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

Meng-Hsuan Chou, NTU Singapore, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies
Pauline Ravinet, Université de Lille, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
What Does Comparative Regionalism Offer to Higher Education Research?
Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 4:30pm
Room 133, Barker Center


Meng-Hsuan Chou
Nanyang Assistant Professor in the Public Policy and Global Affairs Program, NTU Singapore
Fung Global Fellow, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, USA

Pauline Ravinet
Senior Lecturer in Political Science, Center for Studies in Administrative, Political, and Social Research (CERAPS), Université de Lille
Scientific Collaborator, Center for the Study of Political Life (CEVIPOL), Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium


How do we account for the rise of regional higher education initiatives today? What are some insights that the comparative regionalism approach offers to analyse this phenomenon? In the higher education sector, the ‘Bologna Process export thesis’ has been one conventional explanation to the emergence of regional higher education initiatives around the world. According to this thesis, developments in Europe triggered political and policy interests elsewhere in the regional dimension, hence Europe’s Bologna Process as a model for other regional higher education cooperation. Implicit in the ‘Bologna Process export thesis’ is the presence of the diffusion mechanism, activated by a purported dominant model for filling the regional policy vacuums in today’s higher education landscape. In this seminar, we introduce and explain how the comparative regionalism approach offers more analytical rigour than the ‘Bologna Process export thesis’, particularly for those interested in comparative empirical fieldwork.

Tobias Schulze-Cleven, Visiting Scholar 2011-2012
Higher Education Disrupted: Trajectories of Regulatory Transformation in Europe and the US
Monday, March 11, 2019 - 4:30pm
Goldman Room, Adolphus Busch Hall


Manja Klemencic
Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Harvard University


Higher education has taken center stage in countries’ attempts to sustain economic growth and social welfare in the 21st century. Across the world, policymakers have expanded the sector and launched far-reaching structural changes to meet the challenges of the “knowledge economy.” What are the patterns of convergence and diversity in reforms across countries? This presentation explores the comparative politics of institutional change in Germany and the US through the lens of the “regulatory welfare state.” It shows how a focus on the growing scope of competition-sustaining regulation, including on how shifting rules interact with fiscal transfers, can illuminate policymakers’ attempts to steer the higher education sector in line with reconceived goals. In the process, the analysis seeks to make three broader contributions. It strives to clarify the reconfiguration of public authority in higher education, delineate the effects of differential state capacities, and theorize links between regulatory governance and welfare states’ turns to sustaining national competitiveness and providing social investment.

Cosponsored with Seminar on Social Exclusion and Inclusion

Steven Brint, University of California, Riverside
Two Cheers for Higher Education: Why American Universities Are Stronger Than Ever—and How to Meet the Challenges They Face
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 4:00pm
Eliot Lyman, Second Floor, Longfellow Hall, HGSE


Crushing student debt, rapidly eroding state funding, faculty embroiled in speech controversies, a higher-education market disrupted by online competition―today’s headlines suggest that universities’ power to advance knowledge and shape American society is rapidly declining. But Steven Brint, a renowned analyst of academic institutions, has tracked numerous trends demonstrating their vitality. After a recent period that witnessed soaring student enrollment and ample research funding, universities, he argues, are in a better position than ever before.

Focusing on the years 1980–2015, Brint details the trajectory of American universities, which was influenced by evolving standards of disciplinary professionalism, market-driven partnerships (especially with scientific and technological innovators outside the academy), and the goal of social inclusion. Conflicts arose: academic entrepreneurs, for example, flouted their campus responsibilities, and departments faced backlash over the hiring of scholars with nontraditional research agendas. Nevertheless, educators’ commitments to technological innovation and social diversity prevailed and created a new dynamism.

Brint documents these successes along with the challenges that result from rapid change. Today, knowledge-driven industries generate almost half of U.S. GDP, but divisions by educational level split the American political order. Students flock increasingly to fields connected to the power centers of American life and steer away from the liberal arts. And opportunities for economic mobility are expanding even as academic expectations decline.

In describing how universities can meet such challenges head on, especially in improving classroom learning, Brint offers not only a clear-eyed perspective on the current state of American higher education but also a pragmatically optimistic vision for the future.

Cosponsored by the Higher Education Program, HGSE

Marek Kwiek, University of Poznan, Poland
Changing European Academics: A Comparative Study of Social Stratification, Work Patterns, and Research Productivity
Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 4:30pm
Room 133, Barker Center


Marek Kwiek
Director of the Center for Public Policy Studies and UNESCO Chair in Institutional Research and Higher Education Policy, University of Poznan, Poland

Ulrike Felt, University of Vienna, Austria
Re-timing Contemporary Universities: Governance, Power, and Identity
Thursday, April 18, 2019 - 4:30pm
Room 133, Barker Center


Ulrike Felt
Head of the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Head of the Research Platform Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice, University of Vienna, Austria

Hans de Wit, Boston College
Betty Leask, Boston College
Internationalization in Higher Education, Pushing the Boundaries!
Thursday, May 2, 2019 - 4:30pm
Room 133, Barker Center


Hans de Wit
Professor of Higher Education and Director, Center for International Higher Education, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, USA

Betty Leask
Visiting Scholar, Center for International Higher Education, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, USA

Past Events 2018 - 19

John Carey, Dartmouth College
Katherine P. Clayton, Dartmouth College
Yusaku Horiuchi, Dartmouth College
The Hidden Consensus on Campus Diversity
Christopher Avery, Harvard Kennedy School
Philip Lee, University of the District of Columbia
Mitchell Stevens, Stanford Graduate School of Education
Natasha Warikoo, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Perspectives on Selective Admissions
Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Brandeis University
The Monument and the Wrecking Crew: Ageism in the Academy
Stefan Beljean, Harvard University
Laura Nelson, Harvard University
Graduate Student Talks
Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education
A National Study of Higher Education: Challenges and Rays of Hope
Menglin (Maria) Guo, NYU-Shanghai, Harvard University
The College to Work Transition for Liberal Arts Students

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
Nicholas Boucher, Harvard Undergraduate Council
Fernando Miguel Galan Palomares, European Association of Institutions in Higher Education
Caroline Sundberg, European Students' Union
Catherine Zhang, Harvard Undergraduate Council
Students as Partners: Opportunities and Challenges of Student Representation in Higher Education Governance
Gaële Goastellec, University of Lausanne, University of Toronto
Access to Higher Education and Degrees in Europe, From Tool of the Government to Inequality Regimes
Eddie R. Cole, College of William and Mary
College Presidents and Racial Unrest: A Civil Rights History