Dynamics of the Contemporary UniversityGrowth, Accretion, and Conflict

Dynamics of the Contemporary UniversityGrowth, Accretion, and Conflict

Neil J. Smelser

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780520275812

Publisher: University of California Press


This book is an expanded version of the Clark Kerr Lectures of 2012, delivered by the author at the University of California at Berkeley in January and February of that year.The initial exposition is of a theory of change—labeled structural accretion—that has characterized the history of American higher education, mainly (but not exclusively) of universities. The essence of the theory is that institutions of higher education progressively add functions, structures, and constituencies as they grow, but seldom shed them, yielding increasingly complex structures.The first two lectures trace the multiple ramifications of this principle into other arenas, namely (a) the essence of complexity in the academic setting, (b) the solidification of academic disciplines and departments, (c) changes in faculty roles and the academic community, (d) the growth of political constituencies, (e) academic administration and governance, and (f) academic stratification by prestige.The final chapter analyzes a number of contemporary trends and problems that are superimposed on the already-complex structures of higher education.The major trends are:the diminishing public support without alterations of governance and accountability, the increasing pattern of commercialization in higher education, the growth of distance-learning and for-profit institutions, and the spectacular growth of temporary and part-time faculty.