The aim of the seminar is to expand our understanding of the institutions in which we work and in which most of the intellectual labor of the world is conducted or supported. This seminar will host talks and events that present research and foster discussion about universities and other institutions of higher education. Our scope is large, encompassing explorations of the past, examinations of current issues, and informed speculation about the future. Visit our seminar's website to learn more.

Upcoming Events

Gaële Goastellec, University of Lausanne, University of Toronto
Access to Higher Education and Degrees in Europe, From Tool of the Government to Inequality Regimes
Monday, April 23, 2018 - 4:15pm
Center for European Studies


Contemporary research on access to higher education tend to present equality in access as an indication of the degree of democracy achieved by societies and as an instrument of economic competitiveness. The adoption of a comparative socio-historical perspective shows that access first constituted a tool of government (Hood, 1983) participating in the very long run to the genesis of Modern States, before becoming a national, and now European, instrument of public action (Muller, 2000, Lascoumes, Simard, 2011). The shift from the historical referential framing the organization of access - the exclusion of certain social groups – which dominated until the 20th century, to a referential promoting the inclusion of all of them, participates to the European integration and the slow building up of a shared cultural model. States are incited to characterize the social belongings composing their social diversity in order to measure the participation of the various groups in higher education.

But, although massification transformed Higher Education from an elite institution to a mass or universal institution, still, the spread of an inclusion referential does not translate into a linear reduction of inequalities in access. Using the European Social Survey and comparing three generations, social inequalities in access to degrees appear to have first reduced during the decades after the second world war, but to be characterized since the 90's by a new phase of growth. And within this growth, inequalities vary greatly from one country to another.

How to explain these variations? Macro-social comparison suggests that they are rooted in the religious history of countries, but overall vary according to the hold of degrees on the professional and economic situation of individuals, confirming the results of Dubet, Duru-Bellat and Verétout (2010). More broadly, they are embodied in distinct inequality regimes influenced by the contractual modalities of the relationship between the State and Society, i.e., how different welfare state models articulate with different level and legitimacy of school inequalities (Andres and Pechar, 2013, Willemse, De Beer, 2013).

Eddie R. Cole, College of William and Mary
College Presidents and Racial Unrest: A Civil Rights History
Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 12:00pm
Larsen 203, Harvard Graduate School of Education


Eddie R. Cole
Assistant Professor in Higher Education, School of Education & Affiliate Assistant Professor, Lyon G. Tyler Department of History
College of William and Mary

Commentary by

John Silvanus Wilson
President in Residence, Harvard University Graduate School of Education
Previously, President of Morehouse College and Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities


College presidents faced a new and unusual challenge when the student civil rights uprising emerged during the early 1960s. At the time, much like today, student unrest forced college presidents to address complicated questions about race, democracy, and higher education. During this talk, Eddie R. Cole will disrupt the prevailing historical narrative that has pushed college presidents to the margins of history as passive actors while elected officials and activists debated civil rights. In doing so, Dr. Cole’s discussion of his national study of nearly 30 U.S. colleges and universities will illuminate the collective influence of college presidents on civil rights, and reimagine the long history of academic leaders and racial conflict and its relevance to today’s social and political climate.

Past Events 2017 - 18

Panel on "Universities’ Responsibility to Truth"
Doctoral Research on Political Participation, Elite Status, and Race and Merit
Mario Small, Harvard University
On Power and Ambiguity in the Student-Adviser Relation
Anthony Jack, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Society of Fellows
(No) Harm in Asking
Scott Gelber, Wheaton College
Erin Driver-Linn, Harvard University
Grading the College: A History of Evaluating American Higher Education
Janine de Novais, Harvard Graduate School of Education
"These Classes Equip Me": The Development of Complex Understandings of Race in College Classrooms
William Kirby, Harvard University
From Berlin to Berkeley to Beijing: The World of Universities in the 21st Century
Gaële Goastellec, University of Lausanne, University of Toronto
Access to Higher Education and Degrees in Europe, From Tool of the Government to Inequality Regimes