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


The Higher Education Division (HED) provides students with a broad understanding of higher education and 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 Educational Research Organization, Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), 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, 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 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:


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


    At a time when questions about college affordability are at the center of American policy debates, the number of College Promise programs is expanding dramatically. To assist in the identification and analysis of these programs, Laura Perna, Executive Director of PennAHEAD, and her team of graduate student researchers have created a comprehensive online database that allows policymakers, researchers, and journalists to search and compare programs.

  • PENN Center for Minority serving institutions receives donations from tech companies to support women of color in msi aspiring leaders program

    The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) received $50,000 in donations from Intel, HP, Apple, Pinterest, and Samsung to further support their MSI Aspiring Leaders program.  This two-year program promotes diversity in higher education leadership by providing emerging mid-career professionals with opportunities to build relationships with prominent MSI presidents. 

  • Postsecondary National policy institute announces Laura perna as newly elected board member 

    Laura Perna, Professor and Executive Director of the Penn Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (Penn AHEAD), and Glen Casey, special education math teacher at Cesar Chavez Charter School for Public Policy, were recently elected board members of the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI). The PNPI is the leading source of professional development for current and prospective policymakers who work on federal higher education issues. 

  • Geographical Bias in testing: is cultural bias a problem of the past or are we simply not looking in the right space? 

    In a recent op-ed, Associate Professor Manuel S. González Canché discusses the problem of cultural and geographical biases in standardized college admissions tests, offering empirical evidence about this form of bias and its role in the reproduction of privillege. This work is part of Dr. González Canché's research agenda to find structural mechanisms that close social, economic, and academic gaps. 


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

Manuel S. González Canché, Ph.D.

University of Arizona

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:

  • 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

Stiteler Hall                                                          208 S. 37th St.                                     Philadelphia, PA 19104

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

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

S. Noel Lipki 

 Program Assistant: Higher Education Division 
(215) 746-2923


Questions for current students?
E-mail Higher Education Division Graduate Assistants at: