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The Uses of the University (Godkin Lectures on the Essentials of Free Government & the Duties of the Citizen) (The Godkin Lectures on the Essentials of Free Government & the Duties of the Citizen) Paperback – 1 May 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 5th Revised edition edition (1 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674005325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674005327
  • Product Dimensions: 20.7 x 13.7 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,515,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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The Uses of the University has been the single most influential book on the American research university. Kerr, who was president of the University of California, Berkeley, during the tumult of the Free Speech Movement, gave three lectures at Harvard in 1963 defining the role of the emerging "multiversity." New layers were added to the text in 1972, 1982, and again in 1994; all are included in this edition. -- John Wilson Books and Culture: A Christian Review

About the Author

Clark Kerr was President Emeritus and former Chancellor and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the former Chair of the Carnegie Commission (and later Council) on Higher Education, and the former Chair and Director of the National Commission on Strengthening Presidential Leadership under the auspices of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Olle Edqvist on 30 July 2010
Format: Paperback
The book is based on a series of lectures and papers by Clark Kerr, a former president and chancellor of University of California, Berkeley. To this has been added comments and thoughts with a perspective of over 35 years of rapid change of the American university. Kerr had a deep and wide knowledge about the US leading universities in all their variety and their changes over the post-war period. In spite of the book being written over such a long period there are a very clear themes running through the book; the main one the complexity and diversity of the American research university. He calls them "multiversities".

As the American research system has been so extremely successful both in furthering basic research, training a great number of new scholars, researchers, engineers and teachers, and getting useful things out of the research, it has also been a model for many European university systems and for the rapidly growing university systems in China and other parts of Asia. This book is therefore of interest not only for Americans but for all who are working in and with universities and wonder where they are heading. It is a very realistic picture Kerr is giving of the modern big research university, hardly governable, uncomfortable in its diversity and all its contradictions. But this is the important message: there are no easy ways to achieve excellence in the modern university system.

Kerrs book is, perhaps complemented by Places of Inquiry: Research and Advanced Education in Modern Universities, the starting point for anyone who wants to understand the present modern western university in its great variety.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Fifth Edition, Still the Best in Class 18 Jun. 2003
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Of the three books read and reviewed on the role of the university within a nation, this is the best, with Derek Bok's volume on universities in the marketplace being the runner up.
With a new preface written in 2001, and a pattern over the course of five editions of each time updating, correcting, and commenting on differences between past predictions and actual outcomes, this book appears to be the best available on this topic.
The author is alarmed by the possibilities that universities, which were nurtured by post-World War II federal funding and state funding that is now vanishing, could begin to fail in almost catastrophic terms. Between aging and unrepentent faculty, the vanishing of liberal arts (or even quality education) for undergraduates, and the prostitution of graduate education to commercial purposes, there does appear to be a crisis.
After noting that America appears to spend more on prisons than on universities, the author makes several recommendations, all of which appear sensible. They include a new emphasis on university support to primary and secondary education, a rationalization of information technology within communities to better link businesses with members of the university family, the exploration of distance learning alternatives (as much to reach the drop-outs inexpensively as for any other reason), and the resurrection of mid-career education or continuing education as a mainstream expectation for personal as well as business advancement.
The author, who clearly has a very strong ethical perspective, quotes Alfred North Whitehead, who concluded that any society that "does not value trained intelligence is doomed" and adds his own view, that "the university that does not fully dedicate itself above all else to the continuing advancement of trained intelligence is also doomed."
This is a really fine book that should be in the library of anyone seeking to understand "national intelligence" as Thomas Jefferson understood it when he said "A Nation's best defense is an educated citizenry."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Giant of Higher Education on the Past and Future of Universities 25 Aug. 2012
By Martha E. Pollack - Published on
Format: Paperback
In 1963, Clark Kerr, the President of the UC system gave the Godkin Lectures at Harvard. In them, he laid out his views of the current state of higher education in the United States, expressing alarm at changes he saw unfolding, including a loss of coherence that led to what he terms the "multiversity", a decline in the attention paid to undergraduate education, and the strong, and in his view not entirely positive, influence of federal research funding. "The Uses of the University" includes his 1963 lectures, along with related essays that he wrote in subsequent decades: one in 1972, one in 1982, three in 1995, and the last in 2001.

Kerr's essays do not make for an easy read: the book is often redundant and overly self-reflective, especially in the latter chapters in which he repeatedly ponders whether he was right in giving the lectures initially and publicly criticizing an institution in which he was a leading public figure. Moreover, some of the views he expresses are jarring and disturbing, notably his dismissal of the value of women's and minority studies in the 60s and 70s. But Kerr was undoubtedly a giant in higher education, whose authorship of the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education changed the nation, and his insights into the historical forces shaping universities are still worth reading. In fact, what is undoubtedly most striking about his book is the extent to which many of the challenges he identifies in 1963 are the very same ones facing universities in the United States today.

What follows are some quotations from Kerr's book, with questions or thoughts that they prompt from the perspective of 2012.

1. On The Impact of Technology on Universities:

[1963] p. 86 "Television makes it possible for extension to reach into literally every home; the boundaries of the university are stretched to embrace all of society. The student becomes alumnus and the alumnus continues as student; the graduate enters the outside world and the public enters the classroom and laboratory."

[1982] p. 115 "About eighty-five institutions in the Western world established by 1520 still exist in recognizable forms, with similar functions and with unbroken histories, including the Catholic church, the Parliments of the Isle of Man, of Iceland, and of Great Britain, several Swiss cantons, and seventy universities. Kings that rule, feudal lords with vassals, and guilds with monopolies all gone. These seventy universities, however, are still in the same locations with some of the same buildings, with professors an students doing much the same things, and with governance carried on in much the same way. . . How can this be so? Universities still turn out essentially the same products--members of the more ancient professions of theology, teaching, medicine and the law, and scholarship. The universities have not been subject to any major technological change as has industry and agriculture and transportation. Faculty members continue to operate as individual craftsmen."

Comment: Is the current flurry of excitement about online education parallel to what was thought about the television in 1963, or are we really at point at which technology will cause an essential change in universities?

2. On Public Support:

[1963] p. 95 ". . . Alfred North Whitehead's prophetic words in 1916 on the place on intellect: `In the conditions of modern life, the rule is absolute: the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed. Not all your heroism, not all your social charm, not all your wit, not all your victories on land or sea, can move back the finger of fate. Today we maintain ourselves. Tomorrow science will have moved forward yet one more step, and there will be no appeal from the judgment which will be pronounced on the uneducated."

[1995] p. 189 "Many state universities, in more recent times, have concentrated mostly on the cultivation of governors and legislators, rather than on the public as a whole. This is no longer enough."

2012 Study by the Pew Research Center: "Many Americans say a college education is not worth the cost. In fact, 57% say that college students receive only a fair (42%) or poor (15%) return for the money that they and their families spend on their education."

Comment: Whitehead's clumsy wording aside, can universities do a better job than they do today of convincing the public of the value of higher education?

3. On Faculty

[1963] p. 71 "The university, as an institution, needs to create an environment that gives to it faculty members:
* A sense of stability--they should not fear constant change that distracts them from their work;
* A sense of security--they should not need to worry about the attacks against them from outside the gate;
* A sense of continuity--they should not be concerned that their work and the structure of their lives will be greatly disrupted;
* A sense of equity--they should not be suspicious that others are being treated better than they are."

Comment: This still seems accurate, 50 years later. But how can universities continue to create this environment in the face of current pressures to change, change, change?

4. On Undergraduate Education:

[1963] p.89 "One [key problem to address] is the improvement of undergraduate instruction in the university. It will require the solution of many sub-problems: how to give adequate recognition to the teaching skill as well as the research performance of the faculty; how to create a curriculum that serves the needs of the student as well as the research interests of the teacher; how to prepare the generalist as well as the specialist in an age of specialization looking for better generalizations; how to treat the individual student as a unique human being in the mass student body; how to make the university seem smaller even as it grows larger; how to establish a range of contact between faculty and students broader than the one-way route across the lecturn or through the television screen; how to raise educational policy again to the forefront of faculty concerns. "

Comment: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

5. On Leading Change:

[1982] p. 128 "In American higher education, changes influenced by the market are accepted in a way that reforms originating in concerns for educational policy are not."

[1982] p. 136 "Most successful new policies in higher education have come from the top. We need to reverse the denigration of leadership. Leadership does matter."

[1995] p. 184 "[Universities need leadership] "who will be engaged in protecting the academic core against the periphery and the excellent versus the mediocre, in encouraging better use of high schools and extension programs and the new technology to replace on-campus classroom instruction at the lower levels of competency, in making selective academic decisions on merit rather than across-the-board political adjustments, in maintains libraries and physical facilities from slow decay, in looking at long-term academic welfare rather than year-to-year political survival. In the course of this series of developments, and one way or another, some of the `multi' will be taken out of the `multiversity', which in the age of affluence too often took on too many peripheral activities of low quality."

Comment: (1) Is it the market that drives change (outside-in), or leadership (top-down), or the faculty and students (bottom-up)? (2) Have universities in fact taken on "too many peripheral activities of low quality"?

6. And One More Topic . . .

[1982] p. 138 [Amongst the lessons we've learned between 1960 and 1980 are]

* How protected the university is, surrounded by so many other types of institutions of higher education that shield it from overwhelming numbers of students and from educational duties not compatible with its central functions.

* How important are the boards of trustees of American universities to their autonomy and to their dynamics, and how important it is that these boards be composed of individuals devoted to the welfare of their institutions, well informed about their affairs, highly sensitive to the special nature and spirit of academic institutions, and capable of good long-term judgment, even in the midst of severe current pressures.

* How strong is the underlying public support for higher education; but how strong are the temporary public reactions to departures from what is expected of higher education in its conduct.

* How steady are the states in their support of higher education. Average real state expenditures per full-time student in public institutions remained essentially the same from 1968 to 1977, despite all that was happening in the United States and in higher education. And how unsteady is federal support by purpose, as it shifts from one emphasis to another, and in amount.

* How the troubles ahead, particularly demographic depression and budget restrictions, will not greatly affect the research universities, much as they may impinge on other segments of higher education."

Comment: An interesting list (extracted from a longer list in the book); it's worth thinking about which are still true today.
0 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Never really read it... 29 Oct. 2010
By gradschoolgirl - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think I read a chapter of it for my grad school seminar. I was bored and never really picked up the rest.
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