Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Philanthropy and the sustaining of global elite university domination

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Charles Harvey, Alison Gibson, Professor Frank Mueller



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


How is it that global elite universities operating in a hyper-competitive world replete with aspirational challengers maintain positions of dominance within the field of higher education decade after decade? Taking a Bourdieusian approach, we argue that the highest-ranking universities strategically leverage pronounced philanthropic advantages to differentiate themselves from would-be challengers. Philanthropy is a critical differentiator because it enables elite universities to sustain privileges that attract highly qualified students, faculty, and powerful supporters, who in turn boost their competitive positions through acquisition of valuable cultural, social, and symbolic resources. Elite universities co-create with stakeholders strong bonds of identification, honing the disposition to give back philanthropically and complete the socially reproductive cycle of elite domination. At a time of increasing concern about social inequalities, our contribution is to uncover how higher education philanthropy – an essentially conservative force – operates to entrench privilege and magnify social differences while purporting to do the opposite.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Harvey C, Gibson A, Maclean M, Mueller F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organization

Year: 2024

Volume: 31

Issue: 3

Pages: 433-457

Print publication date: 01/04/2024

Online publication date: 04/08/2022

Acceptance date: 25/06/2022

Date deposited: 28/06/2022

ISSN (print): 1350-5084

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7323

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/13505084221115842


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric