Explore the legacy of Philip G. Altbach and the center he founded through his voice and the voices of its subsequent directors.



Harness the power of social movements

“I learned much of what I know, what I’ve done over the years through, the social movements that I was involved in. I’ve always had a kind of a political social interest in my scholarship and work.” – Phil

Know the power of symbol

“I noticed that the symbol that they were using, which was ubiquitous all over the place, the flags and all kinds of things was this, what’s now called the peace symbol in this country.” – Phil

The Center

Emergence of the field

Ford Foundation support in the early years of the Center for International Higher Education (CIHE).​

Founding of CIHE

Founding of the Center for International Higher Education (CIHE) at Boston College.


Adopt a critical perspective

“We have been quite critical… and that critical aspect I think has always been a very important basis for the center… and because I am responsible to nobody for nothing, we can just say what we want. And, we’ve been very happy to do that over time.” – Phil

Appreciate the complexity of context

“We want to understand the complexity of context and what does that mean in the relationships, that we have as institutions of higher education, as systems of higher education, and how we have to relate that to policy making in the real world.” – Hans

Challenge market-driven internationalization

“Internationalization over the past decades has moved from a much more cooperative exercise of, exchange of students, exchange of faculty joint curriculum development to a competitive marketization.” – Hans


Build networks

“The center has always had this tradition of learning about higher education systems with people who work within those higher education systems.” -Rebecca

Deepen academic friendships

“I still have this imagined idea that we met somewhere in between McGuinn and the Lynch school, on the street, but it might also be that we were maybe on a joint event or something like that. we met and talked and was clear that we had, several joint interests in the field.” – Hans

Mentor the next generation of scholars​

“That was the case when Phil was the director. That was the case when Hans was the director. It’s the case now, and I think it will always be the case because the next generation is involved.” –Rebecca

See smallness as a strength

“They were really surprised, always when they saw that this was our office… but we always then said, it might look like a weakness, but it is a strength.” – Hans

Build a culture of curiosity

“I have a lot of ideas, and, many of them, I push, and the only small percentage of that is happening, but it is much better to do that than having just one or two ideas in your life and, even if you’re not always successful or too limited in your approach.” – Hans


Take a chance on technology

In the early days of the internet, I mean the very early days, one of my doc students came to me and said, ‘Hey, Phil, we should put this on the internet and have a website.’ – Phil

Get real

“I also think there are other stakeholders for higher education that we’re not even considering yet. Think that’s going to be kind of a next level set of considerations to have for the future.” – Gerardo

Speak to a broader audience

“I’ve always thought that was very important to engage with a broader higher ed audience and if possible, even in broader general audience around something which I think I knew about, which is higher education.” – Phil


Advocate without owning

“How do we advocate, how do we push for something without owning it? I never would want to be the person that owns or gatekeeps knowledge on a particular area… Because once you own it, you limit new possibilities.” – Gerardo

Foster inclusive growth

“One of the ways that the field has grown has been actually the creation of higher education centers, that study higher education domestically, but in places where they haven’t done it before.” – Rebecca

Evolve leadership to new realities

“We have shifted from a one director structure to a distributed leadership structure. We say this all the time, the center is the network… the network is going to continue no matter what. “ – Rebecca

Engage with the Global South

“From the start, it has been always very much engaged with the Global South, and that has always been part of my approach in internationalization.” – Hans

Embrace diverse perspectives

“As the field grows, there are more and more different perspectives that are represented. But that in itself is a lot of work, let alone knowing and understanding faculty issues and understanding students, nobody can really do all of that.” – Gerardo


Nothing beyond Beethoven

“My view generally speaking is that any composer post Ludvig van Beethoven is not interesting, and I would not listen to it voluntarily.” – Phil