Treadgold, W. (2018). The university we need: Reforming American higher education. Encounter Books. (1-184), $15.90 for hardcover, ISBN 9781594039898.

Colleges and universities have changed over time since the creation of the first institution. Appropriately, institutional programming has expanded, more departments have been created, and tuition continues to rise. “American college degrees have never cost more and never meant less” (pg. 17). American higher education is continuing to become more and more expensive for students, but the quality of education seems to be deficient. Treadgold continues the conversation of reforming institutions, and provides his input on how America can achieve the New University in The University We Need. 

The University We Need argues that institutions spend too much of their budget on administration, hire low quality professors, minimizes free speech, and produces low quality research. The results continue to be a cycle of a poorly run institution that graduates students that are mediocre (at best). Additionally, institutional environments favor the leftist view, an ideology that has been made up as time went along. Expressions such as socialism, inclusivity, postmodernism, progressivism ,diversity, and social justice are all intertwined and tied closely to Marxist concepts. However, Treadgold defines leftism as “a term that implies a general attitude rather than a clearly formulated doctrine support by arguments” (pg. 44). He argues leftism “demonizes men, whites, conservatives, and religious believers as oppressors” (pg. 53). He believes institutions must combat leftism ideologies, and move towards an ideology that incorporates reasoned arguments which he defines as the New University.

The New University would start from the ground up. However, does the proposed New University really start from the ground up? Funding would be donated by individuals that support this change in higher education and this type of educational experience. The New University would implement a board of trustees that would hire deans/chairmen (for all institutions), who would then hire faculty. Administration costs would be kept below 10 percent of the budget, and there would be no international campus, or online courses offered at the New University. The New University would have a very selective student enrollment. All applications would be reviewed blindly. Meaning, all identifiers would be removed and only academic material would be considered. At the federal legislation level, Treadgold proposes to create two boards: a National Dissertation Review Board – to evaluate new doctoral dissertations, and a National Academic Honesty Board – to judge claims of plagiarism or fraud in dissertations and academic publications. These National Boards would be the only boards to hold these responsibilities for all institutions. The idea behind these Boards would be to only graduate high quality doctoral students that produce meaningful research. If high standards are placed on dissertations, then this would produce only superior scholars that are able to teach and conduct research to future students. If institutions only graduated high achieving dissertations and students, the results would be only high quality professors to teach and conduct research in the New University. This, in turn, would trickle down to the rest of the student population.

Although it is clear that higher education needs some improvement, Treadgold’s ideas of a New University should be questioned. First, is accessibility is limited to those of elite status? If only the best of the best are enrolled in institutions, would this completely eliminates the accessibility of higher education? Education has always been a pathway to higher achievements, and a gateway to the American dream. Having the rich, feed the rich, keeps higher education out of grasp for those that do not have the same opportunities or privileges as others. Second, college is a difficult environment to navigate in. Many students are exposed to ideas and identities they may have never considered themselves. To ease the transition to college, and to have the most successful journey to completion, the whole student needs to be considered. Offices such as the Academic Advising Center, Counseling Center, LGBTQ, TRIO, and many more create space where students can feel part of a community. A student’s poor academics can be more than just not attending classes or not completing assignments. Therefore, limiting administrative costs to less than 10 percent of budget would mean cutting many resources for students. Lastly, is there more that needs to be included or considered? Implementing legislative boards and changing the application process will not solve higher education. While all of  the author’s ideas focuses on the graduate level, what does this mean for the undergraduate population and how would it affect the students?   

As an administrator and doctoral student myself, I continuously ask myself, “ Is this a New University that America needs?” Those who would benefit from reading this book would be anyone working, or even interested, in the field of higher education. 


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