Tag: American HE

New open access book: Simon Marginson on the crisis of the California master plan

The California master plan has been an inspiration in the world of higher education. Introduced in the 1960s it market an important milestone in thinking about system coordination in higher education. However – what has happened to the plan since?

clipboard02In a new book, professor Simon Marginson looks into the development of the plan and its spread across the world. Simon Marginson is the Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Centre for Global Higher Education, and leads CGHE’s global higher education engagement research programme.

Marginson explains his main rationale for the book: “In this book I start from the legacy of Clark Kerr and the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education in California, noting the strengths and weaknesses of that framework, and then reflect on the spread of the Californian ‘Multiversity’, and the influence of the system model, throughout the world, especially in East Asia“.

In the book, he also takes a more critical stance towards the recent developments in American higher education, as Marginson argues: “The final 40 per cent of the book then attempts to explain the gathering and growing difficulties faced by public higher education in America, in the context of an increasingly unequal economy and society. The conclusion suggests ways forward for the future.

The book is available open access, which is arguably still (too) rare in the field of higher education for books. Marginson explains his rationale for choosing open access: “I am very impressed by the scholarly virtues of open access publishing of a scholarly book, which University of California Press (in line with their own public values which can be traced back to the 1960s) are increasingly using. It’s good to be able to spread the work more widely than with solely purchased books.

Download the book

Marginson, S. (2016) – The Dream is Over: The crisis of Clark Kerr’s California Idea of higher education. Published by University of California Press, download free at doi: http://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.17

Report analysing PIAAC data reveals that American youth is increasingly better educated but with lower skills


Educational Testing Service (ETS), an US based private non-profit educational testing and assessment organisation has examined PIAAC data for US.

PIAAC is the short version for Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, an OECD led project in 24 countries to examine the skills among adult populations. Here, PIAAC results complement the skills assessment of pupils with PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and AHELO (Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes). Some of the initial analysis were published in late 2013.

ETS has examined PIAAC data for the US, and in particular for the so-called millenial generation that has been isolated from the total for this report. Their main starting point is that this is the best educated generation in the US history, but this generation also consistently appears to score below international average in literacy, numeracy and problem solving with technology.

Literacy in the PIAAC study is defined as “understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”, and it was operationalised both as an ability to comprehend and decode text as well as using the text appropriately in context. The test did not measure actual writing skills. Numeracy was defined as “the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life” and its operationalisation included both understanding mathematical information, but also a wider understanding of mathematical content – such as quantity and number; dimension and shape; patterns, relationships and changes; and data and chance. The third skill in focus in the ETS report is “problem solving in technology-rich environments”. While on first glance somewhat cumbersome definition, in PIAAC this refers to digital skills, that is: “using digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks”. Here, a wide range of digital skills were evaluated.

Obama introduces free community college plan in the US

Last week, 9th of January, Obama introduced his new plan for free community college during his visit to Tennessee. Obama reportedly commented on this: “For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class. I want to make it free.”

A video preview to the initiative was posted earlier on the White House Facebook page.


While all the financial details are not clear yet, the plan is indeed ambitious and is reported to cost approximately 60 billion dollars over 10 years – the key idea is that federal funds would cover 3/4 and state funds the remaining part. The proposal is that free tuition would be conditional – students would be expected to maintain a 2,5 GPA, be minimum part-time students and assure progression through their studies.

According to the American Associaytion of Community Colleges, there are over 1100 community colleges in the US, catering to nearly 13 million students (2012), representing almost half of all the undergraduate students in the US. 60% of the students are part time, and many work aside their studies. About one third of the students are first generation to attend college. In principle the sector has already been known for relatively lower tuition levels than one would find in the universities. The degrees awarded are associate degrees and various certificates. While many of the students already receive various kinds of state and federal financial aid, nearly 30% of the revenues for the institutions come from tuition fees.


Recorded seminar on consumerism in American higher education

We are delighted to share with you another seminar recording from the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and Knowledge cultures). HEIK is a research group located at the Faculty of Educational Sciences in University of Oslo, the coordinating institution of Hedda.

Professor Christopher Morphew  (University of Iowa)

Professor Christopher Morphew
(University of Iowa)

This time, we are pleased to feature professor Christopher Morphew from University of Iowa who visited University of Oslo in June 2014 and gave a presentation titled: “Academic Consumerism: The American Advantage?

Listen without the Flashplayer

The presentation will draw from several recent articles by Professor Morphew.

Please see: 

Seminar: a new social contract for higher education

We are pleased to present you another recorded session from the HEIK academic seminar series in the field of higher education. This lecture was recorded in December 2013 and features Professor Peter Maassen who in this presentation discusses the new social contract for higher education.

Abstract for the session: