A New Generation: Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Status, Immigration and the Undergraduate Experience at the University of California


Some fifty years ago, researchers based at Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education launched a series of innovative  studies  on  the  character  and  disposition  of  undergraduate  students  in  America’s  colleges  and universities.  It  was  part  of  a  wave  of  interest  in the  student  experience  and  views,  bolstered  by  the surge  in university  enrollment  and  a  national  commitment  to  mass  higher  education.  Paul  Heist,  T.R.  McConnell,  Martin Trow, and Burton Clark, all affiliates of the Center, pioneered studies on student culture, and incorporated surveys as one method of analysis.  Between  1958  and  1966,  Trow  and  Clark,  for  example,  teamed  up  to  create  an  influential  typology  of  student subcultures and a number of studies that still stand as a landmark contribution to the understanding of student life. In part based on survey research at Berkeley, Clark and Trow depicted student involvement as a product of two kinds of orientation: identification with the institution and its social life, and engagement with the intellectual and scholarly life of the university.  As a result, they identified four distinctive student subcultures: (a) Collegiate, (b) Vocational, (c) Academic, and (d) Nonconformist. Those with Collegiate and Vocational predilections had relatively low academic engagement, while students in the Academic group scored high on both dimensions. Although ranking low in institutional identification, the nonconformists were engaged in intellectual matters and issues related to art, literature, and politics.1The student protest movements, influenced by the rise of the civil rights movement and then opposition to the war in Vietnam, intensified interest in student subcultures and examination of student experiences.  These became part of an  effort  to  understand  a  radically  new  youth  culture  and  to  seek  institutional  improvement  through  greater understanding of student perceptions and needs.

Richard Flacks
Steven Brint
Steve Chatman
Publication date: 
September 1, 2007
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
Brint, S., Douglass, J. A, Flacks, R., Thomson, G., & Chatman, S. (2007). A New Generation: Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Status, Immigration and the Undergraduate Experience at the University of California. UC Berkeley: Center for Studies in Higher Education.