2010 Volume 5 Pages 79-93
Higher education systems are now in a global state of flux. Japan is no exception. The most persuasive framework for analyzing the basic structure and direction of change is the structural-historical theory of the American sociologist Martin Trow. This is a generalization of his "elite to mass to universal" based on first American and then European experience. The purpose of this paper is to use the Japanese experience as a case study for testing the validity of Trow's formulations as comparative higher education theory. In comparing the Japanese case with that of Europe and the United States, this paper validates in principal the appropriateness of the basic theory of transition put forward by Trow. At the same time, doubts are raised on the issue of whether it is possible to postulate a single path for the transition "elite to mass to universal."