Higher education and social cohesion: an introduction
From their medieval origins as ecclesiastical training schools in the twelfth century, universities have spread around the world. Ancient centres of knowledge emerged in Bukhara, Samarkand, Baghdad, Timbuktu and Cairo. Universities followed colonialism into Asia, Latin America and Africa. Between 1900 and 1948, when the Philippines were part of the United States, the oldest university in the United States was not Harvard (founded in 1636) but the University of Santo Tomas (founded in 1611). Universities spread very rapidly in developing countries after they achieved independence. At present there are more than 10,000 universities world-wide.
These institutions differ in their functions: some serve transitional purposes, whereby students attend in preparation for transfer to more specialized training. Community colleges are examples of this function. Other institutions serve vocational purposes, helping to prepare students for particular professions. Others, such as liberal...