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UC Berkeley’s Adaptations to the Crisis of Public Higher Education in the U.S.: Privatization? Commercialization? or Hybridization?

The University Under Pressure

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

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 5 February 2016


The University of California at Berkeley now delivers more to the public of California than it ever has, and it does this on the basis of proportionally less funding by the State government than it has ever received. This claim may come as a surprise, since it is often said that Berkeley is in the process of privatizing, becoming less of a public university and more in the service of private interests. To the contrary, as the State’s commitment to higher education and social-welfare programs has declined, UC Berkeley has struggled to preserve and even expand its public role, while struggling simultaneously to retain its competitive excellence as a research university. This paper delineates how UC Berkeley has striven to retain its public character in the face of severe financial pressures. A summary of the indicators invoked can be found in the Table near the end of the text. This paper then addresses the sustainability and generalizability of the Berkeley strategy.




The author served as dean of social sciences at UC Berkeley from 1999 to 2006 and as the campus’s executive vice chancellor and provost from 2006 to 2014. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the conference “From Prestige to Excellence: The fabrication of academic excellence,” University of Paris, Paris, France, September 12–13, 2013. For comments on earlier drafts, I am grateful to Elizabeth Berman, Elizabeth Berry, Arthur Bienenstock, Helen Breslauer, Ken Breslauer, Janet Broughton, Catherine Cole, John Douglass, Carla Hesse, David Hollinger, Martin Jay, Thomas Laqueur, Daniel Melia, Catherine Paradeise, Robert Price, Andrew Szeri, Gaye Tuchman, John Wilton, Mark Yudof, and an anonymous reviewer for the press. I alone am responsible for the claims and conclusions in this paper.


Breslauer, G.W. (2016), "UC Berkeley’s Adaptations to the Crisis of Public Higher Education in the U.S.: Privatization? Commercialization? or Hybridization?", The University Under Pressure (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 46), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 425-452.



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