CAMBRIDGE, MASS., NOV. 29 -- D.C. Mayor-Elect Sharon Pratt Dixon told students at Harvard University today that she is confident the D.C. Council will cooperate with her plans to "clean house" because "those in political life are very adept at counting."

Asked by students at the John F. Kennedy School of Government how she expects to fare with an increasingly independent council, Dixon replied, "I think the public was very clear about wanting reform . . . . We had a historic turnout in D.C. and won by a historic margin, winning every constituency, including Republicans."

After recounting the story of her victory, Dixon received a standing ovation that one observer said was unusually warm and prolonged.

Because she was the underdog, Dixon said, "When those voters went in that voting booth, it was blind act of faith. They walked in there saying, 'Well, I'm going to do it. I'm going to vote for Sharon, but she has no chance.'

"A great euphoria swept the city, and it wasn't about me. It was about voters realizing that the power is theirs, that the people have the last word . . . . My challenge now is to take that euphoria and translate it into something tangible."

In an interview, Dixon said she plans to continue efforts to get Mayor Marion Barry and the council to pass a supplemental budget that would present her with a clean financial slate on inauguration day.

"It's clear it's the responsibility of this administration to balance the budget," Dixon said. "It's absurd that they are going to leave that to me."

Dixon's appearance at the Harvard forum came at the end of a two-day visit here, during which she took a short course in transition techniques at the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics.

Dixon said experts gave her ideas this morning on how to implement policies she outlined during the campaign, organize and finance a transition committee, manage political issues, work with the media and achieve goals in a short time.

"We spent a good deal of time talking about where she is with transition and the problems she has identified so far," said Charles T. Royer, who heads the institute. "From what I heard, it sounds like she is going along at a good clip."

Royer, a former mayor of Seattle, conducted the private session along with two institute fellows: Jessie M. Rattley, a former mayor of Newport News, Va., and Richard Riley, a former governor of South Carolina.

The former officials "identified trouble spots we know about from personal experience," Royer said.

"We put our thoughts on the table about what her life will be like now," Rattley said.

Dixon attended an afternoon session on crime and drug policy, during which she concentrated on neighborhood-based police programs.

She also had lunch with the school's Black Student Association and its Women's Caucus, and met with some of the school's black faculty members.

On Wednesday, Dixon paid courtesy calls to outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and Gov.-Elect William Weld. She also met with members of the Lazard Freres investment banking firm to discuss the District's financial problems.

The Institute of Politics, which conducts week-long sessions every other year to prepare newly elected mayors for transition, put together an abbreviated version of the program for Dixon during this off-year at the request of Fletcher Wiley, a Boston lawyer who is Dixon's brother-in-law.

Next week, the institute is offering a course for newly elected members of Congress, to which delegate-elect Eleanor Holmes Norton has been invited.