Educational Leadership and Higher Education
Center for International Higher Education
Among things that fascinate Gerardo Blanco are these questions: What makes a good university? And what measures do we use in trying to determine that?
“We all think we know a good university when we see it,” says Blanco. But in his research, “I’m trying to take a more systematic approach: Is quality the same everywhere around the world? Or do we need a more local understanding of quality?” An understanding, he adds, that is not necessarily grounded in the global North.
Blanco was born and raised in Mexico, where he earned his bachelor’s degree from Universidad de las Américas. Since earning his doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he has served as a consultant on quality assurance, assessment, and accreditation to education officials around the globe, from Brazil to Bangladesh.
Blanco’s research focuses on, among other things, the ways in which universities define and broadcast their identities. His latest paper, published in the Spring 2020 Review of Higher Education, examines how academic institutions communicate their credentials through their official websites: “How do they convey to the public the idea of quality?”
In the absence of data, Blanco worries about the implications of prevailing, unexamined assumptions about educational quality: “The standard answer to the question of what makes a good university has been, ‘Well, the more selective or elite university we just assume is good.’ I say, if we don’t answer the question about criteria carefully, we’re going to look for ideas of quality that are based on exclusion. . . . At the core of my research is a sense of social justice.”
Blanco began work at the Lynch School in the fall 2020 semester as an associate professor as well as the associate director of the Boston College Center for International Higher Education (CIHE), publisher of the quarterly International Higher Education since 1995.
“I can say without hyperbole that it is the nation’s leading center for the study of international higher education, and certainly one of the top 10 in the world,” Blanco says of the center, which was established by Research Professor Philip Altbach. The center’s mission is to promote dialogue and cooperation among academic institutions around the world.
Since arriving at Boston College, Blanco has earned a three-year appointment as a Fulbright Specialist for an upcoming term. The Fulbright Specialist Program sends leading U.S. scholars overseas to collaborate on short-term education and training projects. In selecting Blanco, the Fulbright Association recognized his expertise as well as the prominent role of the CIHE in fostering connections and an international perspective on higher education.
To his broader question of what makes a good university, Gerardo Blanco says, “The standard answer has been, ‘Well, the more selective or elite university, we just assume, is good.’ At the core of my research is a sense of social justice. I say, if we don’t answer that question carefully, we’re going to look for ideas of quality that are based on exclusion.
Ed.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst
M.Ed., University of Maine
B.A., Universidad de las Américas, Puebla (Mexico)
Educational leadership and policy
Comparative and international education
Quality assurance and higher education
Blanco, G. L., & Metcalfe, A. S. (2020).
Visualizing quality: University online identities as organizational performativity in higher education.
Review of Higher Education, 43(3), 781–809. DOI: 10.1353/rhe.2020.0007
Blanco, G. L., & Saunders, D. B. (2019).
Giving account of our (mobile) selves:
Embodied and relational notions of academic privilege in the international classroom.
Teaching in Higher Education, 24(5), 666–677. DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2019.1621281
Luu, D. H., & Blanco, G. L. (2019).
Exploring U.S. federal policy discourse on refugee access to post-secondary education.
Higher Education Policy. DOI: 10.1057/s41307-019-00144-2
Blanco Ramírez, G., & Luu, D. H. (2018).
A qualitative exploration of US institutional accreditation in three Canadian universities.
Studies in Higher Education, 43(6), 989–1001. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2016.1203891E