History

The Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) is a scholarly association based in the United States, dedicated to higher education as a field of study. There are over 2,100 members of the association, of whom about 40% are full-time graduate students undertaking master’s or doctoral degrees in a range of areas including education and other social sciences. About half of ASHE members are university faculty, mostly in academic programs that focus on some aspect of higher education, such as administration, leadership, or policy. ASHE members also include researchers working in non-university settings, including government, think-tanks, and advocacy organizations. Two to three percent of ASHE members are from outside the United States.

ASHE was incorporated in 1976 in Washington, DC, USA. It emerged from another association, the now-defunct American Association for Higher Education (AAHE). ASHE is managed by a full-time executive director and governed by a board of directors elected by the membership. As of 2019, there are four councils: the Council for the Advancement of Higher Education Programs (CAHEP), Council for Ethnic Participation (CEP), Council for International Higher Education (CIHE), and Council for Public Policy in Higher Education (CPPHE). Standing committees lead activities related to fundraising and philanthropy, publications, awards, position taking, and nominations for elected officers. Presidential commissions, ad hoc committees, and self-formed groups of mutual interests (e.g., athletics, philanthropy, LGBTQ research, studies of liberal arts colleges) exist in a range of formats in- and outside the official governance structure. 

The annual conference provides opportunities for higher education scholars to present their research. Conference content is peer-reviewed. About half of the proposals are accepted each year. Authors are then invited to present their work as stand-alone papers, roundtable papers, or posters, or in self-designed paper and symposium sessions. An annual conference program committee is formed each year and other committees are appointed on an ad hoc basis.

ASHE supports researchers through dissemination of research in publications and its annual conference. ASHE owns the academic journal Review of Higher Education, which is published by Johns Hopkins University Press in four issues per annual volume. ASHE has overseen several publications designed to advance the study of higher education. With changes to scholarly communication and the ability to access publications electronically, some of these formats were discontinued. The ASHE Reader Series consisted of edited topical volumes (e.g., governance, organizations, diversity, history) that brought together important existing single publications (journal articles, book chapters) for use in graduate courses in higher education.

Before these materials were available electronically the ASHE Readers provided convenient sources for instructors and students. The ASHE-ERIC Monograph Series, later the ASHE Monograph Series, was an annual volume of two-to-four issues, treated as topical monographs, synthesizing important areas of knowledge.

ASHE also engages in supporting members’ professional development by offering opportunities for ongoing learning. Activities include workshops at the annual conference, synchronous online webinars on research topics or methods, and asynchronous learning through social media and archived material. Some councils offer mentoring programs for early- or mid-career scholars, and periodically ASHE partners with a foundation to sponsor seminars or symposia related to specific topics or research methods.

Majority of this section originally published as: Renn, K. A. (forthcoming). Association for the Study of Higher Education. In P. Nuno Texeira & J-C Shin (Eds.), Encyclopedia of international higher education systems and institutions. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer


The initial ASHE Board of Directors was comprised of ten individuals: 

  • Mary Corcoran, University of Minnesota 
  • Kathryn Moore, Cornell University 
  • Allan O. Pfnister, University of Denver 
  • Steven G. Olswang, University of Washington 
  • H. Bradley Sagen, University of Iowa 
  • Mary Kinnane, Boston College 
  • Patricia Wilson, University of Washington 
  • C. Robert Pace, University of California at Los Angeles 
  • Kenneth P. Mortimer, Pennsylvania State University 
  • ​William D. Carr, Alabama Commission on Higher Education 


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