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Publication Detail
Expansion and differentiation in higher education: the historical trajectories of the UK, the USA and France
Abstract
The 2008 crisis has reactivated crucial debates regarding the relationship and tension between creation of wealth and its redistribution. Those debates coincide with a renewed interest in the understanding of the ways in which the expansion of higher education systems has led, sometimes simultaneously, to significant democratic advances and persistent inequalities. This paper proposes to bridge those debates by offering a historical lens on the connections and tensions between the processes of expansion, democratisation and institutional differentiation in higher education. A key question is whether institutional differentiation might not only reflect diversity but also channel inequalities. The paper seeks to investigate whether, and the extent to which, this link between expansion, stratification and inequalities might be historically contingent. For example, might progress and setback in the integration of various social groups at times be driven and at others constrained by institutional differentiation? To what extent might this depend on resources? This research explores whether and how those links and tensions between expansion and institutional differentiation around questions of structure, mission, and (in)equalities have evolved historically by looking at the contexts of the UK, USA and France since the 1920s. It examines whether and how socioeconomic fluctuations, and notably their influence on funding, might affect and be affected by the relationship between the dynamics of expansion and differentiation of higher education systems. The empirical side of the research relies on the methodology of quantitative history to construct historical datasets on enrolment and funding of the various groups of institutions which have shaped the expansion of higher education in the UK, France and the USA since the 1920s. Those datasets are used to explore the historical trends and patterns of expansion and institutional differentiation of higher education systems. By comparing and contrasting those historical series with key socio-economic aggregates, the paper examines the extent to which periods of economic prosperity and crisis might affect and be affected by the trends in the level and structure of funding, expansion and institutional differentiation in higher education. The historical lens shows that the expansion of higher education and its democratisation have been driven and at times constrained by key institutional transformations and identifies the socioeconomic crises of the 1930s, 1970s and 2008 as key turning points during which the links between structure, mission and contribution to (in)equalities of institutional differentiation are reassessed.
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