Publishing Learning and Teaching Research in Higher Education Journals

I am not infrequently asked for thoughts or advice on which higher education research journals might be considered suitable for publication of the results of learning and teaching studies.  Often I struggle to give what I consider a satisfactory answer and a recent article published by Professor Malcolm Tight from Lancaster (Tight, M. 2017. Higher education journals: their characteristics and contribution. Higher Education Research and Development gives a clue to why sometimes this question poses a dilemma.

In an analysis of higher education journals Professor Tight documents what has been an explosion in higher education research since 2000 with new journals appearing at a rapid rate.  The situation is not stable, however, for not only are new journals continuing to appear but other journals are disappearing, merging or changing their focus.  This does make it potentially difficult to select a suitable journal for the publication of a particular piece of work.  As Professor Tight identifies while there are a number of avenues for publishing one’s work such as conference papers, reports monographs or books the peer-reviewed article still enjoys a level of respect and a greater status than many sources.  This is not to overlook books some of which have had profound impact upon education but journal articles still rank very highly.

Professor Tight categorizes refereed journals either wholly or regularly publish higher education research into three types.  There are the generic journals such as Studies in Higher Education or Higher Education Research and Development, topic-specific journals focussing on one particular aspect of practice such as assessment or policy and then the discipline-specific journals publishing work in one or a group of disciplines, Medical Education would be one such journal.  In total there are a large number of journals, depending upon who is counting somewhere between 80 and 140 and this is likely to be an underestimate.  In his paper Professor Tight lists 86 Journals though, by his own admission, this is almost certainly not comprehensive.  In an effort to help us all navigate through this complexity the paper then goes on to characterise the journals in various ways ending in an attempt to help us navigate this maze by listing a number of what might be considered key journals.  The paper uses a ranking system based on citations but not the one most of us might be familiar with, with ISI impact factor, but instead the Scimago Journal rank Indicator ( selected because it compares a broader journal range.

The Table in the paper listing those 28 journals is reproduced below, 10 are generic journals, 14 and topic-specific while only 4 are discipline-specific.  The majority are internationally-focussed.  Some most of us might recognise but others will be less well-known.  Though the paper dos not state this specifically the message is surely clear.  If you want to publish your work in one of the more highly-ranked higher education journals then ideally it should have characterisable in one or more of the following ways by being multi-disciplinary, cross-institution, with an international focus and perhaps topic-based.  This is not to say that other work with a narrower focus is not valuable for of course it is but that some journals looks for more.  The paper ends on something of a cautionary note.  With such a volume of output annually we already know a lot about about ‘what works’ in HE so perhaps the most urgent need is for meta-analyses and systematic reviews of the existing literature as much as new research.

Table 1 (reproduced from Tight, 2017)

Academic Medicine 1707 2.202 1926 USA
Accounting Education 656 0.655 1992 International
Active Learning in Higher Education 260 1.099 2000 International
Advances in Health Sciences Education 1136 1.397 1996 Canada/International
Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 1285 0.972 1975 International
Community College Review 341 0.799 1973 USA
Higher Education 1646 1.717 1972 International
Higher Education Policy 554 0.681 1988 International
Higher Education Quarterly 448 1.081 1947 International
Higher Education Research & Development 1323 0.936 1982 International
International Journal of Doctoral Studies 486 0.584 2006 International
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 894 0.616 2000 International
Internet and Higher Education 396 3.561 1998 USA/international
Journal of College Student Development 1066 0.615 1959 USA/international
Journal of English for Academic Purposes 568 1.164 2002 International
Journal of Higher Education 928 1.189 1930 USA
Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 689 0.525 1979 International
Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 385 0.610 2002 USA
Journal of Studies in International Education 487 1.564 1997 International
Medical Education 1283 1.550 1966 International
Minerva 490 0.658 1962 International
Quality in Higher Education 276 0.652 1995 International
Research Evaluation 495 0.919 1991 International
Research in Higher Education 1030 1.724 1973 USA/international
Review of Higher Education 504 1.703 1977 USA
Studies in Higher Education 2286 1.160 1976 International
Teaching in Higher Education 1021 0.802 1996 International
Tertiary Education and Management 389 0.918 1995 International


Pages – number of printed pages published in 2016;

Ranking – SCImago Journal Rank Indicator 2015;

Orientation –Whether the editorial board international, wholly drawn from one country or split between one country and an international composition