Higher Education in Germany and the US: University Expansion and Professionalism

The system of higher education has also attracted increased public attention over recent years, with reform proposals often alluding to the situation in the USA. This is the background to our comparative analysis of higher education in Germany and the United States (Higher Education and Professionalism). The study focused on the institutional structures and their links to modernization in the two countries (see Lenhardt & Spear, 2000). The theoretical point of departure is provided by Parsons' theory of professionalization and Weber's theory of the "expert culture."

Both are theories of social development, institutional rationalization, and socialization. It emerges that Parsons' professionalization theory is congruent in all three of these respects with Humboldt's concept of the modern research university, which is still a prominent feature in contemporary debate. Common denominators include the concepts of individualism as an institutional characteristic of the democratic society, academic freedom in higher education, and the culture of professionalism. It is generally assumed that the systems of higher education in Germany and the USA are increasingly giving institutional expression to the normative concept of citizenship. Yet, the German system seems to be doing so only with some delay. The German system still bears traces of the anti-individualist "expert culture" dating back to feudal absolutism.

In this project, the progress of individualism is reconstructed with regard to the relationship between higher education, the state and the civil society, the rationalization of the internal structure of universities, the distinction between "pure" and "applied" science, and the social role of students.

Selected Publications

Lenhardt, G., & Spear, N. (2000). Higher education in Germany and the USA. Berlin: Max Planck Institute for Human Development (mimeograph).

Lenhardt, G., & Stock, M. (2000). Hochschulentwicklung und Bürgerrechte in der BRD und der DDR. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 52, 520–540.

Lenhardt, G. (1999). Weltgesellschaft, Nationalismus und Bildungssystem. Neue Sammlung, 39, 513-530.

Lenhardt, G., & Wernet, A. (1999). Lehrer und deutsche Einheit: Über Schwierigkeiten der deutsch-deutschen Verständigung. Die Deutsche Schule, 91, 68-84.

Lenhardt, G., & Wernet, A. (1998). Lehrer und 'Deutsche Einheit.' Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung (unpublished manuscript).

Lenhardt, G., & Stock, M. (1997). Bildung, Bürger, Arbeitskraft. Schulentwickung und Sozialstruktur in der BRD und der DDR. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp (stw 1321).

Lenhardt, G., & Stock, M. (1997). Bildung, Bürgerrechte und Elitebildung - Hochschulexpansion in den osteuropäischen sozialistischen Ländern. Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung (unpublished manuscript).

Lenhardt, G., & Stock, M. (1996). Bildung der Bürger und Qualifikation der Arbeitskräfte: Schulentwicklung in der BRD und DDR in soziologischer Perspektive. In G. Flösser, H.-U. Otto, & K.-J. Tillmann (Eds.), Schule und Jugendhilfe. Neuorientierung im deutsch-deutschen Übergang (pp. 54-62). Opladen: Leske + Budrich (Schule und Gesellschaft, 12).

Project Team

Gero Lenhardt