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

  • Higher Education Division charts direction for postsecondary leadership at New York Times Higher Education Forum

    Members of the GSE Higher Education community, including doctoral students, alumni, and Penn GSE faculty Joni Finney and Marybeth Gasman, contributed their expertise to a New York Times forum concerning issues of college affordability and diversity. The forum is part of a NYT special section on education innovation, titled “Student, or Customer?” Panel discussions from the event are available here for online viewing.

  • Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (Penn AHEAD) Convenes Conference on Student Debt

    Led by Dr. Laura Perna, with support from various organizations, higher education researchers gathered at The University of Pennsylvania on August 26, 2016 to present papers with the mission to better understand student debt, who borrows, the consequences of borrowing, and the implications for federal policy. Select papers will be published in a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in May 2017.

  • Center for Study of Race and Equity in Education (CSREE) Announces The Scholars of Color Series

    The Center for the Study of Race & Equity and the Penn GSE Dean's Office are sponsoring the Visiting Faculty “Scholars of Color” series of lectures for the 2016-2017 academic year. Below is a list of scholars who have been invited:
    October 5th: Dr. David Kirkland, New York University, “His Name was Derrick Todd: Literacy and the Education of Black Men and Boys”
    November 2nd: Dr. Manuel Gonzalez Canche, University of Georgia
    December 7th: Dr. Christopher Emdin, Teachers College, Columbia University
    February 15: Dr. Supriya Baily, George Mason University
    March 29: Dr. Rucker Johnson, University of California, Berkeley

  • Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions announces Fredrick Douglass Global Fellowship

    The Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship is a nationwide initiative designed to break down the barriers of cost, curriculum, and culture to make study abroad accessible to students from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Along with Project Passport, the fellowship is part of a strategic three-year partnership between CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) to increase study abroad at MSIs.

  • Inside Higher Ed Founding Editors Receive Zemsky Medal for Innovation

    The Penn Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management is pleased to announce that Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman founders and editors of Inside Higher Ed, are the 2017 recipients of the Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in 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: