EDEV_503 Week 1_5

Thanks for responding to my question. I should have made my point more explicit. Please allow me to rephrase it.

There are marginalised poor in many first-world countries and even more in the developing world. However, none of these would have had access to HE 100 years ago. Indeed, most people in most countries would not have had access 100 years ago. The increase in access over this time-span is tremendous. Trow (2007) says that around 5% of the elite in the U.K. went into the universities before WW2. Now, there is nearly universal access to HE in the U.K. as there is in many other countries. It is clear that there is a massive increase in access to HE, not only in the U.K. but throughout the world.

The very poor in most countries never had and continue not to have much access.  Rather than segments of societies becoming marginalised, they have always been so in the vast majority of cases. The few individuals that are able to transcend their low social position rely on a meritocracy for bursary support. Where that is missing, even they have no access. Over the time-span of 30 years, i.e. since the time mass access was first seen in the U.S., fluctuations in access are visible. What we are witnessing today is less of a decrease in access to HE than an increased visibility of the issues in access. The readings this week (including the video) do not address this point except in an alarmist manner implying that the poor had access and now they don’t. This is ahistoric.

When academics talk about increasing gaps between the haves and the have-nots, the discussion tends to focus on the past 2~30 years. I suspect that this is because this is when the data collection started digitally more than due to any principled philosophical, economic, or political reason. If the discussion is to have real value, a clear distinction needs to be drawn between idealism and convenience.

Educators may aspire to universal access throughout the world (an ideal). However, making claims about increases or declines in a narrow time frame may be just a (in)convenience of data.

I don’t want, though, to draw attention away from the ideal of universal access and a discussion over how that can be achieved.


Trow, M. (2007). Reflections on the transition from elite to mass to universal access: Forms and phases of higher education in modern societies since WW11. In J. J. F. Forest & P. G. Altbach (Eds.), International Handbook of Higher Education: Part 1 Global themes and contemporary challenges (pp. 243–280). Dordrecht: Springer.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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