High Participation Systems of Higher Education
Higher Education has become a central institution of society, building individual knowledge, skills, agency, and relational social networks at unprecedented depth and scale. Within a generation there has been an extraordinary global expansion of Higher Education, in every region in all but the poorest countries, outstripping economic growth and deriving primarily from familial aspirations for betterment. By focusing on the systems and countries that have already achieved near universal participation, High Participation Systems of Higher Education explores this remarkable transformation.
The world enrolment ratio, now rising by 10 per cent every decade, is approaching 40 per cent, mostly in degree-granting institutions, including three quarters of young people in North America and Europe. Higher Education systems in the one in three countries that enrol more than 50 per cent are here classified as 'high participation systems'.
Part I of the book measures, maps, and explains the growth of participation, and the implications for society and Higher Education itself. Drawing on a wide range of literature and data, the chapters theorize the changes in governance, institutional diversity, and stratification in Higher Education systems, and the subsequent effects in educational and social equity. The theoretical propositions regarding high-participation Higher Education developed in these chapters are then tested in the country case studies in Part II, presenting a comprehensive enquiry into the nature of the emerging 'high participation society'.
The chapter focuses on the ultimate question of the project: what will change in a society when a majority of the age group will have higher education. Seeking for approaches to understand the future role of higher education in the HPS societies the chapter reviews theories and concepts developed in two disciplinary traditions: social sciences (structural functionalism, neoinstitutionalism, conflict theories, cultural reproduction theories as well as some higher education specific approaches) and educational philosophy (Bildung theories, growth theory among others). Those two strands of scholarship respectively highlight two key dimensions in the relationship between higher education and society: (a) the social and occupational structure and (b) socialization as human/personal development, self-formation. The chapter addresses the potential changes in HPS societies along those lines. It concludes that a Bildung idea of the duality of human nature as both being determined by the world and being self-determining largely corresponds two above disciplinary approaches and their traditional focus and opens up an intellectual space for further cross-disciplinary, multi-dimensional research on the role of higher education for individuals and society.
The concluding chapter takes stock of the book’s core notion of high participation systems (HPS) of higher education, in the context of the eight country studies and seventeen HPS propositions. The propositions engender extensive, though not unanimous, support. Declining institutional diversity and more complex governance are broadly agreed, but Finland and Norway differ from the other cases in stratification and equity. The HPS theory and findings are compared and contrasted with Martin Trow’s seminal work. The book ends with a central and enduring tension in HPS. Higher education as self-formation empowers individual agency in HPS on a larger and more inclusive scale. Yet, in HPS those without higher education are more disadvantaged; the average graduate has less social and occupational distinction; and secular tendencies to intensive competition for elite education and institutional bifurcation lead to greater inequality in educational and social outcomes, unless Nordic-style values are sustained.
This chapter explores horizontal diversity in higher education in the context of high participation systems (HPS), focusing on differences in institutional mission, form and type, and internal diversity within institutions. The chapter starts with an analysis of scholarly approaches to diversity. The dominance of the market diversity perspective (‘deregulate to create more choices’) indicates not its profound relevance to the diversity issue, but the tenacious hold of marketization narratives on the policy imagination. Competition in higher education is mostly associated with less, not more, diversity. The chapter discusses four propositions in relation to diversity in HPS, highlighting decline in the overall diversity of institutional form and mission despite growth in systems, the rise of large multi-purpose institutions as the dominant form, and increased internal institutional diversity. When HPS are rendered more competitive in government-fostered quasi-markets, horizontal distinctions of mission tend to become vertical.