Changes in Higher Education


Higher learning changes arise from an emerging trend to accessible and open education system in the developing world. Higher learning is attaining education or scholarship at the university or rather the collegiate level. Just as the late 19th century was a development era full of changes and new areas that needed study, the changing society reflected the same in the higher learning resulting to the establishment of universities.

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The quest in search of a real university in America in 1880-1890 prompted the change strategy in higher education when fourteen presidents of different institutions in America gathered to and formed the Association of American Universities. In this chapter, Thelin pointed out that the growth and success in higher education that closely related to the period of university builders. The plans of several presidents of universities faced strong challenges in terms of sabotage and lack of trust from the university builders.

The ambition and wealth domineered this era and a talent competition resulted to rivalry in faculties of opposing institutions that finally led enactment of prestigious facilities in form of universities. The industry stood out as one of the major contributing factors to the emergence of universities during this era; a remarkable change in higher learning. Most of the enterprises and big corporations contributed their wealth into the building of universities; for instance, the $7million donation to the establishment of the John Hopkins University (Thelin, 2011).

Religion took the key leading role in influencing the style and quality of educational institutions. Incorporating science and commerce in influencing new trends in education, religion also defined the shape and subsidy American higher education. Over a certain period, church founders and donors came forth to donate their wealth in establishing the American university. Therefore, religion became inseparable from higher education and despite their conflicting view on science; they still correlated and influenced changes in higher education (Thelin, 2011).

Higher learning did not just involve the skills taught to students but required vast field of application for applied knowledge and theory. The only access to this advancement could only be possible through universities created to select, conduct researches and absorb knowledge from all over the planet. Given that higher education evolved to international setting, the establishment of universities became more significant in training, studying and community scholar to acquire more knowledge and select the best-suited tasks for that knowledge (Barber, 1993).

Differentiation of institutions in an effort to respond to the increase in specialization pushed the reformation of the smaller institutions of higher learning to universities. The need for in-depth study on certain programs and fields laid a foundation for specialization that prompted the establishment of universities to serve this purpose. The universities formed served the student’s interest satisfactorily and defined their set goals in a different field of study that they specialized.

Insulation of higher education from economy pressures did not exist in the late 19th century. The support of the government was unreliable, and the additional loss of income generated from traditional sources supported the shift of the small higher learning institutions to universities establishment. The public higher learning institutions faced a lot competition from the private profit-making institutions hence the public sector decided on establishing universities, much more expansive to accommodate a larger population of students than the small private- institutions of higher learning.

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The motivation for establishing universities in that era came about due to change in policies that focused on higher education. The expand access policy advocated for affordable and accessible higher education that brought a shift in the post secondary and higher educational learning into the establishment of universities. The universities establishment based on the shift in the definition of higher learning education for different students; this meant provision of valuable and quality education, at a lower cost to better their lives and improve the countries’ economy (Schutze & Slowy, 2000).

The occurrence of a power shift in higher education developed two trends: that increased the learners’ ability to interact with the outside world and freedom of them accessing the educational content. The control assumed by most mediating agents in school became useless, and the need for a more advanced institution of learning to capture this emerged, hence the establishment of universities. Effectiveness of courses increased with fluidity of information across disciplines in the universities, as opposed to colleges and other higher learning institutions, which encouraged the formation of more universities (The Committee of Ten Report 1892).

The Land Grant Act of 1861 developed in the late 19th century had a service aimed at improving the living standards of the community and, with the allocation of land by the congress for extensive higher learning; the first university was erected to define the future of this education. This improved higher learning from a mere extra mural program to intellectual disciplines that changed the roots of medieval education to university level. This level of education symbolised the changing societal context and needs.

The table is indicated below:

Thelin’s Terminology Search Terminology Number of Articles
Presidential Presence University Presidents 745,000
College Presidents 195,000,000
Professors as professional experts University Professors 1,140,000
Pedagogy College Teaching 292,000
Professional schools Professional Education 578,000
Curriculum College Curriculum 639,000
University Curriculum 182,000
Professionalization of students Graduate Students 591,000
Facilities Campus Planning 409,000
College Planning 206,000
University Planning 169,000


In conclusion, higher educational changes reflected many changes that occurred in politics, society, culture and economy in the 20th century. For instance, the funding that resulted from post war economic growth, integrations and human rights awareness led to the growth of colleges and programs that cultivated the emergence of universities.


Barber, W. J. (1993). Economists and higher learning in the nineteenth century. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Schutze, H. G., & Slowey, M. (2000). Higher education and lifelong learners: international perspectives on change. London: Routledge/Falmer.

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Thelin R. J. (2011). A history of American Higher Education. 2 ed. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore Maryland.

The N.E.A Committee Ten Report of 1892. Web.

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