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Higher education lacks an intellectually coherent sociology; varied research on colleges and universities is dispersed widely throughout the discipline. This review initiates a critical integration of this scholarship. We argue that sociologists have conceived of higher education systems as sieves for sorting and stratifying populations, incubators for the development of competent social actors, temples for the legitimation of official knowledge, and hubs connecting multiple institutional domains. Bringing these lines of scholarship together facilitates new theoretical insights and research questions.