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The Changing Ecology of U.S. Higher Education: An Organization Field Perspective

The University Under Pressure

ISBN: 978-1-78560-831-5, eISBN: 978-1-78560-830-8

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 5 February 2016


Organization fields are shaped by both isomorphic and competitive processes. Isomorphic processes have been dominant for many years, but now competitive processes are in ascendance. All fields are embedded in wider societal structures, and the field of higher education is richly connected in modern societies with the economic, stratification, and political spheres. Some of these interdependences reinforce within-field processes, some recast them, and still others disrupt them. The appearance of new technologies, new types of students, and changing work requirements have begun to unsettle traditional field structures and processes and encourage the development of new modes of organizing. Over time, the dominant professional mode of organizing higher education is being undercut and, in many types of colleges, supplanted by one based on market forces and managerial logics.




This paper had its origins in work the senior author began as a part of the project, “Reform and Innovation in the Changing Ecology of U.S. Higher Education” funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Michael W. Kirst and Mitchell Stevens, Principal Investigators, Stanford University School of Education (Kirst & Stevens, 2015). It reports early findings from a follow-up study conducted by staff associated with the John W. Gardner Center for the Youth and Their Communities, Stanford University. This research is supported by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and LearningWorks, Michael W. Kirst, Principal Investigator. Brian Holzman and Bernardo Lara provided statistical support for the work reported.


Richard Scott, W. and Biag, M. (2016), "The Changing Ecology of U.S. Higher Education: An Organization Field Perspective", The University Under Pressure (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 46), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 25-51.



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