Published September 22, 2022
A presentation on COVID-19-related inequalities in higher education kicked off the Graduate School of Education’s new Johnstone Distinguished Lecture Series in Comparative Education Policy.
The series was established through the support of D. Bruce Johnstone, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Higher and Comparative Education at UB, and his wife, Gail E. Johnstone. They were both in attendance at the lecture, held Sept. 13 in the Center for the Arts.
Richard Arum, professor of education at the University of California, Irvine, gave the inaugural lecture. His presentation, “Inequality in Higher Education: International Comparisons, Historical Trends and Student Educational Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” provided an overview of features of and perspectives on access, cost and outcomes in higher education institutions in the U.S. and around the world.
In his lecture, Arum discussed the impact of pandemic responses on student inequality and educational experiences during the pandemic and the new behaviors and institutional practices that might provide opportunities to improve access and equity in the future.
Arum’s research indicates that the pandemic potentially increased inequality, particularly in broad-access institutions serving low-income students. On the other hand, students in more selective institutions fared better throughout the pandemic. As such, deploying hybrid enrollment models may allow colleges and universities to reduce cost, expand access and enhance equity.
“COVID-19 opened up the door with remote instruction with technology to think about the possibility for U.S. higher education to be transformed in positive ways,” he said.
As the lecture came to a close, Arum asked the audience: “Can we use this new technology to transform higher education to increase access, lower costs and improve student outcomes?”
A scholar of international comparative higher education finance, governance and policy formation, Johnstone has held several posts throughout his career, including vice president for administration at the University of Pennsylvania, president of SUNY Buffalo State and SUNY chancellor.
“We deeply appreciate the Johnstones’ support for this lecture, which not only creates a shared foundation of knowledge and experience, but also sparks innovative ideas and practices by presenting different perspectives to explore,” President Satish Tripathi said during opening remarks at the lecture.
Janina Brutt-Griffler, professor and associate dean of international education and language programs director at GSE, collaborated with Johnstone to bring his vision for the lecture series to life.
“Bruce Johnstone’s gift to establish the lecture series comes out of his remarkable scholarly understanding of what we can do in higher education and his unwavering commitment to his colleagues’ and students’ ability to continue his legacy,” Brutt-Griffler said. “It is generous and visionary to our work in GSE. I personally am grateful for ensuring this continuity.”
A belief in the importance of access to excellent education inspired the Johnstones to create and support the lecture series.
“Nothing, save perhaps democracy and the rule of law, is more important to a functioning society than quality education available to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or social class,” D. Bruce Johnstone said.
“The University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education plays a special role in the provision of advanced training of teachers, school and college administrators, and in research that expands our understanding of how teachers, professors and administrators achieve this mission in states and localities that are too often beset with intolerance, inequality and insufficient resources.”