Theme 9: Higher Education

The thematic group Higher Education unites quantitative, qualitative and mixed-method research that focuses on a broad range of topics in the field of research into higher education. Academics within this field of research use a variety of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches to study a broad selection of aspects of contemporary higher education. Within the ICO thematic group Higher Education we distinguish three main topics: (1) students & learning, (2) faculty & teaching, and (3) organization & policy. These general research topics are strongly interrelated. 

More information on the current topics within the theme can be found here:

Students & learning
The research topic of students and student learning in higher education concerns (1) student characteristics, such as academic achievement, learning styles, and student motivation, and (2) student experiences, with their courses, programmes and university life in general. Within this topic, research can also relate to (3) curriculum aspects specifically related to student learning and achievement. For example, specific instructional formats, learning technologies, and examinations, are studied in relation to student success. Organisational aspects fitting within the research topic include institutional elements, such as access to higher education, diversity, graduate employment, non-completion, and retention. 

Faculty & teaching
Studies on faculty and teaching in higher education can be broadly categorised into studies on (1) teaching, (2) faculty development, and (3) academic careers. Studies on teaching focus on faculty knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes in relation to teaching effectiveness. Studies on faculty development focus on professional development activities in order to improve teaching effectiveness. Faculties in higher education commonly have multiple roles adjacent to their teaching obligations. Studies on academic careers examine theoretical concepts such as induction, faculty mobility, professionalism, academic writing and publishing, but also specific studies on the stages in an academic career, such as doctoral experience, early career experience, and tenured staff experience, are possible. 

Organization & policy
Studies into the organization and policy of higher education relate to the (1) international level, (2) national level, or the (3) institutional level. Academic debates about international policy relate for example to the Bologna declaration about the European Higher Education area, or to international trends, such as globalisation, marketization and massification of higher education. On the national level, higher education organisation and policy can be studied in relation to national policy, economic trends, return on investments from the national governments, or national qualification standards. On the institutional and departmental level, relations are to be explored between the quality of higher education and institutional governance, the mission or management of an institution, mergers, evaluation and accreditation procedures. 
The theme group aims at strengthening relationships with national and international affiliates in the field of higher education research and practice, in order to improve the educational experience of the participating PhD students. These relationships will provide PhD students additional learning and research opportunities in academic and professional organisations. Additional information on related journals and affiliates

Find out more about the theme: