About Us

Who We Are

We are Harvard—extended to the world for every type of adult learner. 

We serve students seeking part-time, online courses and nonresidential programs to advance their career or pursue an academic passion. Our offerings include:

We are a fully accredited Harvard school. Our degrees and certificates are adorned with the Harvard University insignia. They carry the weight of that lineage. Our graduates walk at University commencement and become members of the Harvard Alumni Association.

As one of 12 degree-granting institutions at Harvard University, we teach to the largest and most eclectic student body. Our students come to us from every time zone, every culture and career background, every age from 18 to 89.

Our students have one thing in common: the motivation to take the next challenging step in their lives. They find that challenge here, where our academic standards are high and our resources extensive. 

Is Harvard Extension School the right fit for you? 

Whatever your learning goals, Harvard Extension School can help you achieve them. Learn about the value of a Harvard Extension School education

Our History

The origin of Harvard Extension School can be traced back to 1835—when John Lowell Jr. founded the Lowell Institute. 

In his will, Lowell Jr. funded an organization that provided Boston with free public lectures on a variety of subjects. The institute quickly gained an influential presence. Oliver Wendell Holmes, a lecturer at the institute, remarked, “No nobler or more helpful institution exists in America than Boston’s Lowell Institute.”

In 1906–07, A. Lawrence Lowell, a trustee of the Lowell Institute and Harvard professor of government, revealed a plan to offer public courses in collaboration with Harvard University. In 1909, when Lowell became president of Harvard, he made that vision a reality. 

In 1910 Lowell founded the Commission on Extension Courses—hailed by the Boston Evening Transcript as “a new milestone” in education. He saw the commission as an experiment in “popular education.” The goal was to serve those in the community who had the ability and desire to attend college, but had other obligations that kept them from traditional schools.

We have held steadfast to Lowell’s vision for over a century. Today, more than 14,000 students join us in our classrooms and more than 800 degrees and 1,000 certificates are awarded each year.

Our Commitment to the Future of Education

As our world transitions fully to the knowledge economy, Harvard Extension School stands at the forefront of the greatest wave in education—that of open access and active learning.

No one knows precisely what universities of the future will look like, but we can predict with some confidence that they will emphasize what we already value: increased quality and clear satisfaction of student expectations, with some combination of online and on-campus interaction—recognizing that different students learn in different ways.

Our end goal is the creation of new knowledge and the preservation of academic freedoms. We uphold the great liberal arts tradition, which challenges students to think deeply and critically—an asset in any pursuit. 

We're also expanding access to higher education through online courses, summer courses and hybrid courses (which blend online and on campus) to meet the diverse needs of you, our students.

In this regard, Harvard Extension School can serve as a working model for our field. What matters to us is your commitment—not only to your own growth, but to our global society.

Together, we can make future generations stronger, more informed, and ready for the challenges ahead.