CGHE Seminar 24

Zones of exclusion: is research eminence antithetical to inclusive access in the United States?

  • Brendan Cantwell, Michigan State University
  • Barrett Taylor, University of North Texas

In the United States both equity and excellence are typically understood as a function of undergraduate selection. Equitable excellence implies admitting a small share of applicants but enrolling at least some students from all backgrounds.

This mix of absolute exclusion with inclusive social representation ultimately rests on ideologies of meritocracy and equity of opportunity. Such an approach implies that equitable excellence may be achieved by technical solutions such as improving the selection processes and/or providing equal academic preparation to all students.

This seminar explores the possibility that the problem of achieving equitable excellence is more intractable and complex than this narrative suggests, in part because exclusion might be associated with factors other than student selection. We consider the relationship between research eminence and equity.

Using latent profile analysis we categorise US universities based on their research activities. Subsequent regression analysis demonstrates that increases in the proportion of low-income and racial minority students strongly predict belonging to less elite categories, even when accounting for selectivity. Drawing on sociological and political economy theory we hypothesise that exclusion both promotes organisational consensus on the prioritisation of research and makes available resources that can further support the research mission.

Brendan Cantwell

Brendan Cantwell

Brendan Cantwell is an assistant professor of higher, adult, and lifelong education at Michigan State University. He takes a political economy approach to the study of higher education. Brendan is co-editor (with Ilkka Kauppinen) of Academic Capitalism in the Age of Globalization.

Barrett Taylor

Barrett Taylor

Barrett Taylor is an assistant professor of higher education at the University of North Texas. He studies the ways in which colleges and universities interact with their environments, and is co-editor (with Sheila Slaughter) of Higher Education, Stratification, and Workforce Development.

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