Throughout the world universities are increasingly influenced by universalistic and progress oriented templates of excellence. This paper addresses the following questions: What are the core assumptions that motivate these templates? What are the primary illustrations of these templates? What are the main characteristics of these “winners”? And lastly, what are the benefits and costs of changing universities and their governance structures from historically grounded institutions to transnational organizations?To address these questions I highlight the worldwide expansion of higher education, the widespread belief in universities as engines of economic development and social progress, and the parallel belief in formal organization and governance structure as the keys to university reform and better practices. This paper further highlights the role of international rankings in dramatizing the “excellence” of American universities and the extent to which some American universities have become referential standards in the quest for excellence. This paper emphasizes both the pervasiveness of world standards of rationalized education for economic development and the inevitable loose coupling associated with national efforts to enact these standards of excellence.
Francisco O. Ramírez (Universitat d’Stanford)
Francisco O. Ramirez is a professor of education and (by courtesy) of Sociology at Stanford University. At the present he is associate-dean for Faculty Affairs of the School of Education of his university. His current research interests focus on the worldwide rise of a human rights regime and its educational implications and the global rationalization of higher education and its organizational manifestations... He conducts cross-national studies on the role of education in the formation of world society, and the influence of world society on educational developments. These studies include topics such as patterns of women's access to higher education; the role of education and science in economic development; and the interrelationships among education, citizenship and human rights. His work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Bechtel Initiative on Global Growth and Change. He is a recipient of the Spencer Foundation Mentor Network Award. He received a BA in social science from De La Salle University, and an MA and PhD in sociology from Stanford University.
Ramirez has taught courses on "World, Societal, and Educational Change", "Education and the Status of Women: Comparative Perspective", "Education and Society," and "Comparative Studies of Educational Systems". His recent publications include: "Eyes Wide Shut: University, State and Society," in the European Educational Research Journal (2002); and the books (with G. S. Drori, J. W. Meyer & E. Schofer. Science in the Modern World Polity. Institutionalization and Globalization, Stanford: 2003, translated in Barcelona-México in 2006 as La ciencia en la política mundial moderna. Institucionalización y globalización), and La educación en la sociedad mundial (with J. W. Meyer) (Barcelona: Octaedro, 2010).