Presentation: General trends in the social and scholarly field of higher education
Rassegna italiana di sociologia
IT : Il Mulino
209 - 218 p.
higher education, inequalities, education market, scholar competition
Over the last twenty years there has been an expansion of national higher education (HE) systems in developed countries as a consequence of a number of overlapping processes. A central one is the development, and in certain cases the generalization of access to upper-secondary education that took place in the United States in the first half of the 20th century and in many European countries in the decade after World War II. It is a process that was set in motion by a variety of both secondary and higher education policies that did not, however, reduce inequalities but rather relocated them at a higher level of the education system. It also led to to the development of a two-tier competition: the first level comprises higher education institutions (HEIs) competing to attract students, in particular the most academically able, and in the case of private schools, those wich the economic means to pay for their studies; the second level, comprises families and students vying for credentials offering the best rewards in shrinking national, and increasingly global, job markets. The massification of HE and the high degree of competition between providers and between families and students has strengthened the internal differentiation of HE systems and reinforced the gap between research and teaching universities, as well favoured the development of private HEIs. Meanwhile, in order to maintain and reinforce their status, elite HEIs have tightened their academic requirements.