Higher Education: Comparative and International Perspectives

  • 30 hours
  • 10 evenings, over 10 weeks


This short course provides critical insights into the changing field of higher education, reflecting on contemporary developments and debates.

It will introduce you to conceptual and analytical frameworks for understanding the role of higher education (HE) in society.

The course aims to: 

  • develop your capacity to critically analyse HE from the perspective of the methods and theories of comparative and international studies
  • encourage you to reflect on the implications of what you've learnt for your own current or future professional roles

The course doesn't provide extended descriptions of the HE systems of a range of different nations/regions or identify institutional ‘best practices’ or recipes for ‘what works’.

The course runs over ten weeks, with sessions held on Thursday evenings, 5 to 8pm.

This course is run by the Department of Education, Practice and Society at UCL Institute of Education (IOE). The course is part of the MA Higher and Professional Education but is offered here as a standalone short course.

Who the course is for

This course is suitable for those with professional or voluntary experience of working in higher education and related fields, including:

  • administrators and managers
  • researchers, teachers and professional staff, such as learning support or widening participation officers
  • policy-makers from universities, colleges, national organisations and professional bodies

Course content

Currently policies and practices affecting HE around the world are strongly influenced by the interaction of a range of factors from within and outside the nation where universities are located. They include globalisation, neo-liberalism, demographic shifts, technological changes and the influence of cross-national agencies. All these have radically changed the frames within which HE policy makers and providers now operate.

Common manifestations of these influences which affect HE systems include the:

  • massification of HE
  • expansion of the private sector along with a reduction of public spending
  • rise of competitiveness and entrepreneurship
  • massive increase in the number of international students

This course sets out to investigate, analyse and critique the nature of these influences and their impact on critical aspects/themes such as student access, equity, the student experience, governance and transfer.

The analysis will be informed by a comparative perspective which will help you move beyond the boundaries of your own experiences and develop a deeper understanding of the nature and influences on both your own and other systems of HE.

Teaching and structure

Face-to-face sessions are held on Thursday evenings, 5 to 8pm.

Sessions will involve interactive lectures, seminars, group discussions and case study analysis. 

Before each session you'll need to do the reading. You'll be encouraged to draw on your personal experience and/or professional practice and make links between these and the reading.

You'll also receive course materials and communications through the virtual learning environment (VLE) Moodle.

Learning outcomes

This course will help you:

  • understand and analyse policies and practices in global higher education
  • develop critical awareness of concepts, debates and issues in comparative and global higher education
  • develop frameworks and principles for action in professional settings
  • connect theory, policy and practice in your work


You'll receive a certificate of attendance on completing the course.

Entry requirements

You should have:

  • a ‘good’ level of English
  • a degree of 2:2 or higher in a relevant subject (or equivalent)
  • professional experience, paid or voluntary, of working in the HE sector

Read more about English language requirements for international students.

How to apply

You'll need to complete an application form, which you can download by clicking on the 'Book now' button.

About the department

The Department of Education, Practice and Society is a multidisciplinary department at UCL Institute of Education. The department has extensive expertise and experience in research, knowledge transfer and consultancy in the UK, Europe and Asia, working closely with transnational bodies, government departments, regional organisations, national institutes, and international organisations.

The Centre for Higher Education Studies brings together students, researchers, consultants and practitioners from around the world focusing on higher education with a distinctive programme of seminars and events. Programmes offered by the Centre for Higher Education Studies provide high level academic and professional education for those working in higher education.

Course team

Paul Morris

Paul is Professor of Comparative Education at UCL Institute of Education (IOE). After teaching in London and Luton, he joined the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in 1976. From 1986 until 1992, he was Dean of Education. He served on the Education Commission of Hong Kong between 1988 and 1993, a period which saw significant education reforms. He was appointed as President of the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) in 2002. In 2007 he left HKIEd following a Judicial Commission of Inquiry which concluded that he had been pressured by officials to silence staff who were critical of government policy.

Course information last modified: 22 Dec 2017, 10:26