Skip to content

About

Division of Continuing Education

Eliot House Harvard University
sign outside Division of Continuing Education building
statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard

At the Division of Continuing Education, we believe that if you have the drive and determination, you should have access to a Harvard education. When you walk through our gates or log in from around the world, you’ll find the opportunity to become a better version of yourself.

Our faculty, instructors, advisors, and staff are ready to support your growth, to give you the perspectives and connections that will shape your future. Because humans are born to learn, we are here to teach.

Throughout its rich and varied history, DCE has been a catalyst to amplify learning. Learn more about how our programs have evolved to meet the needs of modern-day students at every stage of life:

A Timeline of Our Milestones

  • 1835: American businessman John Lowell Jr. leaves half of his estate to fund public lectures in the Boston area
  • 1839: Lowell Institute is established 
  • 1871: Professor Asa Gray begins teaching summer courses in botany, marking the beginning of Harvard Summer School
  • 1910: Lowell Institute becomes the Harvard Department of University Extension on February 23
  • 1913: Two graduates receive the first-ever Extension degrees
  • 1949: Extension courses broadcast via radio 
  • 1956: Extension courses broadcast on television 
  • 1960: U.S. Navy submarine crews take first-ever distance degree program, Polaris University, onboard submarines; Harvard Extension Alumni Association founded
  • 1975: Michael Shinagel appointed Director of Continuing Education and University Extension, laying the groundwork for our modern-day programs
  • 1976: Harvard staff become eligible for the Tuition Assistance Program
  • 1977: Michael Shinagel begins his 36-year tenure as dean of the University Extension; Shinagel establishes the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement
  • 1979: Master of Liberal Arts degree program begins; Health Careers Program starts, later to become the Premedical Program 
  • 1983: University Extension receives its own coat of arms; 89-year-old student receives an ALM degree
  • 1985: University Extension becomes Harvard Extension School; Division of Continuing Education formally established (encompasses the Extension School, Summer School, and Institute for Learning in Retirement); First computer-based distance course (“teleteaching”) begins; First Extension scholarships for advanced secondary school students 
  • 1989: Harvard Extension School offers first teleteaching course in China
  • 1996: Career and Academic Resource Center opens
  • 1999: Strategic plan for expanding distance education implemented
  • 2005: Harvard Extension courses offered via podcasts
  • 2007: First hybrid courses open, blending in-class and online students
  • 2011: Harvard Professional Development Programs established to offer short, conference-like programs to working professionals 
  • 2013: Entrepreneur Huntington D. Lambert named Dean of the Division of Continuing Education
  • 2020: Distance learning advocate Nancy Coleman named Dean of the Division of Continuing Education; All programs under the Division of Continuing Education temporarily move online due to the Covid-19 pandemic