mass higher education
mass higher educationany national system of HIGHER EDUCATION which has moved from ‘élite’ provision catering for only a small minority of the relevant age group, to one which allows for an ever-expanding mass entry, ultimately including the majority of the population. In the UK in the 1950s, when no more than 5% of the age group entered higher education, opponents of expansion argued that, as Kingsley Amis put it, ‘more will mean worse’. However, in the UK and elsewhere élitist conceptions of higher education have generally lost ground to the proponents of mass higher education. In the US and Japan participation in higher education already exceeds 50% of the relevant age group, and is expanding rapidly elsewhere. By the early 1990s, the proportion of school leavers entering higher education in the UK had increased to around 30%. The consequences of mass higher education, according to Martin Trow (1962), are that, at around 15% participation, ‘élite’ standards and patterns of provision can no longer be sustained across the entirety of a national system. The outcome has usually been a more ‘differentiated’ system of higher education. In the US an example of an extended hierarchy of many different types and levels of higher education exists, including the highest ranked research universities, and Ivy League colleges and universities, on the one hand, to the lowest ranked, community and two-year colleges on the other. The implications of such a transformation and differentiation of higher education for EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY in higher education and in subsequent employment are complex (see BINARY SYSTEM, CREDENTIALISM, SCREENING, GRADUATE LABOUR MARKET) as are many other features of the transformation of higher education. See POSTCAPITALISM and POSTCAPITALIST SOCIETY, INFORMATION SOCIETY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000