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Higher Education and Silicon Valley

, 296 pages

1 map, 13 graphs

July 2017



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Higher Education and Silicon Valley

Connected but Conflicted


Universities and colleges often operate between two worlds: higher education and economic systems. With a mission rooted in research, teaching, and public service, institutions of higher learning are also economic drivers in their regions, under increasing pressure to provide skilled workers to local companies. It is impossible to understand how current developments are affecting colleges without attending to the changes in both the higher education system and in the economic communities in which they exist.

W. Richard Scott, Michael W. Kirst, and colleagues focus on the changing relations between colleges and companies in one vibrant economic region: the San Francisco Bay Area. Colleges and tech companies, they argue, have a common interest in knowledge generation and human capital, but they operate in social worlds that substantially differ, making them uneasy partners. Colleges are a part of a long tradition that stresses the importance of precedent, academic values, and liberal education. High-tech companies, by contrast, value innovation and know-how, and they operate under conditions that reward rapid response to changing opportunities. The economy is changing faster than the postsecondary education system.

Drawing on quantitative and historical data from 1970 to 2012 as well as 14 case studies of colleges, this book describes a rich and often tense relationship between higher education and the tech industry. It focuses on the ways in which various types of colleges have endeavored—and often failed—to meet the demands of a vibrant economy and concludes with a discussion of current policy recommendations, suggestions for improvements and reforms at the state level, and a proposal to develop a regional body to better align educational and economic development.

W. Richard Scott is professor emeritus of sociology at Stanford University, with courtesy appointments in the schools of business, education, engineering, and medicine. He is the author of Institutions and Organizations: Ideas, Interests, and Identities. Michael W. Kirst is professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and president of the California State Board of Education. He is the coeditor of From High School to College: Improving Opportunities for Success in Postsecondary Education.

"In both substance and methodology, this is an innovative contribution to the study of the largest sectors of American higher education. The quantitative and qualitative research is rigorous, and the syntheses of the work of other scholars in such areas as the economic history of Silicon Valley, the culture of American higher education, and the evolution of public policy are careful and thorough."

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