The Republican University in the United States

HEIs across the Atlantic developed differently; influenced by the spirit of establishing a democratic republic, the US HEI model focussed on equality of access (which, however, did not initially include gender and race equality) and equality between academic subjects. This led to the establishment of a vast variety of HEIs and was the basis for the beginning of mass higher education.[1] Two sets of ideas shaped a second trend in US HEIs; the philosophy of the Progressive Era (late 19 th until mid 20th century) which aimed at the refinement of big business and government towards their use for the public and economic efficiency[2] and the Wisconsin Idea which promoted that HEIs should be of service to the public through, inter alia, a focus on applied research, vocational education as well as knowledge exchange and facility sharing.[3] As a result, HEIs were expected to serve society more directly, for example, through providing vocational education, conducting applied research and cooperating with businesses and government.[4] This also led to an increase in external funding for, as well as influences on the directions of, research.[5]

These HEIs, while serving the public good, were susceptible to commercialisation of academic life. As early as in the 1970s, critical observers noticed a changing process in US HEIs towards creating something potentially tradable on a market rather than for ideal purposes for which the term ‘commodification’ has been applied.[6] This term, though of Marxist origin,[7] is used here to describe market-like behaviours even if they are not actually for profit.[8] On the basis of this business-like re-conceptualisation, US universities started to compete with each other and to reach out to international markets of education, arguably creating a world-wide market for higher education and academic research dominated by industrial centres of the world.[9]

  • [1] See Rohrs 1995, pp. 104, 116 seq, 121 seq; Scott 2006, p. 14 seq, 17.
  • [2] The Progressive Era with its high time from 1890 to 1916 was a movement of various interestgroups, however, with some major influences from the white US middle classes who, next tothe mentioned focus, promoted a broad variety of other issues such as women’s suffrage,restriction of immigration and prohibition. See Link 1959; Sklar 1992, p. 38, Jaycox 2005,preface and introduction.
  • [3] The Wisconsin Idea started in Wisconsin and was originally focussed on the state’s university.See further Hoeveler 1976.
  • [4] See Allen 1988, p. 21 seq; Rohrs 1995, pp. 108, 115 seq, 123; Scott 2006, p. 23 seq.
  • [5] See Rohrs 1995, p. 107 seq; Scott 2006, p. 27 seq. The external influences on universitieshave later been criticised in the student protests of the 1960s (Scott 2006, p. 24).
  • [6] Shumar 2013.
  • [7] Ibid p. 15 seq.
  • [8] See also Radder 2010, p. 4 seq who perceives the interpretation and assessment of processeson the basis of economic criteria as the main characteristic of commodification. SimilarSlaughter and Leslie 1997 p. 11 and Marginson 2007.
  • [9] See Choon Fong 2008, p. 79 seq who predicts that Asia will be this centre in the future.
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