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Valued as engines of social mobility, economic growth, and ‘progress’, universities have also been transformed by increased scale, internal differentiation, inequality, cost, and shifting expectations. How much they serve the public good is now questioned. Likewise, during the modern era, knowledge has been shaped by its academic organization, notably into disciplines and interdisciplinary fields. 

Universities are ancient institutions. They grew under that name in medieval and early modern Europe, and under other names in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Disproportionately influenced by the Western model, universities are important institutions around the world. But the model is less clear than superficial use of the word may suggest: (a) universities are shaped by local, national, and civilizational contexts as well as by the global normative model; (b) universities have undergone structural transformations with social change, (c) universities operate in fields of only partially similar institutions, distinguished by hierarchies and missions. In some of the settings that have invested most in higher education, transformation is particularly deep and challenging today.

Works in Progress

Structural Transformations of the University:  Universities have grown from institutions for the education of a relatively narrow elite to central components of broader structures of inequality, key sources of knowledge for modern societies, and crucial contributors to the public good. At the same time, transformations of scale, funding, relations to states, and competition within the fields of higher education and knowledge production are reshaping universities – and the overall ecology of higher education and knowledge enterprises. Universities narrate changes as ‘innovation’ but they are less voluntary than this implies, and often have deeper implications for academic missions and the public good.

Previous Publications (selected)

1995 - Critical Social Theory: Culture, History and the Challenge of Difference

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