HIED 66674: Comparative Higher Education

Syllabus Description:

Better understand the US system of higher education by means of looking at the higher education systems of other nations and regions, and understanding how they developed within their own historical, social, economic, and cultural contexts. You will choose a theme affecting higher education, such as access, privatization, massification, student mobility, quality assessment, faculty preparation, governance, the impact of technology, lifelong learning, etc., and, through understanding how that theme has different ramifications in different contexts, you will come to understand how and why the US system (or another national system you are familiar with) has developed as it has. You also will learn about the systems of other nations and regions and why they have developed as they have.


In this course, I learned about different models of educational systems, the role of education in different countries, the purposes of education in different cultures and countries, and the reason why particular systems of education take root in different countries. I also learned how to compare educational systems from different countries while examining how forces affected educational systems in countries, regions, and around the globe. It was fascinating to examine unique systems and styles of education, international influences on education styles and systems. We also examined influences on higher education internationally, including the massification, commoditization, harmonization, and privatization of higher education internationally.


By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Define and explain the differences between international education, comparative education, global education, cross-border education, borderless education, intercultural education, multicultural education

  2. Articulate how historical, cultural, and socio-economic factors affect the development of education in general and the development of higher education in particular.

  3. Articulate some of the ways that educators have described educational quality, including the current focus on “outcomes assessment” in many contexts, and consider which of Harvey’s conceptions of quality may be appropriate for which circumstances:

    1. For educational aims: “fitness for purpose” vs. transformation

    2. For educational means: exceptionality vs. consistency

  4. Analyze some of the factors that caused the US system of higher education to develop as it did and consider why other systems of higher education have developed similarly or differently, looking at questions such as:

    1. What are the factors that account for the diversity of types of US higher education institutions?

    2. What are the different missions of different kinds of institutions, and how did the mission differentiation develop?

    3. Who has what kinds of authority in US higher education, and how did these patterns of authority develop?

    4. Why has the curriculum been designed in the way it has? At a fundamental level, what are the purposes of higher education? (Why are you in school?) Why have credentialing systems developed in the way they have? What kinds of reforms have been recommended and why?

    5. How should higher education be financed, and why? Is education a public good, which should be funded with public monies (i.e. taxes), or is it a private good that individuals should pay for? If you think that higher education is both a public good and a private good, to what extent do you think that it is each one, and what does that suggest about who should pay for what?

    6. What responsibilities do higher education institutions have for students’ lives outside the classroom, and why? What responsibilities do higher education institutions have for opening access to disenfranchised populations in their societies, and why?

    7. What qualifications should professors have, and why? What should their functions be, and why? How do you define academic freedom, and how important do you think it is?

  5. Analyze selected systems of higher education in other countries in terms of the issues listed above: institutional diversity, institutional mission, who has authority for what, what is in the curriculum and why, how higher education is financed, what responsibilities higher education has for student lives and issues outside the classroom, and what the roles of professors are.

  6. Describe some of the macro-level issues that are affecting higher education around the world:

    1. The harmonization of higher education systems, processes, educational outcomes, and quality assessment processes between nations (e.g. the Bologna Process, the new ASEAN grouping, US regional accrediting associations evaluating institutions outside the US, dual degree arrangements, GATS, universities setting up campuses abroad, etc.)

    2. The transition from elite to mass enrollment in higher education, its causes and implications

    3. The growing emphasis on privatization and the use of higher education as an instrument for private gain

    4. The changing role of higher education in countries in political and economic transition, such as the countries that are new members of the European Union, the countries that formerly were part of the Soviet Union, the countries of southern Africa, the emerging economic powers of China and India, etc.

  7. Given all of the issues listed above, analyze the goals of and rationales for internationalizing higher education in different contexts, and describe the possible program designs and educational processes that might be needed to meet those goals and fit in with those rationales.

  8. Give constructive feedback to a peer on his or her scholarly work.

  9. Write and present academic and scholarly information to peers and to other professionals with increased skill and clarity.

Key Assignments:

Comparative Paper and Presentation – In this project, I examined the marketing of institutions of higher education in the United States, Australia, and China, especially the role of prestige, competition on non-academic items, advertising, and financial aid in attracting students to individual institutions.