CGHE Seminar 55

Horizontal diversity in higher education systems: does the growth of participation enhance or diminish it?

Higher education research and scholarship have devoted much energy to questions of the three-way relationship between the growth of participation, market competition, and horizontal diversity between institutions (meaning distinctions of institutional mission or type).

Professor Marginson reviews the scholarly evidence, reflects on the outcomes of a recent review of high participation higher education in eight countries, and draws conclusions about the main tendencies in the configuration of higher education systems and institutions.

The bulk of the empirical evidence suggests that an enhanced role for markets is associated with an increase in imitating behaviour and the narrowing of mission differences, rather than diversity.

In relation to growth, it is difficult to separate the effects of expanding participation from contextual factors, but the overall tendencies appear to be (1) an increase in vertical stratification, (2) growth in the importance of large multi-disciplinary multi-purpose institutions, (3) a decline in horizontal diversity overall, and (4) an increase in internal diversity within larger institutions.   

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Simon Marginson

Simon Marginson

Simon Marginson is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, Director of the ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), Editor-in-Chief of Higher Education, and Lead Researcher with Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Simon’s research is focused primarily on global and international higher education, the contributions of higher education, and higher education and social inequality. At Oxford he lead teaches the MSc (Education) subject on ‘Globalisation in higher education’. He is currently preparing an integrated theorisation of higher education. His recent books in comparative and international studies are Higher Education in Federal Countries, edited with Martin Carnoy, Isak Froumin and Oleg Leshukov (Sage, 2018) and High Participation Systems of Higher Education, edited with Brendan Cantwell and Anna Smolentseva (Oxford University Press, 2018).

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