World-Class Universities (WCUs) are nationally embedded comprehensive higher education institutions (HEIs) that are closely engaged in the global knowledge system. The article reviews the conditions of possibility and evolution of WCUs. Three interpretations are used to explain worldwide higher education: neoliberal theory, institutional theory, and critical political economy, which give greater recognition than the other theories to the role of the state and variations between states. World higher education is evolving under conditions of globalization, organizational modernization (the New Public Management), and in some countries, marketization. These larger conditions have become manifest in higher education in three widespread tendencies: massification, the WCU movement, and organizational expansion. The last includes the strengthening of the role of the large multi-disciplinary multi-purpose HEIs (“multiversities”), in the form of both research-intensive WCUs with significant global presence, and other HEIs. The role of binary sector and specialist HEIs has declined. Elite WCUs gain status and strategic advantage in both quantity and quality: through growth and the expansion of scope, and through selectivity and research concentration. The balance between quantity and quality is now resolved at larger average size and broader scope than before. The final section of the article reviews WCUs in China and considers whether they might constitute a distinctive university model.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). (2017). Shanghai Jiao Tong University Graduate School of Education. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://www.shanghairanking.com/index.html
Bayly, C. A. (2004). The birth of the modern world 1780–1914: Global connections and comparisons. Oxford, England: Blackwell.
Berlin, I. (1969). Two concepts of liberty. In I. Berlin, Four essays on liberty (pp. 118–172). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
California Institute of Technology. (2016). Caltech at a glance. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://www.caltech.edu/content/caltech-glance
Cantwell, B., Marginson, S., & Smolentseva, A. (Eds.). (in press). High participation systems of higher education.
Carnoy, M. (2014). The state and political theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Carnoy, M., Froumin, I., Leshukov, O., & Marginson, S. (Eds.). (in press). Federalism in higher education: A comparative study.
Carnoy, M., Loyalka, P., Dobryakova, M., Dossani, R., Froumin, I., Kuhns, K., Tilak, J. B., & Wang, R. (2013). University expansion in a changing global economy: Triumph of the BRICs? Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Cerny, P. G. (1997). Paradoxes of the competition state: The dynamics of political globalization. Government and Opposition, 32(2), 251–274. doi: 10.1111/j.1477-7053.1997.tb00161.x
Cheng, K.M., & Yang, R. (2016). A cultural value in crisis: Education as a public good in China. In O. Filippakou & G. Williams (Eds.), Higher education as a public good: Critical perspectives on theory, policy and practice (pp. 127–139). New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Chirikov, I., Watanabe, S., & Postiglione, G. (in press). Rethinking the role of the state in global competition in higher education: The implementation of global excellence initiatives in China, Japan and Russia. Higher Education.
Clark, B. R. (1998). Creating entrepreneurial universities: Organizational pathways of transformation. Oxford, England: Pergamon.
Cuncliffe, B. (2015). By steppe, desert, and ocean: The birth of Eurasia. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Dearden, L. (2017, March). Creating competition in higher education: Economic myths and realities. Paper presented at Centre for Global Higher Education, London, England. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from http://www.researchcghe.org/perch/resources/lorrainedearden-1.pdf
Dewey, J. (1927/2016). The public and its problems. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.
Drori, G., Meyer, J., & Hwang, H. (Eds.). (2006). Globalization and organization: World society and organizational change. Oxford. England: Oxford University Press.
Evans, P., Rueschemeyer, D., & Skocpol, T. (Eds.). (1985). Bringing the state back in. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Frankopan, P. (2015). The silk roads: A new history of the world. London, England: Bloomsbury.
Fukuyama, F. (1989). The end of history? The National Interest, 16, 3–18.
Goedegbuure, L., Kaiser, F., Maassen, P., Meek, L., van Vught, F., & de Weert, E. (Eds.). (2014). Higher education policy: An international comparative perspective. Oxford, England: Pergamon.
Goedegebuure, L., & van Vught, F. (Eds.). (1994). Comparative policy studies in higher education. Utrecht, The Netherlands: Lemma.
Guzmán-Valenzuela, C. (2016, June). Global trends and their impact on Latin America: The role of the state and the private sector in the provision of higher education (Working Paper 4). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from http://www.researchcghe.org/perch/resources/publications/ wp4.pdf
Hayhoe, R., Li, J., Lin, J., & Zha, Q. (Eds.). (2011). Portraits of 21st century Chinese universities: In the move to mass higher educations. Hong Kong, China: Springer.
Hazelkorn, E. (2015). Rankings and the reshaping of higher education: The battle for world-class excellence (2nd ed.). Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
Johnstone, B. (2010). Higher educational diversification in the United States. In Research Institute for Higher Education (RIHE) (Ed.), Diversifying higher education systems in the international and comparative perspectives (pp. 1–21). Hiroshima, Japan: RIHE.
Kerr, C. (2001). The uses of the university (5th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
King, R., Marginson, S., & Naidoo, R. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of globalization and higher education. Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar.
Kwiek, M. (2016). De-privatisation in higher education: A conceptual approach. Higher Education, 1–23. doi: 10.1007/s10734-016-0047-3
Leiden University. (2016). CWTS Leiden ranking 2016: Moving beyond just ranking. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from http://www.leidenranking.com/
Marginson, S. (2006). Dynamics of national and global competition in higher education. Higher Education, 52(1), 1–39.doi: 10.1007/s10734-004-7649-x
Marginson, S. (2010). Space, mobility and synchrony in the knowledge economy. In S. Marginson, P. Murphy, & M. A. Peters, Global creation: Space, mobility and synchrony in the age of the knowledge economy (pp. 117–149). New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Marginson, S. (2013). Emerging higher education in the post-Confucian heritage zone. In D. Araya & P. Marber (Eds.), Higher education in the global age: Policy, practice and promise in emerging societies (pp. 89–112). New York, NY: Routledge.
Marginson, S. (2014). University rankings and social science. European Journal of Education, 49(1), 45–59. doi: 10.1111/ejed.12061
Marginson, S. (2016a). Higher education and the common good. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press.
Marginson, S. (2016b). High-participation systems of higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 87(2), 243–270. doi: 10.1353/jhe.2016.0007
Marginson, S. (2016c). The dream is over:The crisis of Clark Kerr’s California idea of higher education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Marginson, S. (2016d). The worldwide trend to high participation higher education: Dynamics of social stratification in inclusive systems. Higher Education, 72(4), 413–435. doi: 10.1007/s10734-016-0016-x
Marginson, S. (2017). Global trends in higher education financing: The United Kingdom. International Journal for Educational Development. doi: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2017.03.008
Marginson, S., & Considine, M. (2000). The enterprise university: Power, governance and reinvention in Australia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press
Marginson, S., & Rhoades, G. (2002). Beyond national states, markets, and systems of higher education: A glonacal agency heuristic. Higher Education, 43(3), 281–309. doi: 10.1023/A:1014699605875
McMahon, W. W. (2009). Higher learning, greater good. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Mettler, S. (2014). Degrees of inequality: How the politics of higher education sabotaged the American dream. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Mohrman, K., Ma, W. H., & Baker, D. (2008). The research university in transition: The emerging global mode. Higher Education Policy, 21(1), 5–27. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.hep.8300175
Musselin, C. (2005). European academic labour markets in transition. Higher Education, 49(1), 135–154. doi: 10.1007/s10734-004-2918-2
Naidoo, R. (2004). Fields and institutional strategy: Bourdieu on the relationship between higher education, inequality and society. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(4), 457–471. doi: 10.1080/0142569042000236952
National Science Foundation (NSF). (2014). Science and engineering indicators 2014. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/
Newman, J. H. (1852/1996). The idea of a university. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Ordorika, I. (2003). Power and politics in university governance: Organization and change at the Universidad NacionalAutonoma de Mexico. New York, NY: Routledge.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2015). Education at a glance 2015: OECD indicators. Paris, France: OECD.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2016). Perspectives on global development 2017: International migration in a shifting world. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/development/ perspectives-on-global-development-2017_persp_glob_dev-2017-en#page1
Pinheiro, R. (in press). HPS and diversity: The case of Norway. In B. Cantwell, S. Marginson & A. Smolentseva (Eds.), High participation systems of higher education.
Pinheiro, R., Charles, D., & Jones, G. A. (2015). Equity, institutional diversity and regional development: A cross-country comparison. Higher Education, 72(3), 307–322. doi: 10.1007/s10734-015-9958-7
Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). (2017). QS world university rankings. Retrieved May 16, 2017, from www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings
Robertson, S., Olds, K., Dale, R., & Dang, Q. A. (Eds.). (2016). Global regionalisms and higher education: Projects, processes, politics. Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar.
Salmi, J. (2009). The challenge of establishing world-class universities. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
Schofer, E., & Meyer, J. (2005). The worldwide expansion of higher education in the twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 70(6), 898–920. doi: 10.1177/ 000312240507000602
Shahjahan, R., & Kezar, A. (2013). Beyond the “national container”: Addressing methodological nationalism in higher education research. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 20–29.
Slaughter, S., & Rhoades, G. (2004). Academic capitalism and the new economy: Markets, state, and higher education. Baltimore, NJ: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Smolentseva, A. (2017). Universal higher education and positional advantage: Soviet legacies and neoliberal transformations in Russia. Higher Education, 73(2), 209–226. doi: 10.1007/s10734-016-0009-9
Teichler, U. (2008). Diversification? Trends and explanations of the shape and size of higher education. Higher Education, 56(3), 349–379. doi: 10.1007/s10734-008-9122-8
Trow, M. (1973). Problems in the transition from elite to mass higher education. Berkeley, CA: Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.
U-Multirank. (2017). U-Multirank 2017 edition. Retrieved May 16, 2017, from http://www.umultirank.org/#!/home?name=null&trackType=home
UNESCO. (2015). UNESCO science report 2015. Paris, France: UNESCO.
UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (2017). Education. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from http://data.uis.unesco.org/
University of Toronto. (2016). Quick facts. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://www.utoronto.ca/about-u-of-t/quick-facts
Välimaa, J. (2011). The corporatization of national universities in Finland. In B. Pusser, K. Kempner, S. Marginson, & I. Ordorika (Eds.), Universities and the public sphere: Knowledge creation and state building in the era of globalization (pp. 101–119). New York, NY: Routledge.
Välimaa, J., & Nokkala, T. (2014). The dimensions of “social dynamics” in comparative studies on higher education. Higher Education, 67(4), 423–437. doi: 10.1007/s10734-013-9684-y
van Vught, F. (2008). Mission diversity and reputation in higher education. Higher Education Policy, 21(2), 151–174. doi: 10.1057/hep.2008.5
Wimmer, A., & Schiller, M. (2002). Methodological nationalism and beyond: Nation-state building, migration and the social sciences. Global Networks, 2(4), 301–334. doi: 10.1111/1471-0374.00043
World university rankings. (2016). Times Higher Education. Retrieved May 16, 2017, from www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings
Yang, R. (2014). China’s strategy for the internationalisation of education: An overview. Frontiers of Education in China, 9(2), 151–162. doi: 10.3868/s110-003-014-0014-x
Zha, Q. (2011). Is there an emerging Chinese model of the university? In R. Hayhoe, J. Li, J. Lin, & Q. Zha (Eds), Portraits of 21st century Chinese universities: In the move to mass higher education (pp. 451–471). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
This is the revised version of a paper presented at the PKU−Stanford Joint Forum on “Building World-Class Universities: An Institutional Perspective,” Peking University, Beijing, 4–5 November 2016. Thank you to Wei Ha, Weifang Min, and especially Ruth Hayhoe.
About this article
Cite this article
Marginson, S. The World-Class Multiversity: Global commonalities and national characteristics. Front Educ China 12, 233–260 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11516-017-0018-1
- comparative education
- World-Class University
- university ranking
- New Public Management
- institutional theory