History in Higher Education Programs: Dialogue and Discourse

Steven Schlegel
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 4  •  2019  •  pp. 307-318

This paper encourages the reader to think about the role history, or foundations, plays in graduate programs in the field of higher education. In so doing it looks at the types of conversations scholars in other fields and disciplines have had concerning the value of teaching students to think historically in settings where history is not the primary mode of scholarship, before thinking critically about the conversation we have had as it concerns higher education graduate programs.

In many ways higher education programs have a complicated relationship with history. In some ways it can be seen as a central pursuit and in other ways it can be seen as a marginal scholarly activity. These two conflicting paradigms of central and marginal reflect a lack of scholarly discussion on what the field wants and expects from history.

This paper considers the scholarly discussion that has happened in three fields apart from higher education administration in an attempt to suggest ways that scholars in higher education programs might conceptualize the value and role that history should play in our graduate programs.

This paper invites scholars to think about what they want and expect students to gain from coursework on the history of higher education in comparison to what other fields have seen as the major reasons for including similar coursework.

Despite a generalized commitment to teaching the foundations of higher education, the field has not been clear about what it expects students to gain from this type of coursework. Although it is easy to suggest that teaching foundations is important, there has been limited scholarly work that meaningfully grapples with questions about the value of foundations in higher education programs.

As practitioners and researchers, we need to better articulate what we think foundations brings to graduate students in higher education programs and we need to do so in a manner that creates a single coherent paradigm for students.

(Included in Recommendations for Practitioners)

higher education, foundations, graduate education, higher education programs
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