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Higher Education in America by Derek Bok, ISBN-13: 978-0691159140



  • Format: PDF
  • Publisher: ‎ Princeton University Press (Aug. 25 2013)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • 496 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 0691159149
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0691159140

A sweeping assessment of the state of higher education today from former Harvard president Derek Bok.

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.


“This is an exceedingly ambitious book. In fact, I know of nothing remotely comparable to it in scope or scale. One of its many refreshing aspects is its unfailing common sense. Bok presents the most balanced account of American higher education that I know of, stating clearly the many things that are right about it, but also highlighting problems and challenges. He has an unerring eye for the right ‘big questions,’ and readers of all kinds will appreciate his focus on these questions.”―William G. Bowen, president emeritus of Princeton University

“Informative, provocative, and engaging, this is a very important book that should be of great interest not only to those working in higher education but to everyone else who is concerned about the future of America’s colleges and universities. Its value lies in Bok’s thorough analysis of some of the most urgent challenges facing higher education―and in his recommendations for actions to address them.”―James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan

“This book is like a very thorough checkup of a patient by an expert physician. Bok inspects nearly every major organ of the U.S. higher education system, provides a carefully balanced report on each, and concludes that the patient is in good overall health but showing signs of misuse and neglect in certain parts. The book includes exceptionally valuable observations about the system’s strengths and weaknesses―and about remedies for some of its problems.”―Steven G. Brint, vice provost of the University of California, Riverside

“This is a major contribution to the literature on American higher education. It provides unusually comprehensive coverage and addresses controversies in an exemplary manner, fairly representing different positions and relying on empirical research to reach conclusions. I think this book will have a broad appeal throughout higher education. I can envision most administrators having a copy on their bookshelves, a ready reference and guide for their own pronouncements on the state of higher education.”―Roger L. Geiger, Pennsylvania State University


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