U.S. Higher Education Before and After Coronavirus: Will American Universities Remain Strong? Will They Meet the Challenges They Face?


Thursday, April 16, 2020, 4:00pm to 5:30pm



Special Online Seminar! 
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Co-sponsored by the Harvard Department of Sociology

Prior to 2020, numerous trends demonstrated not only the growth but the growing prominence of American universities. During a 40-year period that witnessed rapidly rising student enrollments and ample research funding, Brint argues that universities’ contributions to public life were broader than ever.  He documents university-originated ideas that have changed understandings of the world and the increasingly permeable boundaries that made universities perhaps the most important institutional hubs in American society.   

The lecture details the pre-coronavirus trajectory of American universities, focusing on the intersection of three “logics of development”: (1) the growth of disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) knowledge resulting from productivity increases tied to the system of academic professionalism; (2) market orientations that led to expanding curricula and powerful partnerships for scientific and technological innovation, and (3) the goals and practices of social inclusion. Conflicts arose during the period: academic entrepreneurs sometimes flouted their campus responsibilities and departments sometimes faced public backlash over the hiring of scholars with nontraditional research agendas. Nevertheless, accommodation between the three logics was the norm, and it created a new dynamism.

The looming question is how U.S. colleges and universities will fare in the aftermath of the coronavirus. The talk concludes by discussing likely changes in the institutional landscape and the kinds of federal response that would allow for a pragmatically optimistic vision for the future.  




About the Speaker


Steven Brint is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside and Director of the Colleges & Universities 2000 Project. 

Brint is an organizational sociologist whose research focuses on topics in the sociology of higher education, the sociology of professions, and middle-class politics. His studies of higher education have been funded for two decades by the National Science Foundation and two philanthropies.  He is the author of four books: The Diverted Dream (with Jerome Karabel) (Oxford University Press, 1989), In an Age of Experts (Princeton University Press, 1994), Schools and Societies (third ed. Stanford University Press 2016), and Two Cheers for Higher Education (Princeton University Press 2018). He is the editor of The Future of the City of Intellect (Stanford University Press, 2002), and the co-editor (with Charles T. Clotfelter) of a volume on higher education effectiveness. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.  He has also written for The American Prospect, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Washington Post, among other publications. His book, Two Cheers for Higher Education, won honorable mention for the American Sociological Association’s Pierre Bourdieu Award in 2019 and was co-recipient of the Emory Elliott Book Prize for 2019.  It was also named one of the top 10 books on higher education for 2019 by Forbes.  His first book, The Diverted Dream, won the American Education Research Association's “Outstanding Book” award of 1991 and the Council of Colleges and Universities' “Outstanding Research Publication” award the same year. His article, “Socialization Messages in Primary Schools: An Organizational Analysis.” (with Mary F. Contreras and Michael T. Matthews) won the American Sociological Association's Willard Waller Award in 2002. Brint’s work has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Sociological Research Association.

A native of Albuquerque, NM, Steven Brint received his BA with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard.