A former Dutch minister of Education (Jos van Kemenade) said that Higher Education may be seen as the mechanism through the elite reproduces itself (NB reproduces itself – not clones itself, so there is gradual evolution).
In his time, we still had elite HE. Now with mass higher education and 50% of the age group participating, this definition may need reformulation. Globalisation has brought to many of our societies a (growing) divide between the perceived winners and losers of globalisation. Those who see themselves as losers – or at least not benefitting from – globalisation tend to have little faith in over political system and are wont to try out ‘outspoke outsiders’ in the ballot box – however alternative their facts. University communities don´t realise enough that those perceived losers have an equal lack of faith in their precious universities. So maybe a modern version of Van Kemenade´s provocative definition would be that HE is the mechanism through which the globalisation beneficiaries reproduce their section of society. Such reproduction without the variety of influx from and effective communication with all of society may lead – and arguably is leading – to dangerous inbreeding.