The Meanings of Mass Higher Education

By Peter Scott | Go to book overview

3
State and Society

The extended élite higher education systems which grew up in Britain and many other advanced countries after 1945 were embedded in a political culture characterized by the growth of the welfare state; economic structures designed on the Keynesian principles of full employment and planned growth; a society in which the divisions of class and gender were diminishing but within an apparently stable social order; and a feel-good culture in which materialism and utopianism were powerfully combined. The mass system which developed in the United States at the same time was embedded in a similar socio-economic environment.

That environment has been transformed over the past two decades. The welfare state has been succeeded by the neo-liberal state; many public services, including health and education, have been moved into a privatized domain, if not the private sector. The Keynesian order has been overthrown and replaced by renewed enthusiasm for the free market; at the same time profound changes have taken place in the structure of the economy and the organization of enterprizes. Society has become increasingly fissiparous; classlessness and ungendering appear to have been accompanied by greater inequality and weakened the social cement of community. The motifs of contemporary culture are deconstruction, discordance and risk, qualities which slide readily from playfulness to pessimism.

It is this transformed environment which British higher education now confronts as it evolves from an extended élite system to a truly mass one. Other European systems, more advanced in this transition, confront the same environment. Yet, as was argued in Chapter 1, the only working model of a mass system, in the United States, grew up under different conditions. The exceptionalism of place, the American experience, has been compounded by the exceptionalism of time. The value structures and operating principles of American higher education, therefore, are unlikely to be reproduced in Europe, and especially in Britain. The British mass university will need to be constructed according to different values and on different principles.

This chapter is an attempt to explore these values and principles. It is divided into five main sections. The first explores the changing nature of

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The Meanings of Mass Higher Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Srhe and Open University Press Imprint ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Structure and Institutions 11
  • 3: State and Society 71
  • 4: Science and Culture 118
  • 5: Understanding Mass Higher Education 168
  • Notes 180
  • Index 190
  • The Society for Research into Higher Education 197
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