Varieties of state commitment to higher education since 1945: toward a comparative-historical social science of postsecondary expansion
We provide a framework for integrating sociological and political-historical approaches to the worldwide expansion of higher education in the twentieth century. Doing so enables scholars and policymakers to better identify variation across place and time in how the provision of higher education has been rendered culturally meaningful and politically feasible. We identify three conceptions of state commitment to higher education: as a national asset, a citizen right, and a commodity. The conceptions are not mutually exclusive and can simultaneously animate national cultures and politics. We also suggest a novel periodization of global higher education history from 1945 to the present. Our work serves as an introduction to the seven other articles in this special issue, which consider the twentieth-century evolution of higher education politics and policies in Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and USSR/Russia.