1 October 2016

New book: What happened to the Californian model of higher education?

Professor Simon Marginson examines the crisis of public higher education in the US – even though higher education along American lines is flourishing in many countries abroad – in a new book published by University of California Press, The dream is over: the crisis of Clark Kerr’s California idea of higher education.

While the Californian model of higher education has been the most influential single model in shaping university systems worldwide, it has been profoundly eroded at home. Amid an increasingly unequal economy and society in the US, access to higher education for all in California has been lost and even the brilliant science-based universities are now under long-term threat of losing ground to domestic and foreign competitors.
Professor Marginson looks at the reasons behind the reluctance of the middle class taxpayer and the political system to maintain the California Master Plan vision of higher education. He highlights the fiscal incapacity of US states to support public higher education, and proposes an overhaul of the student loans system as a potential solution, with income contingent loans replacing the present mortgage-style loans.

Dr Brendan Cantwell, Coordinating Editor of Higher Education from Michigan State University, said:

The dream is over is a tour de force by Simon Marginson, whose scholarship is essential for understanding the role of higher education in society today. Through an archeology of the “Californan idea,” Marginson analyses the intellectual and political work that established the Master Plan and the University of California as the city of intellect. He shows how the California model influenced the design of higher education around the world and identifies the forces that have brought it to the brink of ruin. Marginson convincingly argues that higher education in the United States now contributes to the reproduction of social inequality but also provides practical suggestions for how to re-charter the pact between higher education and society.’

Professor Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Melbourne, said:

The dream is over benefits from its author’s strong historical grounding and international perspective. It offers contemporary scholarship that speaks directly to central concerns of university leaders and policymakers. Professor Marginson, once again, offers a valuable contribution to the international higher education conversation.’

Dr Geoff Sharrock, Program Director at the LH Martin Institute, said:

The dream is over is a powerful work of scholarship and synthesis. It tracks historical shifts in American politics, society, and economy; the rise of global science; and the worldwide effects of global university rankings. It has wide implications for policymakers, within and beyond the US.’

Professor Michael Shattock, Visiting Professor at the UCL Institute of Education, writes in an upcoming edition of Higher Education:

‘This is a remarkable book. It might be thought from the title that it is primarily about the California system but in fact it uses an analysis of how that system, once an international model of how to structure higher education, has failed one of its two key objectives, access and excellence, as a lens through which to examine the issues of unequal opportunity and inequality of access on a global canvas. It offers an implicit background to the Trump revolution but its findings are relevant to policymakers in all advanced industrial societies.’

The dream is over is co-published by University of California Press together with the Centre for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley and is available on an open access basis also in paperback. It is an extended treatment of issues first discussed in the 2014 Clark Kerr Lectures on Higher Education at the University of California.

Read Professor Marginson’s article on the topic in Times Higher Education

Read Professor Marginson’s article on the topic in University World News

Watch Professor Marginson discuss the problems facing higher education access in the US: