Theme Panel: Higher Education Disrupted: The Politics and Policies of Transformation


Theme Panel: Higher Education Disrupted: The Politics and Policies of Transformation

Fri, September 2, 12:00 to 1:30pm

This roundtable brings together established and newer voices from different parts of the academy to discuss the politics of higher education’s ongoing transformation and address the policy lessons of recent reform attempts. Run as a moderated discussion, the roundtable will focus on the contemporary United States (US). Selective historical comparisons and references to rich democracies in Europe will provide additional analytical leverage.

The United States’ higher education system has continued to expand. With policymakers never failing to emphasize universities’ crucial contributions to innovation and social inclusion, the sector has come to serve evermore students. By now, higher education is arguably at the center of rich democracies’ efforts to sustain economic growth and provide social investment. Internally, however, universities are deeply challenged. Beset by Baumol’s cost disease and suffering from public authorities’ failure to increase funding in line with growing enrollments, cost pressures have risen. Tuition fees and student debt have reached new record levels, and the segmentation of the academic workforce has continued to progress. Calls for “disruption” of inherited delivery models have strengthened, and hopes for technology-powered productivity increases through flipped classrooms and massive open online courses (MOOCs) have risen (and recently waned).

Political scientists remain underrepresented in policy debates on the future of higher education, so much so that sociologists, historians and journalists have dominated the analysis of the politics behind the sector’s contemporary institutional evolution. Given that higher education’s political elevation has turned the academy into a key battleground for broader distributional conflicts, it is high time for political scientists to tap into their disciplinary tools to explore the sector’s transformation.

View in the 2016 Online Program.

Julia Lynch, University of Pennsylvania

Ben Wildavsky, State University of New York
Benjamin Ginsberg, Johns Hopkins University
Rogers M. Smith,
Tobias Schulze-Cleven, Rutgers University
Julian Leonce Garritzmann, University of Konstanz
Charles Eaton, University of California, Berkeley
Tali Mendelberg, Princeton University