Higher Education and the Market

Higher Education and the Market

Higher Education and the Market

Higher Education and the Market

Synopsis

The introduction of market forces into higher education is the most crucial issue facing universities and colleges today. As the role of universities in the knowledge society becomes ever more apparent, and as public funding reaches its limit, marketisation has become an issue of critical importance. Discussions about the ever-increasing cost of tuition, affordability, access, university rankings, information, and the commercialization of academic research take place not just in North America, Western Europe and Australasia, but also in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Higher Education and the Marketprovides a comprehensive account of this phenomenon, and looks at its likely impact on key dimensions of university activity:

  • system structure
  • funding and resources
  • the curriculum
  • participation and achievement
  • research and scholarship
  • interactions with third parties.

Contributors propose how market forces, government intervention and academic self-regulation can be combined to harness the benefits of increased competition and efficiency without losing the public good. It is of particular interest to government and institutional leaders, policy makers, researchers and students studying higher education.

Excerpt

American higher education is a generally considered by most observers to be a tremendous success story. It has surpassed every other system in combining access with excellence. Following the passage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, more generally known as the G.I. Bill, after World War ii, it has consistently educated a higher proportion of the population than any of its main rivals. At the same time, its leading institutions have dominated the international university rankings. the most recent Times Higher Education rankings show American universities holding 13 of the top 20 spots (Times Higher Education, 2009). Its excellence is also demonstrated by its continuing attractiveness to students and graduates from overseas. So it is hardly surprising that the American system has become the model for many other countries not only in respect of student education but also in academic research and in wider service and engagement.

One major reason for this success is the competition built into the system. the first colleges in colonial America were private institutions, generally affiliated with religious organizations but independent of the colonial governments. While some of these institutions received support from the government, they had their own boards and were free from political control. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, after the founding of the country, states began chartering public universities to complement the still-growing market for private higher education (Heller, 2002).

As this mixed public–private system grew, market entry was controlled but liberal. Competition on price accompanied competition on quality. All of this created a system remarkable for its diversity, responsiveness and innovation. These features were reinforced by the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965, when federal support for higher education institutions was channelled through students rather than directly to the institutions themselves. This was accompanied in the ensuing decades by a huge inflow of philanthropic funds which remains unique in scale and importance.

But there is another side to the picture. the American system no longer looks so astonishing, as other countries have met or surpassed our enrolment rates (OECD, 2009). There is a crisis of affordability which threatens to set back the progress previously made on access. At the same time, completion rates have deteriorated, a natural consequence of expanding access to populations of students who are not as prepared academically for postsecondary study. Colleges . . .

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