12 months

Culminating experienceMaster’s capstone project

  • Full-Time
  • Online
Programs for Working Professionals

The Global Higher Education Management program develops and connects university leaders from around the world who are committed to improving and enhancing higher education institutions. Participants in this program will: 

  • Gain a deeper and broader knowledge of university leadership.
  • Apply field-tested, empirically grounded ideas to understand and address local problems and international challenges.
  • Develop capabilities in initiating innovation and leading institutional change
  • Become part of an active global network of university leaders and academic thinkers. 

The program is geared toward full-time professionals who have at least five years of work experience in universities and education-related organizations and agencies. Some may already have advanced degrees and be moving from academic to administrative positions, and others may be looking to transition into careers in student services, strategic leadership, business and operations, international education, academic affairs, and fundraising. Penn GSE seeks to admit students from around the world to ensure a diverse class of scholars. Instruction and coursework will be in English.

Complete our brief self-assessment  to explore whether this program is the right fit for you.


This executive-style master’s degree uses a condensed, modular format in which students take a structured sequence of modules as a cohort. Three modules equate to one course, and the degree program requires ten courses. The program is geared toward working adults, but it is a full-time degree program. Therefore, students will need to make a commitment to the program and balance their work and personal commitments. Each module is based on ten hours of student engagement. On top of these ten hours, each module includes additional time spent on readings, papers, and other assignments. Some modules are delivered over two-week periods, while others are delivered in a one-week condensed format. Each module will include at least two one-hour sessions of required synchronous sessions, and some modules may have more. Given the variations in time zones, program staff and faculty will work to accommodate program participants learning from around the world. We believe in the power of real-time engagement within the cohort and with program faculty and staff.

The curriculum includes the following courses and modules:

The High-Impact University
This course focuses on the social and civic role universities and colleges in diverse national contexts. It explores the diverse national and social contexts in which universities both respond to and help to shape. It explores the role of university as citizen and social and economic actor. Finally, it focuses on the changing role of higher education in knowledge economies with a focus on diverse contexts:

  • The Diversity of Context for Universities and Their Management
  • The social and civic mission for the 21st Century
  • Universities and their communities

The Evolving Global Landscape
Higher education, while a national (or local) responsibility, is shaped by global forces – economic, social, political, and technological. This course focuses on the trends in globalization and the ways in which those forces impact universities positively and negatively. It addresses globalization and its discontents; the disruption and innovation that globalization creates and reinforces, and the ways in which global forces make universities more, rather than less, important in the global dialogue of human development:

  • Globalization: Opportunities and Constraints
  • International Higher Education Issues and Policies
  • The New Power University

Magnifying the Mission
The traditional mission of teaching, research and service continues to evolve in response to changing public expectations for higher education. This course focuses on ensuring meaningful and impactful student engagement; the foundational role of research and the ways new knowledge can be leveraged to address problems; and the ways in which the teaching and learning functions are changing in light of technology innovation and increased demands for measurable outcomes:

  • Strengthening Research: Its Impact and Delivery
  • Co-curricular Student Engagement in Global Higher Education
  • Academic Innovation to Deepen Learning

Governance, Change, and Strategy
Effective universities require effective management and governance to lead change and drive innovation. This course focuses on how leaders lead and affect intentional institutional change; the role of strategy and planning as vehicles for intentional long-term change; and the ways in which institutional level governance can positively impact the trajectories of institutions:

  • Governance for Change
  • Leading Change in Higher Education
  • Strategy and Not Planning

The Human Enterprise
At their core, universities are human endeavors. Their primary output is human, citizens active in social and economic pursuits. Their primary input is human, the faculty who deliver the core functions of the university. This module focuses on the human dimension of higher education with a particular focus on equity and inclusion in diverse contexts; how to effectively build and manage teams essential to deliver on the mission; and how individuals can manage and benefit from being intentional stewards of personal, professional, and organizational transitions:

  • Managing People; Leveraging Talent
  • Cultural-Ecology and Diversity in International Higher Education
  • Leadership and Leadership Transitions

The University in its External Contexts
The notion of higher education being an Ivory Tower, separate from the world, is nostalgia if not outright myth. Universities are very much shaped by the contexts in which they operate. They need to be responsive to political, economic, and social trends. What happens outside universities impacts what happens inside of them. This course seeks to understand how universities must operate in and leaders must shape the political context; the role regulation and politics play; and how university leaders must ensure quality and relevance: 

  • Influencing Higher Education Policy
  • Quality Assurance and Accreditation
  • Rankings and their Effects

The Challenges of Leading
Universities never have a slow day. There are constant demands on leaders’ time, talent, and skills. To be effective leaders must have the skills to use data to understand their problems and opportunities, the capacity to lead in times of crises, and leverage the skills and talents of individuals collectively to advance the university and its priorities. Leadership is a collective pursuit, one that requires intentionality and agility, and is shaped by context and circumstance: 

  • Using Data to Understand Problems
  • Leading in and Through Crises
  • Leading Teams

Designing the Future
University leaders need to think about and prepare for the future. Universities risk becoming stagnant and outdated if they do not continually innovate. This course focuses on the principles of design thinking, how leaders can engage campus communities to design and bring about a desired future. It will explore new models of universities and how universities, even long-established ones, can become the disruptors:

  • Design Thinking and Innovation Methods for Higher Education Leaders
  • New Models of University
  • Leading with Data to Support Expansive Learning

The Business of the Academic Business
Universities are not businesses (far from it with their social missions, academic core, and public policy ties), but they do have business functions. This module explores three areas related to the business functions of higher education. Their entrepreneurial activities, the ways they project (intentionally or not) their brand identities into the broader world, and how they engage alumni as active contributors to the university, and well beyond their simple donor role. University leaders need to understand the ways their universities can create and sustain entrepreneurial cultures to secure needed resources and leverage resources and assets to positively impact the university:

  • The Entrepreneurial University
  • Alumni as an Institutional Asset
  • Marketing, Branding and the External Image

Capstone Action Lab: Problems/Opportunities of Practice
This program is based on the premise that it will help develop knowledgeable, skills leaders to effect change in their higher education contexts. To that end, this capstone course will allow students to frame a problem of practice through an Action Lab, which is a highly engaging, problem-based, and solution-orientated, course. By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Define and contextualize a complex problem/opportunity to solve in higher education.
  • Understand the depth and contours of that problem.
  • Synthesize and apply relevant insights from modules delivered in this program and a problem-understanding literature review.
  • Outline a change management approach to advance progress on your problem of practice.
  • Deliver a persuasive presentation to stakeholders about your problem of practice.

Our Faculty

Higher Education faculty are leading the conversation about how to expand college access, equity, and affordability. These experts are routinely sought by university presidents, foundation leaders, journalists, and policymakers seeking to understand the changing landscape of higher education.

Penn GSE Faculty Rachel B. Baker
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University
Penn GSE Faculty Amalia Z. Daché
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Rochester
Penn GSE Faculty Peter Eckel
Senior Fellow
Ph.D., University of Maryland
Penn GSE Faculty Matthew Hartley
Professor and Board of Advisors Chair of Education
Ed.D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Alan R. Ruby
Senior Fellow
Associateship, London Institute of Education
Penn GSE Faculty Julie E. Wollman
Professor of Practice
Ph.D., New York University
Penn GSE Faculty Jenny Zapf
Senior Fellow
Ph.D., University of Virginia

Affiliated Faculty

Ant Bagshaw
Strategy Consultant, L.E.K. Consulting
Ed.D., University of Sheffield

Roberta Malee Bassett
Global Lead for Tertiary Education, The World Bank
Ph.D., Boston College

Ahmed Cassim Bawa
Professor, Johannesburg Business School, University of Johannesburg
Ph.D., Durham University

Darkhan Bilyalov
Vice President, Kazakhstan National Academy of Sciences
Ph.D., Penn State University

Mahesh Daas
President and ACSA Distinguished Professor, Boston Architectural College
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Yakut Gazi
Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Digital Education and Professor of the Practice, Duke University
Ph.D., Texas A&M University

Jonathan Grant
Founding Director, Different Angles
Ph.D., King’s Collge London

Jonathan Jansen
Distinguished Professor of Education, Stellenbosch University
Ph.D., Stanford University

Tom Kennie
Founding Director, Ranmore
Ph.D., Imperial College, London

Michael Martinez
Dean of Students, New York University Abu Dhabi
MBA, Babson College

Larry Moneta
Adjunct Professor, Penn GSE
Ed.D., University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Alan Duncan Priestley
General Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Office of the Provost, Nazarbayev University
Ph.D., University of Hull

Nirmala Rao
Vice Chancellor and Professor of Politics, Krea University
Ph.D., University of London

Sarah B. Steinberg
Capstone Instructor
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Karin Swartz
Assistant Dean, Center for Community Engagement, York College
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Fredrick Hoopes Wampler
Senior Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations, University of Pennsylvania
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania


The program is intended for current university administrators looking to move into more senior university posts such as directors, deans and associate deans, and associate vice presidents and vice presidents. It also is aimed at academics who are transitioning into administrative positions, such as department chair, dean or associate dean, and directors of international affairs, research, quality assurance, or teaching and learning.

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415

Program Contact


Walter Lohmann
Program Coordinator

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

Most students in this program are anticipated to fund their degree through a combination of personal resources and employer benefits. Limited scholarships are available to a select group of individuals.