The post was last updated on August 5, 2022.
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:
- Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, edited by Perna, Laura W. Published annually since 1985.
- Theory and Method in Higher Education Research, edited by Huisman, J. & Tight, M. Published annually since 2015.
2021 and newer
Avdeev, S. (2021). International collaboration in higher education research: A gravity model approach. Scientometrics, 126, 5569–5588.
Akbaritabar, A., & Barbato, G. (2021). An internationalised Europe and regionally focused Americas: A network analysis of higher education studies. European Journal of Education 56 (219-234).
Brankovic, J., & Aarnikoivu, M. (2021). The Making of Early Career Higher Education Researchers: An Open-Ended Experiment in Community Building. Internationalisation of Higher Education – Policy and Practice, 1/2021, 97–109. [Preprint on ECHER Blog]
Jung, J. (2022). Working to learn and learning to work: research on higher education and the world of work. Higher Education Research & Development, 41(1), 92-106.
Kwiek, M. (2021). The prestige economy of higher education journals: A quantitative approach. Higher Education, 81(3), 493–519.
Mason, S., Merga, M. K., González Canché, M. S., & Mat Roni, S. (2021). The internationality of published higher education scholarship: How do the ‘top’ journals compare? Journal of Informetrics, 15(2), 101–155.
Pan, L., & An, T. (2021). The evolutionary characteristics of higher education studies worldwide: Central themes and regions. Studies in Higher Education, 46(12), 2568–2580.
Roux, K. le, Taylor, D. L., Kloot, B., & Allie, S. (2021). Research on higher education: A perspective on the relations between Higher Education Studies and Discipline-Based Education Research. Teaching in Higher Education, 26(1), 50-64
Vlegels, J., & Huisman, J. (2021). The emergence of the higher education research field (1976–2018): Preferential attachment, smallworldness and fragmentation in its collaboration networks. Higher Education 81(5), 1079–1095.
2016 – 2020
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.
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.
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.
Suspitsyna, T. (2020). Comparative and international education research in a post-truth era. Higher Education Quarterly, 74(2), 124–135.
Tight, M. (2020). Higher education: Discipline or field of study? Tertiary Education and Management, 26(4), 415–428.
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.
Tight, M. (2019). Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of higher education research. European Journal of Higher Education, 9(2), 133–152.
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.
Tight, M. (2018). Higher Education Research: The Developing Field (1 edition). Bloomsbury Academic.
Tight, M. (2018). Higher education journals: Their characteristics and contribution. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(3), 607-619.
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.
Green, T. (2016). A methodological review of structural equation modelling in higher education research. Studies in Higher Education, 41(12), 2125–2155.
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.
McKenna, S., Quinn, L., & Vorster, J.-A. (2018). Mapping the field of Higher Education Research using PhD examination reports. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(3), 579–592.
Tight, M. (2016). Phenomenography: The development and application of an innovative research design in higher education research. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 19(3), 319–338.
2011 – 2015
Calma, A., & Davies, M. (2015). Studies in Higher Education 1976–2013: A retrospective using citation network analysis. Studies in Higher Education, 40(1), 4–21.
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.
Teichler, U. (2015). Higher Education Research. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition) (pp. 862–869).
Tight, M. (2015). Theory Development and Application in Higher Education Research: Tribes and Territories. Higher Education Policy, 28(3), 277–293.
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.
Horta, H., & Jung, J. (2014). Higher education research in Asia: An archipelago, two continents or merely atomization? Higher Education, 68(1), 117–134.
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.
Musselin, C. (2014). Research issues and institutional prospects for higher education studies. Studies in Higher Education, 39(8), 1369–1380.
Rumbley, L. E., Altbach, P. G., Stanfield, D. A., Shimmi, Y., Gayardon, A. de, & Chan, R. Y. (2014). Higher Education: A Worldwide Inventory of Research Centers, Academic Programs, and Journals and Publications (3rd ed.). Lemmens Media.
Teichler, U. (2014). Opportunities and problems of comparative higher education research: The daily life of research. Higher Education, 67(4), 393–408.
Tight, M. (2014). Discipline and theory in higher education research. Research Papers in Education, 29(1), 93–110.
Tight, M. (2014). Working in separate silos? What citation patterns reveal about higher education research internationally. Higher Education, 68(3), 379–395.
Gornitzka, Å. (2013). The interface between research and policy – a note with potential relevance for higher education. European Journal of Higher Education, 3(3), 255–264.
Huisman, J. (2013). Higher Education Policy: The Evolution of a Journal Revisited. Higher Education Policy, 26(4), 433–445.
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.
Teichler, U. (2013). Academically ambitious and relevant higher education research: The legacy of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers. European Journal of Higher Education, 3(3), 242–254.
Zgaga, P. (2013). Higher education research and higher education policy in South-East Europe. European Journal of Higher Education, 3(3), 280–294.
Ahola, S., & Hoffman, D. M. (Eds.). (2012). Higher Education Research in Finland: Emerging Structures and Contemporary Issues. University of Jyväskylä.
Ashwin, P. (2012). How often are theories developed through empirical research into higher education? Studies in Higher Education, 37(8), 941–955.
Harland, T. (2012). Higher education as an open-access discipline. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(5), 703–710.
Macfarlane, B. (2012). The higher education research archipelago. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(1), 129–131.
Macfarlane, B., & Grant, B. (2012). The growth of higher education studies: From forerunners to pathtakers. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(5), 621–624.
Clegg, S. (2012). Conceptualising higher education research and/or academic development as ‘fields’: A critical analysis. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(5), 667–678.
Tight, M. (Ed.). (2012). Researching Higher Education (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
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.
Hartmann, E. (2010). The new research agenda in critical higher education studies. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 8(2), 169–173.
Wang, X. (2010). Higher Education as a Field of Study in China: Defining Knowledge and Curriculum Structure. Lexington Books.
Dobson, I. R. (2009). The Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management: An output analysis. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 31(1), 3–15.
Harland, T. (2009). People who study higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(5), 579–582.
Sword, H. (2009). Writing higher education differently: A manifesto on style. Studies in Higher Education, 34(3), 319–336.
Gumport, P. J. (Ed.). (2008). Sociology of Higher Education: Contributions and Their Contexts. JHU Press.
– Ch. 1: Clark, B. R. Development of the Sociology of Higher Education. (pp. 3–16).
– Ch. 2: Gumport, P. J. Sociology of Higher Education: An Evolving Field (pp. 17–50).
– Ch. 12: Gumport, P. J. Reflections on a Hybrid Field: Growth and Prospects for the Sociology of Higher Education (pp. 325–361).
Huisman, J. (2008). Higher Education Policy: The Evolution of a Journal. Higher Education Policy, 21(2), 265–274.
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.
Altbach, P. G., Bozeman, L. A., Janashia, N., & Rumbley, L. E. (Eds.). (2007). Higher Education: A Worldwide Inventory of Centers and Programs: Revised Edition. Brill.
Tight, M. (2007). Bridging the Divide: A comparative analysis of articles in higher education journals published inside and outside North America. Higher Education, 53(2), 235–253.
Tight, M. (2007). Higher education research as tribe, territory and/or community: A co-citation analysis. Higher Education, 55(5), 593–605.
2001 – 2005
Teichler, U. (2005). Research on Higher Education in Europe. European Journal of Education, 40(4), 447–469.
Tight, M. (2004). Research into higher education: An a‐theoretical community of practice? Higher Education Research & Development, 23(4), 395–411.
Begg, R. (Ed.). (2003). The Dialogue between Higher Education Research and Practice: 25 Years of EAIR. Springer Netherlands.
Teichler, U. (2003). The Future of Higher Education and the Future of Higher Education Research. Tertiary Education and Management, 9(3), 171–185.
Marginson, S., & Mollis, M. (2001). “The door opens and the tiger leaps”: Theories and Reflexivities of Comparative Education for a Global Millennium. Comparative Education Review, 45(4), 581–615.
Rhoades, G. (2001). Introduction to special section: ‘Perspectives on comparative higher education’. Higher Education, 41(4), 345–352.
Slaughter, S. (2001). Problems in comparative higher education: Political economy, political sociology and postmodernism. Higher Education, 41(4), 389–412.
Stromquist, N. P. (2001). Gender studies: A global perspective of their evolution contribution, and challenges to comparative higher education. Higher Education, 41(4), 373–387.
Tierney, W. G. (2001). The autonomy of knowledge and the decline of the subject: Postmodernism and the reformulation of the university. Higher Education, 41(4), 353–372.
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.
Kogan, M. (1997). An agenda for research and policy analysis. Tertiary Education and Management, 3(3), 179–188.
Clark, B. R. (1996). Substantive growth and innovative organization: New categories for higher education research. Higher Education, 32(4), 417–430.
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.
Neave, G. (1996). Higher education policy as an exercise in contemporary history. Higher Education, 32(4), 403–415.
Teichler, U. (1996). Comparative higher education: Potentials and limits. Higher Education, 32(4), 431–465.
Goodchild, L. F. (1996). G. Stanley Hall and the Study of Higher Education. The Review of Higher Education, 20(1), 69–99.
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.
Goodchild, L. F. (1991). Higher education as a field of study: Its origins, programs, and purposes, 1893–1960. New Directions for Higher Education, 1991(76), 15–32.
Vigil, T. A. (1991). The search for ‘higher education’ as an academic field of study. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst].
1981 – 1990
Budd, J. M. (1990). Higher Education Literature: Characteristics of citation patterns. The Journal of Higher Education, 61(1), 84–97.
Townsend, B. K., Keller, G., & Moore, K. M. (1989). Reflections on Higher Education Research. The Review of Higher Education, 13(1), 119–136.
Neave, G. (1987). Policy, ideology and equality. Perspectives on the field of education from an historical analogue. History of European Ideas, 8(2), 179–204.
Neave, G. (1985). Gentlemen, Scholars, and Administrators: The Rise of the Higher Education Research Community in Sweden. The Journal of Higher Education, 56(1), 1–25.
Sadlack, J. (Ed.). (1981). Directory of institutes and organizations in research on higher education. International Bureau of Education.
Dressel, P. L., & Mayhew, L. B. (1974). Higher Education as a Field of Study. Jossey-Bass.
Clark, B. R. (1973). Development of the Sociology of Higher Education. Sociology of Education, 46(1), 2–14.
I’d like to thank Krystian Szadkowski, Bernardo Sfredo Miorando and Elizabeth Cook 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.