Reflections on the Transition from Elite to Mass to Universal Access: Forms and Phases of Higher Education in Modern Societies since WWII

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This chapter seeks to reflect upon and update a set of concepts, first introduced over 30 years ago, regarding the transformation of higher education (Trow, 1973).1 The ideas of this original essay, as nicely summed up recently by British author Brennan (2004), illustrate three forms of higher education: (1) elite—shaping the mind and character of a ruling class, a preparation for elite roles; (2) mass—transmission of skills and preparation for a broader range of technical and economic elite roles; and (3) universal— adaptation of the “whole population” to rapid social and technological change. Table 1 provides a useful summary of these stages of higher education development.