Higher Education and Inequality in Anglo-American Societies

Abstract

The founding moment in the Anglo-American approach to equality of opportunity in education was the early to mid 1960s, a time of relatively high social mobility, with the Master Plan in California, the Robbins report in Great Britain and the Martin report in Australia. Equality of opportunity, joined to the production of human capital, was expected to create a prosperous meritocratic society. Because the founding notions were utopian the outcome was bound to be somewhat disappointing, but as Thomas Piketty shows in Capital in the Twenty-first Century (2014), equality of opportunity was further retarded by the shift to growing economic and social inequality after 1980, together with the plutocratic capture of policy. In the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia there is now little appetite for weakening the stratifying effects of elite private schools, lifting the quality of state schools, and opening up more egalitarian access to the leading universities. Compared to the US and UK there is a higher degree of intergenerational social mobility, as well as more egalitarian higher education, in most European nations. But reform in higher education alone has limited prospects. To achieve a ‘fair chance for all’, the preconditions lie in changes in the distribution of economic rewards, a reduced tolerance for social hierarchy, and the re-democratisation of politics and policy.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher EducationLondonUK
  2. 2.UCL Institute of EducationUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher EducationMelbourneAustralia

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