Tag Archives: engagement

Enter the “BA Lite”: a review of Lowering Higher Education

Lowering Lowering Higher Education book jacketHigher Education: The rise of corporate universities and the fall of liberal education

By James E. Coté and Anton Allahar

Among the books reviewed at this year’s Open Book Session as part of the annual conference of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services were several that painted a rather grim picture of North American higher education. Academically Adrift – making waves in both the U.S. and Canada – has been described as a “damning indictment.”  DIY U argues that the crisis in American higher ed will lead young people to use the ample resources of the web to fill in the gaps left by institutions that simply can’t deliver the experience students expect.

Lowering Higher Education provides the Canadian variation on this ubiquitous theme of declining quality. Authors Coté and Allahar, professors at the University of Western Ontario, gained some notoriety a few years back with their critique of the university system: Ivory Tower Blues. (See CACUSS Reads review.)  Though they had a strong thesis based on both data and teaching experience with their original work, it stank of cynicism.  In Lowering Higher Education, they have not only strengthened their arguments, but they come across as far more concerned than caustic, constructive than cranky. Continue reading

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Nerds unite: how the forces of anti-intellectualism are ruining the university

More Money than Brains: Why schools suck, college is crap & idiots think they’re right
By Laura Penny

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re a nerd. Or at least have nerd-like tendencies. You work in higher education and you like reading books. Or at least reading other people’s pithy summaries of books so you can sound well-read.

And chances are you’ve experienced moments of doubt – subtle self-deprecating voices that ask you whether what you do really has any value? If you advise, teach or coach students in a university setting, you work in the service of intellectual advancement, which, these days, is pitted against the powerful force of pragmatism, and losing. Continue reading


What the student affairs professional learned about marketing

Age of engage cover

Perhaps I have succumbed to the dark side. At a recent trip to the local bookstore, I found myself lured toward the business section, that mysterious zone beyond the computer manuals. I ventured there thinking I might find something practical about using new media – aka Web 2.0, aka Social Media, aka the LiveWeb – to engage students in the life of the University. (Yes, I am aware of the irony of going to a bookstore to learn about the internet.) What I found was Denise Shiffman’s The Age of Engage: Reinventing Marketing for Today’s Connected, Collaborative, and Hyperinteractive Culture, a book that I have found immensely useful in rethinking how we communicate with students. Continue reading

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2 Books about student experiences and expectations

Promoting Reasonable Expectations

Aligning Student and Institutional Views of the College Experience

By Miller, T., Bender, B., Schuh, J., et al.

Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA 2005

– reviewed by David Newman, University of Alberta

In higher education, a growing focus on the quality of the student experience is clearly evident in our institutions. It has been built more strongly into our institutional vision statements in recent years and is often used for purposes of recruitment, alumni support, and community support. However, what happens when the promises contained in such vision statements cannot be realized? How can we determine what types of promises are meaningful to our students? How do institutions balance the potentially contradictory needs that exist between students, external communities, and the institutions themselves? Continue reading

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Two engaging critiques of the state of higher education

These two books were reviewed last year (CACUSS 2007) but, I think, warrant re-posting here.

Ivory Tower Blues
A university system in crisis
By James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar
University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Buffalo, London: 2007

Our Underachieving Colleges
A candid look at how much students learn and why they should be learning more
By Derek Bok
Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ: 2006

– reviewed by Deanne Fisher, University of Toronto

These books — one Canadian, one American — offer student affairs practitioners a big picture view of what’s happening in undergraduate education broadly.

James Côté and Anton Allahar, two faculty members in the Department of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario, have been garnering a fair amount of attention for their scathing critique of Canada’s university system. Ivory Tower Blues is based largely on the authors’ 25-plus years (each) of teaching experience during which they say they have witnessed “hopes shattered with increasing frequency, in the daily grind of the university system and in the harsh reality of the job market afterwards.” Continue reading

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