The post was last updated on January 24, 2020.
What is higher education research? Is it a (scattered) field, a discipline, a tribe, a territory, a (a‐theoretical) community of practice, a cluster of silos, or an archipelago whose watery divides need bridging?
Each of the listed conceptualizations and metaphors has been invoked at least once by scholars who have grappled with this question, as it can be seen from the literature listed below. A closer look at these works reveals a variety of angles and takes, some criticism, occasional disagreements, lots of reflection, and at least one idea most seem to agree on: higher education research is, for better or for worse, not short of divisions.
This post does not, however, aim to engage in the discussion about the characteristics of higher education research (which doesn’t mean it cannot be a discussion starter). The aim here in fact is far less ambitious and limited to sharing a list of works which analyze, discuss, and reflect on higher education research.
The works included in the bibliography focus on a variety of aspects, and these include, among others, relationship with disciplines, policy, theory, or method, conceptual discussions, focus on specific parts of the world or on specific journals, citation analyses, writing style, and so forth. The list is likely not exhaustive, yet by continuously updating it, it surely will be increasingly more comprehensive over time.
For the application of different theories and methods in higher education research, including systematic reviews, you may want to check the book series Theory and Method in Higher Education Research, Vol. I-V, edited by Huisman, J. & Tight, M. (since 2015)
2016 – 2020
Tight, M. (2020). Higher education: Discipline or field of study? Tertiary Education and Management.
Vlegels, J., & Huisman, J. (2020). The emergence of the higher education research field (1976–2018): Preferential attachment, smallworldness and fragmentation in its collaboration networks. Higher Education.
Healy, M., Hammer, S., & McIlveen, P. (2020). Mapping graduate employability and career development in higher education research: A citation network analysis. Studies in Higher Education.
Daenekindt, S., & Huisman, J. (2020). Mapping the scattered field of research on higher education. A correlated topic model of 17,000 articles, 1991–2018. Higher Education.
Kosmützky, A., & Nokkala, T. (2020). Towards a methodology discourse in comparative higher education. Higher Education Quarterly, 74(2), 117–123.
Santos, J. M., Horta, H., & Zhang, L. (2020). The association of thinking styles with research agendas among academics in the social sciences. Higher Education Quarterly, 74(2), 193–210.
Warren, S., Starnawski, M., Tsatsaroni, A., Vogopoulou, A., & Zgaga, P. (2020). How does research performativity and selectivity impact on the non-core regions of Europe? The case for a new research agenda. Higher Education.
Kimball, E., & Friedensen, R. E. (2019). The Search for Meaning in Higher Education Research: A Discourse Analysis of ASHE Presidential Addresses. The Review of Higher Education, 42(4), 1549–1574.
Roux, K. le, Taylor, D. L., Kloot, B., & Allie, S. (2019). Research on higher education: A perspective on the relations between Higher Education Studies and Discipline-Based Education Research. Teaching in Higher Education.
Guzmán-Valenzuela, C., & Barnett, R. (2019). Patterns of theory use in qualitative research in higher education studies in Latin America: A geopolitical interpretation. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 32(5), 477–492.
Guzmán-Valenzuela, C., & Gómez, C. (2019). Advancing a knowledge ecology: Changing patterns of higher education studies in Latin America. Higher Education, 77(1), 115–133.
Guzmán-Valenzuela, C., Queupil, J. P., & Ríos-Jara, H. (2019). Global and Peripheral Identities in the Production of Knowledge on Higher Education Reforms: The Latin American Case. Higher Education Policy.
George Mwangi, C. A., Latafat, S., Hammond, S., Kommers, S., S. Thoma, H., Berger, J., & Blanco-Ramirez, G. (2018). Criticality in international higher education research: A critical discourse analysis of higher education journals. Higher Education, 76(6), 1091–1107.
Santos, J. M., & Horta, H. (2018). The research agenda setting of higher education researchers. Higher Education, 76(4), 649–668.
Calma, A., & Davies, M. (2017). Geographies of influence: A citation network analysis of Higher Education 1972–2014. Scientometrics, 110(3), 1579–1599.
Andreotti, V. de O., Stein, S., Pashby, K., & Nicolson, M. (2016). Social cartographies as performative devices in research on higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 35(1), 84–99.
Kosmützky, A. (2016). The Precision and Rigor of International Comparative Studies in Higher Education. In Theory and Method in Higher Education Research (Vol. 2, pp. 199–221). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
2011 – 2015
Deem, R. (2015). What is the Nature of the Relationship between Changes in European Higher Education and Social Science Research on Higher Education and (Why) Does It Matter? Journal of European Integration, 37(2), 263–279.
Teichler, U. (2015). Higher Education Research in Europe. In A. Curaj, L. Matei, R. Pricopie, J. Salmi, & P. Scott (Eds.), The European Higher Education Area: Between Critical Reflections and Future Policies (pp. 815–847). Springer International Publishing.
Freeman, Jr., S., Hagedorn, L. S., Goodchild, L., & Wright, D. (Eds.). (2014). Advancing Higher Education as a Field of Study: In Quest of Doctoral Degree Guidelines – Commemorating 120 Years of Excellence. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Kosmützky, A., & Nokkala, T. (2014). Challenges and trends in comparative higher education: An editorial. Higher Education, 67(4), 369–380.
Kosmützky, A., & Krücken, G. (2014). Growth or steady state? A bibliometric focus on international comparative higher education research. Higher Education, 67(4), 457–472.
Rumbley, L., Altbach, P. G., Stanfield, D. A., Shimmi, Y., de Gayardon, A., & Chan, R. Y. (2014). Higher education: A worldwide inventory of research centers, academic programs, and journals and publications. Lemmens Media.
Jung, J., & Horta, H. (2013). Higher Education Research in Asia: A Publication and Co-Publication Analysis. Higher Education Quarterly, 67(4), 398–419.
Kehm, B. M., & Musselin, C. (Eds.). (2013). The Development of Higher Education Research in Europe: 25 Years of Cher. Sense Publishers.
Kelly, F., & Brailsford, I. (2013). The role of the disciplines: Alternative methodologies in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 32(1), 1–4.
Klemenčič, M. & Brennan, J. (2013). Institutional research in a European context: a forward look. European Journal of Higher Education, 3(3), 265-279.
Lincoln, D., & Klemenčič, M. (Eds.). (2013). The past, present and future of higher education research: Between scholarship and policymaking. European Journal of Higher Education, 3(3), 239–241.
Shahjahan, R. A., & Kezar, A. J. (2013). Beyond the “National Container”: Addressing Methodological Nationalism in Higher Education Research. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 20–29.
Ahola, S., & Hoffman, D. M. (Eds.). (2012). Higher Education Research in Finland: Emerging Structures and Contemporary Issues. University of Jyväskylä.
Macfarlane, B., & Grant, B. (2012). The growth of higher education studies: From forerunners to pathtakers. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(5), 621–624.
2006 – 2010
Budd, J. M., & Magnuson, L. (2010). Higher Education Literature Revisited: Citation Patterns Examined. Research in Higher Education, 51(3), 294–304.
Davies, M., Devlin, M., & Tight, M. (Eds.). (2010). Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Perspectives and Practicalities. Emerald Publishing.
Harland, T. (2009). People who study higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(5), 579–582.
Gumport, P. J. (Ed.). (2008). Sociology of Higher Education: Contributions and Their Contexts. JHU Press.
Välimaa, J. (2008). On Comparative Research in Higher Education. In A. Amaral, I. Bleiklie, & C. Musselin (Eds.), From Governance to Identity: A Festschrift for Mary Henkel (pp. 141–155). Springer Netherlands.
2001 – 2005
1991 – 2000
Schwarz, S., & Teichler, U. (Eds.). (2000). The Institutional Basis of Higher Education Research: Experiences and Perspectives. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Teichler, U., & Sadlack, J. (Eds.). (2000). Higher Education Research: Its Relationship to Policy and Practice. Issues in Higher Education Series. Elsevier Science.
Goedegebuure, L., & Van Vught, F. (1996). Comparative higher education studies: The perspective from the policy sciences. Higher Education, 32(4), 371–394.
Kogan, M. (1996). Comparing higher education systems. Higher Education, 32(4), 395–402.
Välimaa, J., & Westerheijden, D. F. (1995). Two Discourses: Researchers and Policy-Making in Higher Education. Higher Education, 29(4), 385–403.
Teichler, U. (1993). Research on higher education in Europe: Some aspects of recent developments. In P. Maassen & E. Frackmann (Eds.), Towards Excellence in European Higher Education in the 90s. Proceedings of 11th European AIR Forum, University of Turku, Finland. Cited in Kogan, 1997.
1981 – 1990
Townsend, B. K., Keller, G., & Moore, K. M. (1989). Reflections on Higher Education Research. The Review of Higher Education, 13(1), 119–136.
Dressel, P. L., & Mayhew, L. B. (1974). Higher Education as a Field of Study. Jossey-Bass.
I’d like to thank Krystian Szadkowski and Bernardo Sfredo Miorando for their generous contribution to this compilation.
If you happen to know a work that is not included in the list, it would be great if you could share it in the comment section below the post. Thank you!
Jelena Brankovic is a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany. Currently she is trying to figure out how to get as many people as possible to help make ECHER a more relevant organization for the community. She is also one of the lead editors of ECHER Blog. You can follow her on Twitter.