Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities

Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities

Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities

Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities

Synopsis

There is a growing sense of crisis and confusion about the purpose and sustainability of higher education in the United States. In the midst of this turmoil, students are frequently referred to as customers and faculty as employees, educational outcomes are increasingly measured in terms of hiring and salary metrics for graduates, and programs are assessed as profit and loss centers. Despite efforts to integrate business-oriented thinking and implement new forms of accountability in colleges and universities, Americans from all backgrounds are losing confidence in the nation's institutions of higher learning, and these institutions must increasingly confront what has proven to be an unsustainable business model. In Our Higher Calling, Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein draw on interviews with higher education thought leaders and their own experience, inside and outside the academy, to address these problems head on, articulating the challenges facing higher education and describing in pragmatic terms what can and cannot change--and what should and should not change. They argue that those with a stake in higher education must first understand a fundamental compact that has long been at the heart of the American system: a partnership wherein colleges and universities support the development of an educated and skilled citizenry and create new knowledge in exchange for stable public investment and a strong degree of autonomy to pursue research without undue external pressure. By outlining ways to restore this partnership, Thorp and Goldstein endeavor to start a conversation that paves the way for a solution to one of the country's most pressing problems.

Excerpt

When we published our book Engines of Innovation, the two of us asserted that universities could have a greater impact on the world’s biggest problems by embracing an entrepreneurial mindset. the favorable response both to the book and to the idea that an entrepreneurial mindset has a place within the university was both gratifying and surprising. Although the interest in entrepreneurship among colleges and universities was already sprouting as we were writing our book, by the time it was published, most universities were actually launching some sort of innovation initiative. As we write this introduction, it is hard to find a college or university in this country or abroad that has not enthusiastically embraced the ideas of innovation and entrepreneurship as part of its curriculum and its culture. This interest in making entrepreneurship part of higher education emerged largely in response to the need for new initiatives in an uncertain economy and for universities to prove their relevance in a time of nationwide upheaval.

Our book generated another surprise. Many readers assumed that when we argued that universities could benefit from entrepreneurial thinking, we were suggesting that the university itself should be run like a business. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do believe that many aspects of the university’s operations can benefit from the ideas and ways of thinking developed in the business world. We also believe that commercialization of university ideas and inventions can best be done in partnership with the private sector. But we view these . . .

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