Professional Biography

Amrit Thapa is a lecturer in the International Educational Development Program and instructor in the Education Entrepreneurship Program. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from Sri Sathya Sai University, India, and M.Phil. and Ph.D. in economics and education from Columbia University. Dr. Thapa is also an affiliated researcher for the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, co-founder of UNNAT Nepal, a non-profit organization, and vice president and representative to the United Nations for The Institute of Global Education (IGE), an NGO that has consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations. Dr. Thapa is also a consultant to UNESCO Institute of Statistics, and serves as chair for the Economics and Finance of Education Special Interest Group for the Comparative and International Education Society.

Prior to Penn GSE, Dr. Thapa worked as a research director at the National School Climate Center (NSCC), an educational non-profit organization, where he was involved in a number of school climate related projects such as development and validity/reliability studies of school climate/SEL metrics, comparative study of schools with and without social inclusion programs in collaboration with Special Olympics International and studying lives over time of students with learning disabilities. He also worked as a researcher for the Schott Foundation for Public Education and was a teaching fellow for the Program in Economic Policy Management (PEPM) at the School of International & Public Affairs at Columbia University. Dr. Thapa has also taught graduate level economics of education courses at Teachers College, Columbia University, and undergraduate level economics courses at Queens College, City University of New York, and Kathamandu University, Nepal.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Thapa’s current research focuses on economics of education, studies of privatization and marketization of education in developing countries, relationship between education and economic development, education program evaluation/monitoring and evaluation, higher education, and school climate. As the vice-president of Institute of Global Education, he led a pilot project exploring the use of online education for teaching English language and computer literacy in Nepal. This project was awarded the best field initiative by the South Asia SIG at the annual conference of Comparative and International Society in 2018. Besides South Asia, Dr. Thapa’s research spans Latin American countries as well. Recently, he was awarded a research grant by the Global Engagement Fund at Penn. He is the principal investigator along with Dr. Jere Behrman (Co-Pl) from the Department of Economics at Penn’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In this mixed method research project, Dr. Thapa and team, in collaboration with researchers at Grupo del Analisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE), are studying the economic and equity aspects of marketization of higher education in Peru. Dr. Thapa is also involved in a number of school climate related research works, particularly in the development and validity and reliability studies of school climate assessment tools.

Dr. Thapa’s research papers have been published in international journals such as Review of Educational Research (AERA), International Journal of Educational Development, Education Economics, International Journal of School Climate and Violence Prevention, School Community Journal, and International Journal of Applied Behavioral Economics. He has reviewed papers, chaired sessions, been a discussant, and presented his empirical research works in a number of international conferences such as Comparative and International Education Society, American Educational Research Association, and Association of Education Economics. He is on the editorial boards of Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and International Journal on School Climate and Violence Prevention.


Ph.D. (Economics of Education), Columbia University, 2011

M.Phil. (Economics of Education), Columbia University, 2010

M.A. (Economics), Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, India, 2005

B.Sc. (Economics), Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, India, 2003

Areas of Expertise

Economics of education

International and comparative education

Education and economic development

Studies on privatization and marketization of education

Monitoring & evaluation

School climate

Higher education

Education policy


Selected Publications

Thapa, A. & Maharjan, U. (2019). Higher education and economic development in Nepal. In K. Bista, S. Sharma, & R. Raby (Eds.), Higher Education in Nepal: Policies and Perspectives. New York: Routledge.

Thapa, A. (2019). School climate. In G. Ritzer & C. Rojek (Eds.), Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology 2nd Edition. Wiley Blackwell.

Coker, C., Martinez, A, McMahon, S. D., Cohen, J. & Thapa, A. (2018). Perceptions of school climate: The role of extracurricular activities. In K. Allen & C. Boyle (Eds.), Pathways to Belonging: Contemporary Research in School Belonging. Boston: Brill Sense.

Thapa, A., Ramdass, J. V., Cardillo, R., & Cohen, J. (2018). School climate improvement process: Lessons and findings from New York City schools, International Journal of School Climate and Violence Prevention, 4, 90–116.

Thapa, A., & Cohen, J. (2017). School climate community scale: Report on construct validity and internal consistency. School Community Journal, 27(2), 303–320.

Cohen, J., Thapa, A., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2017). School climate/social emotional learning measurement systems: Trends, contributions, challenges and opportunities. Journal of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Inaugural special issue on the Gordon Paradigm of Inquiry and Practice.

Cohen, J. & Thapa, A. (2017). School climate improvement: What do U.S. educators believe, need and want? International Journal of School Climate and Violence Prevention, 2(1), 90–116.

Martinez, A, Coker, C., McMahon, S. D., Cohen, J., & Thapa, A. (2016). Involvement in extracurricular activities: Identifying differences in perceptions of school climate. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 33(1), 70–84.

Thapa, A. (2015). Public and private school performance in Nepal: An analysis using SLC examination. Education Economics, 23(1), 47–62.

Ice, M., Thapa, A., & Cohen, J. (2015). Recognizing community voice and a youth-led school–community partnership in the school climate improvement process. School Community Journal, 25(1), 9–28.

Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A Review of school climate research. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 357–385.

Thapa, A. (2013). Does private school competition improve public school performance: The case of Nepal. International Journal of Education Development, 33(4), 358–366.

Thapa, A. (2013). A case study on workers’ perceptions of psychological capital on their earnings. International Journal of Applied Behavioral Economics, 2(3), 27–42.