Higher Education in the 21st Century

harvard campusOver the past eight years, our research team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has carried out an ambitious study of non-vocational higher education in the United States.

During five years of on-site research, we interviewed over 2000 individuals on 10 disparate campuses—incoming students, graduating students, faculty, administrators, parents, young alums, trustees, and job recruiters We covered numerous aspects of higher education, including the academic program and campus life. For the past two years, we have been analyzing these data using quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as “big data” searches.

We are currently writing a book which summarizes our findings as well as recommendations for individuals, institutions, and the sector. Wendy Fischman is the senior author.

Some of our “takeaways” from the research are available via the blog Life-Long Learning on this website. In addition, we would are pleased to share other publications we have written as well as press about our study and findings. We look forward to updating this list and sharing more information in the period ahead. For their support over the years, we thank our dedicated team of researchers as well as our senior adviser Richard Light.

The project has been funded by initial and continuing gifts from Paula and Jim Crown and from Thomas H. Lee and Ann Tenenbaum, wonderfully supportive philanthropists. We acknowledge with special gratitude The Endeavor Foundation, which has both generously funded our work for over two decades and has offered especially important and timely support for this project. We gratefully acknowledge additional support from Jackie and Mike Bezos, The Carnegie Corporation of New York (two grants), The Meyer and Raena Hammerman Foundation, The Lumina Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (two grants), The Spencer Foundation (two grants), The Teagle Foundation, The Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation (three gifts), and three anonymous funders.

-Howard Gardner, Principal Investigator and Wendy Fischman, Project Director

Scholarly Articles

Gardner, H. (2018). Higher education: A Platonic ideal. In O. Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, G. Wittum & A. Dengel (Eds.), Positive learning in the age of information: A blessing or a curse? (pp. 9-21). Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer VS.

Gardner, H. & Fischman, W. (2019). Towards quality higher education: Barriers and enablers. In O. Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia (Ed.), Frontiers and advances in Positive Learning in the Age of informaTiOn (PLATO) (pp. 9-20). Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer VS.

News Articles

“Online school means online tests, along with computerized surveillance,” CNN Business

“Why We Should Require All Students to Take Two Philosophy Courses,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Small Colleges Grapple With ‘Culture of Insecurity,’” Inside Higher Ed

“Campuses’ Cultures,” Harvard Magazine

“The Future of College,” Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Education for the Public Good,” Harvard Magazine

“How Well do Elite Colleges Contribute to the Public Good?,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Howard Gardner Explores Higher Education in New Study,” American Academy of Political and Social Science

“Nurturing talent is complex- and it is not enough,” Times Higher Education

“Universities told to ‘embed ethics’ to stay relevant to students,” Times Higher Education

“Nurturing Students With the Right Values,” Singapore Management University

Council of Independent Colleges, Presidents Institute (January 2019)

Harvard Graduate School of Education, Three-Part Lecture Series (January 2019)
Next Generation Undergraduate Success Measurement Project, University of California-Irvine (January 2019)
Harvard Summit on Excellence in Higher Education, Harvard University (April 2019)
Times Higher Education World Academic Summit 2019, ETH Zurich (September 2019)
PLATO International Conference, University of Mainz (September 2019)
Westminster School, Teacher Symposium (January 2020)
Mellon Foundation, Research Forum on Higher Education (January 2020)
Harvard College, Course co-taught by James Engell and Benjamin Friedman (April 2020)
Advanced Leadership Initiative, Harvard University (May 2020)

Empire State College (June 2020)

Project Zero, Quality Higher Education in the COVID era— and Beyond (August 2020)

 Harvard Hillel, The Present and Future of Higher Education (September 2020)      
*We have also presented at schools which participated in our study to report findings.