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Higher Education Research


The Higher Education Research Unit (HERU) employs a practice-based and practice-oriented research approach, and its main areas of research include learning and teaching, curriculum theory and curricular practices, student-centred learning and metacognition, supervision and mentoring, and educational philosophy, all within the higher education context. These areas include all levels of higher education (Bachelor, Master and PhD), as well as focusing on the transition from upper-secondary school to higher education and the transition from higher and doctoral education to the job market and future career trajectories.

The work of the research unit is especially motivated by governmental reforms concerning quality and time management in higher education, including the study progress reform and reforms for enhancing the quality of higher education. Students, teachers, supervisors and intellectual leaders face the challenges of enhancing the quality of learning and teaching while ensuring timely completion at a time when enrolment rates at the Danish universities are still increasing.

Research objectives

The goals of the Higher Education Research Unit (HERU) are to conduct research into the learning and teaching practices within higher education with the aim of informing and enhancing educational quality for students, teachers, supervisors, intellectual leaders and academic communities.

These goals include:

  • Identifying the ways in which governmental reforms influence higher education learning and teaching practices, research communities and intellectual leadership.
  • Studying how such influences lead to changes and transformations in student learning trajectories and identity formation.
  • Studying how such influences lead to changes and transformations in teaching and supervision approaches, norms, habits and professionalism. 
  • Exploring how the institutional demands and guidelines for the implementation and integration of digital technologies support and challenge learning and teaching practices, and how students and teachers understand and react to such implementation practices.
  • Examining, reflecting on and discussing how the idea of the university and higher education changes due to governmental and institutional strategies, and what roles and responsibilities are assigned to, and claimed by, universities and institutions of higher education today.

Research questions 

The Higher Education Research Unit (HERU) is engaged in research inspired by the following research questions:

  • How are doctoral supervision and doctoral learning performed and experienced within the changed institutional reality of graduate schools and doctoral schools in Scandinavia and the UK?
  • What forms of formal, informal and non-formal support systems do doctoral students draw on during their doctoral journey, and how does this affect their relations with their supervisors and the broader researcher community?
  • What changes can be detected in the societal role and responsibilities of universities and institutions of higher education today, and how do these changes affect our perceptions of universities?
  • How can the metacommunicative teaching and learning environment in higher education be measured and developed?
  • What is the role of communication in the relation of teaching and learning?


  • The changing landscape of doctoral education and supervision: A collaboration with researchers and research units from the University of Brighton, Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge), the University of Oxford and the University of Helsinki.
  • The idea of the future university: A collaboration with researchers and research units from University College London, Middlesex University, Leeds Trinity University and Drexel University.
  • Comparison of meta-oriented learning environment – Denmark and Canada: A collaboration with the University of Alberta, Department of Education.