Toward a More Perfect University

Toward A More Perfect UniversityEducation has been disrupted dramatically by culture, technology and economics. The only certainty about the universities of the future is that they will not thrive if left unchanged. Jonathan Cole, John Mitchell Mason Professor at Columbia University, and its former provost, is one of the country’s leading academic researchers into higher education. A fierce champion of the merits and benefits of the great American research university, Cole identifies the potential fault-lines that threaten the future of universities and the strategic changes that successful colleges will have to make in order to preserve their intellectual relevance, economic viability and social mission.

Using his deep knowledge of the history and traditions that underpin US higher education, Cole separates the essential from the fashionable. Higher education is a vital national resource, and an economic proving ground. It is the bedrock of American business and society and it must adapt in order to remain globally competitive and intellectually valuable. The culture of the great American universities reflects the moral and social foundations of the republic itself: they are a litmus test of values and philosophies, and their future affects everyone. The book is available on Amazon and in bookstores across the country.

Jonathan Cole takes on many of the problems faced by the modern university, including the role of athletics, the challenges of affordability and access, the rise and potential of MOOCs, and the deteriorating relationship between government and academia. He offers concrete and practicable suggestions to addressing these problems. He even acknowledges the difficulty of making structural changes in academia and suggests how such changes might be more easily accommodated. Cole has written a masterful assessment of where our universities have come from, where they are now, and how they must change to ensure they remain world leaders in education and research.

John L. Hennessy  president, Stanford University

Jonathan Cole knows his stuff, and it is once again on display in this new book. Drawing on deep expertise and experience he writes cogently and candidly about that complex gem of American culture, the research university. Yes, he argues, American research universities are clearly the best in the world, but they can and should be even better. On a wide range of subjects from admissions and student debt to the value and cost of high-powered scientific research, he offers ideas for reform and improvement, some of them controversial, all of them smart. This is a book by an insider that insiders and outsiders alike need to read.

Hunter R. Rawling III  president, Association of American Universities, president emeritus, Cornell University

Jonathan Cole’s engaging book—filled with new ideas—proposes significant structural and other reforms that universities should consider if they are to enhance their stature as major contributors to our innovative and open society.

George Soros

I can think of no one better than Jonathan [R.] Cole to lead the critical discussion of what the American university ought to look like as the preeminent seat of scholarly achievements and scientific discoveries.

Professor Brian Greene

Jonathan Cole’s new work is a magnificent description of the history, evolution, and rise to global preeminence of America’s research universities. With a mastery reflecting a deep understanding of the academic world, Jonathan unflinchingly confronts the challenges facing these institutions in an increasingly skeptical environment. He offers bold, sometimes provocative, innovative, and concrete proposals for insuring academic leadership for the United States. This is a must-read for those who care about our collective future.

Mary Sue Coleman  president emerita, University of Michigan, and president elect, Association of American Universities

Jonathan Cole brings to bear on the problem of higher education’s future viability his years of experience as an education theorist and university leader. He calls for communities and institutions to address the roadblocks we all see in higher education—access and rising costs among them—and to nurture the will to invest in and fortify the path of learning from pre-school to graduate school. Cole’s prescription is bold and imaginative and will compel the best minds to undertake the challenge he poses.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

In his new book, Toward a More Perfect University, Cole, a paragon of academic excellence and one of the preeminent writers and thinkers concerned with the strength and quality of American higher education, explores how today’s universities can not only thrive but excel, while also expanding their ability to educate an increasingly diverse nation of men and women whose aspirations and abilities continue to be the engine of American progress. Toward a More Perfect University is an excellent addition to the study of the future of higher education in the United States.

Vartan Gregorian  president, Carnegie Corporation of New York

In Toward a More Perfect University, Jonathan Cole describes challenges to the eminence of American universities, both present and future. In a lively and engaging manner, building on his rich experience and deeply analytic perspective, he discusses the circumstances that created the country’s great research universities and delineates proposals for change, presenting choices institutions of higher education must confront to continue to thrive as centers of learning, research, and innovation. His book should be of great interest not only to educators but to parents, civic leaders, and anyone with a stake in American higher education.

Robert J. Zimmer  president, University of Chicago


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