The forces of persistent inequality

Minority statuses in higher education

Authored by: Patricia M. McDonough , Carrie E. Miller

Routledge Handbook of the Sociology of Higher Education

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138778122
eBook ISBN: 9781315772233
Adobe ISBN: 9781317677789


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This chapter reviews minority status in tertiary education and examines the ways in which dominant groups create educational systems that mirror and serve their own interests as well as legitimate the existing unequal power relations. We also demonstrate the utility of sociological frameworks involving ‘cultural arbitraries’, massification, organizational isomorphism, ‘commensuration’, and globalization in investigating the persistent nature of inequalities. We begin with an analysis of dominant social groups’ ability to define the terms of competition, the influences of recent worldwide trends of massification of higher education in countries where college was previously only available to the powerful, and finally how the globalization of higher education tends to foster isomorphism, commensuration, and spread of legitimated decision-making practices in international competitions.

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