Higher Education in a Global Society
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Higher Education in a Global Society

Edited by D. Bruce Johnstone, Madeleine B. d’Ambrosio and Paul J. Yakoboski

Higher education functions in a global environment of consumers, employees, competitors, and partners. It has been a force for globalization and a model for adaptation, but nonetheless faces challenges. This volume of essays examines emerging issues and opportunities for advancing education across borders.
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Chapter 2: The Realities of Mass Higher Education in a Globalized World

Phillip G. Altbach


Philip G. Altbach Mass higher education has become the global norm in the 21st century. In 2009, enrolments in postsecondary education are 125 million, up from 100 million less than a decade earlier. And expansion, now mainly in the developing world, continues even in the midst of economic crisis. China now has the world’s largest higher education system, enrolling more than 27 million students. India is in the number 3 position, with 14 million students. But China serves around 20 percent of the age group and India 10 percent – there is much room for expansion. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, 5 percent or fewer of the age group are in postsecondary education. Virtually all of the industrialized and many middle-income countries have built mass higher education systems, enrolling more than a quarter of the age cohort. Most are moving toward enrolling 40 percent or more, and a few now enroll half (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2008.) We refer to “massification” as the process by which academic systems enroll large numbers – and higher proportions of the relevant age group – of students in a range of differentiated academic institutions. Even countries that until recently have had small and elitist academic systems are facing pressures for expansion. There is no country that is immune from the pressure for massification. In most parts of the world, higher education was limited in size and scope until the 1960s. Sociologist Martin Trow divided the world’s academic systems into three categories – elite (under 15 percent...

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