Despite a few prestigious universities having been around for several centuries, such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and the like, universities are, to some extent, a 19th century phenomenon, originally with the model created by Humboldt in Germany. In fact, the massification of higher education is a post WWII phenomena. Up until that time, only a small percentage of the population was able to go to university. Today, higher education represents 1% of world GDP.
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BOOK REVIEW: “The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World” by Ben Wildavsky (2010)
I am very grateful to my friend, Philip Warwick, for suggesting this excellent book, which is a fascinating discussion on the purpose and the role of universities. From the start, Collini points out the paradoxical situation in which universities find themselves today. Never in history have they, as higher education institutions, attracted so many students, and yet universities increasingly spend large parts of their time justifying what they do.