Higher Education in America is a landmark work - a comprehensive and authoritative analysis of the current condition of our colleges and universities from former Harvard president Derek Bok, one of the nation's most-respected education experts. Sweepingly ambitious in scope, this is a deeply informed and balanced assessment of the many strengths as well as the weaknesses of American higher education today. At a time when colleges and universities have never been more important to the lives and opportunities of students or to the progress and prosperity of the nation, Bok provides a thorough examination of the entire system, public and private, from community colleges and small liberal arts colleges to great universities with their research programs and their medical, law, and business schools. Drawing on the most reliable studies and data, he determines which criticisms of higher education are unfounded or exaggerated, which are issues of genuine concern, and what can be done to improve matters.
Some of the subjects considered are long-standing, such as debates over the undergraduate curriculum and concerns over rising college costs. Others are more recent, such as the rise of for-profit institutions and massive open online courses (MOOCs). Additional topics include the quality of undergraduate education, the stagnating levels of college graduation, the problems of university governance, the strengths and weaknesses of graduate and professional education, the environment for research, and the benefits and drawbacks of the pervasive competition among American colleges and universities.
Offering a rare survey and evaluation of American higher education as a whole, this book provides a solid basis for a fresh public discussion about what the system is doing right, what it needs to do better, and how the next quarter century could be made a period of progress rather than decline.
©2013 Princeton University Press (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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"Long but not deep"
This book gives a nice overview of the US higher education system. For people in the system, these background discussions take up a lot of time on obvious things. But for people who know little about the system, they may be useful.
There are a few nice nuggets about possible university reforms. But, on the whole, the book is shallowest when it talks about potential innovations like those offered by technology. The book tends to settle for vague generalities about reaching out to new constituencies and finding better ways to measure learning. There are better resources for those interested in learning about revolutionary ideas in education.
Finally, and understandably, this book places great emphasis on the roles of university presidents and other administrative leaders. In 35 years as a professor, I have never seen a fundamental innovation in education or research emanate from the president's office. Presidents can support initiatives, but all of the really important ideas come from the faculty. That said, almost all of the resistance to change also comes from the faculty. So change in higher education will be the result of a delicate dance within the faculty. I don't think a book by a former university president can illuminate this aspect of university life.
Bottom line - I found this to be a worthwhile read, but not an exceptional one and not one worthy of the length of the book.
"Cautious, well-presented overview"
A measured analysis of key issues shaping higher education.
Robotic, but clear.
An important addition to the library of anyone that needs to understand higher education in North America.
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