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Dynamics of the Contemporary University

Dynamics of the Contemporary University: Growth, Accretion, and Conflict

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Dynamics of the Contemporary University
    Book Description:

    This book is an expanded version of the Clark Kerr Lectures of 2012, delivered by Neil Smelser at the University of California at Berkeley in January and February of that year. The initial exposition is of a theory of change-labeledstructural 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, including the essence of complexity in the academic setting, the solidification of academic disciplines and departments, changes in faculty roles and the academic community, the growth of political constituencies, academic administration and governance, and academic stratification by prestige. In closing, Smelser analyzes a number of contemporary trends and problems that are superimposed on the already-complex structures of higher education, such as 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95525-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ONE Dynamics of American Universities
    (pp. 1-39)

    It is a custom on this occasion to honor the figure for whom these lectures are named and to acknowledge how deeply honored I am to have been chosen to deliver them. I do both these things, not out of the pressure of ceremony, but from the heart. Clark Kerr was (and is) such an important part of my own career that I must add a personal note.

    I met Clark Kerr in 1958, about two weeks after I arrived on the Berkeley campus as a new assistant professor. He, as new President, and Glenn Seaborg, as new Chancellor, had...

    (pp. 40-77)

    To summarize the first chapter, I laid out a number of types of change that have characterized American higher education—increase in unit size, segmentation of units, differentiation (or specialization and complexity), proliferation of functions, and coordination. I identified one principle of change that to me seems especially salient; it is observable at all levels, and dramatically so in the research university. I called it “structural accretion.” The idea is simple enough. Growth is achieved by adding structures “on the side” of existing structures, but, critically, older structures are not shed in the process, even though their salience may change....

    (pp. 78-116)

    In the first chapter I presented a general and systematic—but peculiar—view of how institutions of higher education, with emphasis on universities, change over time. In the second I traced out as many implications as I could from this account—implications for cost, administration, conflict, political processes and stratification. This third chapter takes a further step, assessing recent trends and what they bode for the future,but in the context of conditions that have been established historically.With respect to the relation of these trends to structural accretion—the organizing theme of the first two chapters—this chapter presents...

  7. References
    (pp. 117-132)
  8. Index
    (pp. 133-139)