Utopian Universities: A Global History of the New Campuses of the 1960s | Jill Pellew e Miles Taylor

Detalhe de capa de Utopian Universities A Global History of the New Campuses of the 1960s
Detalhe de capa de Utopian Universities: A Global History of the New Campuses of the 1960s

The 1960s were a period of expansion in many higher education systems. In their introduction to Utopian Universities, Pellew and Taylor note that approximately 200 new university campuses were created during the decade, and these initiatives provided a unique space to redesign the university in physical, organizational, and curricular terms. Emerging from a two-year project, this edited volume focuses on the developments and aspirations associated with a selection of these new universities, contributing to our understanding of this important developmental phase within higher education in some jurisdictions.

The first section of the book, which focuses on the development of nine new universities in the United Kingdom (UK) (including seven in England) is the strongest and most integrated component of the volume, in large part because of the relatively common contextual elements underscoring these initiatives, but also because the section includes a number of quite masterful thematic analyses. These include an outstanding chapter by William Whyte describing the influence of the “Redbrick” civic universities on the new British universities that emerged in the 1960s, and the fascinating assumptions underscoring the design and architecture of these new campuses.

The new “plateglass universities” would be designed as separate communities, intentionally located on open greenspace on the edge of, but not too close to, urban populations. The new campuses would be expansive (at least 200 acres) and residential (frequently for both students and faculty). Other integrative chapters by Jon Agar, on science in the new universities, and Jill Pellew, on community support and philanthropy in their initial development, make important contributions to our understanding of these key issues.

The core of this first section, however, is a collection of historical studies of the development of the nine new universities that emerged during the 1960s. While the UK had created a binary system of higher education (a growing sector of colleges and polytechnics) and government emphasis was on modest expansion, its transition from an elite to a mass system of higher education was far from steady or linear. In fact, Fulton suggests that the transition only became relatively concrete and widely accepted two decades later.

2 The new universities were clearly grounded in an elitist notion of higher education: They were institutions that focussed on community through residential education, were national or international rather than regional (with few opportunities for commuter students or for continuing education, and, except for Warwick, with locations intentionally away from local industry), emphasized liberal education over professional education or career-preparation. Many elements of their design emerged centrally, through the work of the University Grants Commission and the academic planning boards, largely composed of academic leaders from Oxbridge and government, created for each proposed university. Each board created an academic plan and then selected a founding vice-chancellor to fulfill this mission. Three common themes emerged in the development of these new institutions: the importance of initial central oversight; emphasis on campus design, especially the unique opportunity to use landscape and architecture to further the residential and educational mission of the university; and, to avoid the ills of “Two Cultures” identified by C. P. Snow, a strong focus on interdisciplinarity, through innovative programs, organizational arrangements, and physical spaces that encouraged cross-disciplinary interaction.

The chapters on each of the new British universities tell quite fascinating, parallel, and insightful stories of their foundation and early evolution, including experiments in new organizational arrangements, curriculum and governance, and the emergence of student protests during this period. These chapters focus on Keele (Miles Taylor), Sussex (Matthew Cragoe), York (Allen Warren), East Anglia (John Charmley), Essex (Caroline Hoefferle), Kent at Canterbury (Krishan Kumar), and Lancaster (Marion McClintock). Rather than focus on the initial history of Warwick, Carolyn Steedman’s essay focuses on the development of a centre on social history. The chapters on the two other new universities created in the UK during this period are equally fascinating, but for quite different reasons. Holger Nehring provides a thoughtful historical analysis of the development of the University of Stirling and the challenges of central steering, unstable funding, and the positioning of the new model within the unique educational context of Scotland. Thomas G. Graser and Leonie Murray provide an equally insightful analysis of the failings of the New University of Ulster in Northern Ireland in the context of the “troubles.” The second section of the book turns to the development of new universities in countries outside the UK during the 1960s, and while each chapter contributes to the study of institutional innovations in higher education during this period, a comprehensive integrative chapter to pull this disparate collection of works together would have strengthened the volume. The first chapter focuses on Clark Kerr and his innovative plans for California. Miles Tyler contributes a chapter on the exportation of British utopian ideas of the university to the Commonwealth and the disconnection between many of these models with local needs and aspirations. Paul Axelrod provides a very thoughtful analysis of the work of university leaders in the innovations associated with three Canadian universities that emerged during this period: Trent, Simon Fraser, and York. Other chapters tell the story of the new universities in Australia (by Hannah Forsyth), the unique politicization of the early development of Jawaharlal Nehru University in India (by Rajat Datta) and the University of Nanterre in France (by Victor Collett), and the emergence of new reform universities in Germany (by Stephan Paulus). All of these chapters are extremely well-written, and the authors have contextualized the new university developments within historical and geographic contexts.

One can certainly discern implicit themes running across these papers, including the problematic continuing colonial influence of Britain within certain countries during this period, and some commonalities in the assumptions underscoring the Australian and Canadian universities. However, there is little sense of an explicit conversation on how these chapters contribute to the whole of this volume, or to each other within this section.

Though the scope of this volume is far from global, the book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the experimentation, enthusiasm, and perceived possibilities underscoring the development of entirely new universities during the 1960s in the UK and several other countries. Responding to the dangers of two solitudes articulated by C. P. Snow, many of these universities emphasized new interdisciplinary curricular structures and notions of community. They may have also been attempting to avoid the imperfections associated with what Clark Kerr would term the “multiversity” in the early years of that decade: the large, complex university composed of powerful, siloed departments and independent professional programs held together by a central administration. Ironically, this would be the institutional model that most of these new universities would evolve to become over the coming decades.


1 Alvin Toffler. Future Shock. New York, Random House, 1970.

2 Oliver Fulton, “Slouching Towards a Mass System: Society, Government and Institutions in the United Kingdom,” Higher Education 21, no.4 (1991): 589–605.


Glen A. JonesOISE-University of Toronto.

Referências desta resenha

PELLEW, Jill; TAYLOR, Miles (Eds.). Utopian Universities: A Global History of the New Campuses of the 1960s. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020. 424p. Resenha de: JONES, Glen A. Historical Studies in Education / Revue d’histoire De l’éducation. Vancouver, v.34, n.1, 2022. Acessar publicação original.

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