The Meanings of Mass Higher Education

By Peter Scott | Go to book overview

5
Understanding Mass Higher
Education

Mass, unlike élite, higher education cannot be summed up in a single totalizing idea. Instead, it has plural meanings, being one of a series of multiple modernizations — of society, economy, culture and science as well as the academy. To add to the complexity, these modernizations are linked less by clear causal relationships than by oblique but suggestive affinities. Nor, because of its novel articulation with these other modernizations and because of the acceleration, volatility, simultaneity and non-linearity characteristic of them, can mass higher education be regarded simply as the heir of older élite forms, the next stage in a linear élite-mass—universal sequence or even a one-way paradigm shift. Mass higher education, therefore, is an ambiguous, diverse and volatile phenomenon. Nevertheless, some attempt must be made to conceptualize mass higher education, however difficult or problematical.

This final chapter is divided into two parts. In the first, the arguments put forward in the previous three chapters about the structure of higher education systems and institutions, about the new welfare state and post-industrial change, and about the evolution of intellectual culture and of science and technology, are reviewed as they bear on the development of mass higher education. In the second part, and in the light of that review, two primary characteristics of mass systems are identified. The first, reflexivity, can be observed in the 'public' life of higher education, its political and organizational forms and its interaction with the wider socio-economic arena. The second characteristic, apparent in the 'private' knowledge-based world of higher education, is a shift from closed intellectual systems to open systems. In the former, the academic agenda is determined by the inner dynamics of disciplines and expressed through the professional activities of experts; in the latter, both cognitive values and social practices are shaped by transactions between knowledge producers and knowledge users, a partnership between academy and community.

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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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