World-Wide Expansion of Higher Education in the Twentieth Century, The

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The authors examine the global expansion of higher educational enrollments over the 20th century. Rates of growth accelerated in virtually all countries after 1960. Drawing upon institutional arguments, we discuss the nature of this transformation and the historical trends that brought it about. A changed model of society came into place globally - one in which schooled knowledge and personnel came to be seen as appropriate for a wide variety of social positions, and where many more young people could be viewed as appropriate candidates for higher education. An older vision of education as contributing to a closed society and occupational system - with associated fears of "overeducation" - was replaced by an open-system picture of education as useful "human capital" for unlimited progress. This shift involves several global changes, including:

  1. increasing global emphasis on democracy and human rights;
  2. the advent of modern national development planning; and
  3. the expansion of science as a broad authority in social life. The authors these arguments and several others using pooled panel regression analyses over the period 1900-2000.

They find support for the institutional argument, as well as for several more specific arguments regarding national variation: enrollments are higher in countries better organizationally linked-in to world society, where secondary enrollments are high, where economic development is higher, and where state control over education is low. But global trends dominate the analysis, such that many developing countries now have higher enrollment rates than European countries did only a few decades ago. The article discusses implications of a world in which all countries have large elite sectors schooled in institutions that have a great deal of cultural commonality.

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