Mass to Market Higher Education Systems: New Transitions or False Dawn?
Half way through the second decade of the 21st century higher education faces an uncertain future. On the one hand there is a growing consensus that the age of mass higher education is drawing to a close and being succeeded by a new era characterised by the more direct application of the 'market' to the dynamics of higher education. On the other hand there continues to be great uncertainty about what form this new age of 'market' higher education might take. The result is flux and ambiguity. Rarely has the future direction of higher education been more difficult to predict. One possible ‘future’ is that contemporary higher education will continue to be rooted in the extension, and elaboration, of the mass higher education that has developed since 1960 (within which, of course, elite forms have continued to flourish). But another ‘future’ is one of radical rupture, disruption (and even repudiation) of the norms and practices, culture and organisation, that have come to be associated with mass higher education. And, if there is such a rupture, will be prove to be a true transition or will it turn out to be a false dawn?
These are difficult questions to answer, for a number of reasons. First, there is a lack of reliable research evidence that offers rich and detailed descriptions of what is actually happened in higher education. Much of contemporary research in higher education is focused on student learning, organisational structures, funding regimes and management processes; too little...
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