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How Colleges Work: The Cybernetics of Academic Organization and Leadership Paperback – July 29, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-1555423544 ISBN-10: 155542354X

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How Colleges Work: The Cybernetics of Academic Organization and Leadership + Organizational Theory in Higher Education (Core Concepts in Higher Education) + American Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century: Social, Political, and Economic Challenges
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass (July 29, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155542354X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555423544
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the best theoretical and applied analyses of university academic organization and leadership in print. This book is significant because it is not only thoughtfully developed and based on careful reading of the extensive literature on leadership and governance, but it is also deliberately intAnded to enable the author to bridge the gap between theories of organization, on one hand, and practical application, on the other."

From the Back Cover

"One of the best theoretical and applied analyses of university academic organization and leadership in print. This book is significant because it is not only thoughtfully developed and based on careful reading of the extensive literature on leadership and governance, but it is also deliberately intended to enable the author to bridge the gap between theories of organization, on one hand, and practical application, on the other." —Journal of Higher Education

Customer Reviews

A good introduction to, as the title says, how colleges work.
William J. Carrozzella
This book is one of the most interesting books I have read. it is written persuasively and in a clear language.
Tilahun Gidey Gebremeskal
Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in working as an academic administrator!
Dr. Matt Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Joyce on September 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
A highly theoretical text; Birnbaum takes the reader through a well-planned out dissection of the common systems and "loops of interaction" in a college or university setting. He mainly focuses on the division of power between administrators and faculty, and gives frameworks for how these groups may interact with each other, or within their group. Birnbaum shows the reader 5 fictional samples of institutions of higher education: collegial institutions, bureaucratic institutions, political institutions, and anarchical institutions. In his final section of the text, Birnbaum gives his idea of the ideal institution: the cybernetic institution, which encompasses characteristics of the four other types. I was a little disappointed that Birnbaum did not manage to tie up all the loose ends or to present a solid recommendation about how to create positive change in an institution of higher education. His theories of open and closed systems, dual control, and tight vs. weak coupling, however, are very insightful and well thought-out. A good basic framework.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William J. Carrozzella on August 7, 2008
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Excellent overview of the various different college structures. Author worked hard to create analogies for how college systems were linked, but after getting into middle and later chapters the anlogies made some sense. A good introduction to, as the title says, how colleges work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J on October 5, 2011
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Although dry in many places, this book provides a nice overview of the administrative styles common on various campuses. It is descriptive rather than prescriptive, but outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each style of governance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James D. Patterson on June 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
The author provides a thorough discussion of the four basic organizational structures in higher education. What I found most helpful is that he also provides strategies to help academic leaders be efficient and successful in each of the organizational structures described.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tilahun Gidey Gebremeskal on March 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the most interesting books I have read. it is written persuasively and in a clear language. That it uses hypothetical cases also makes readers clearly see what is happening on the ground practically.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christina A. Brown on February 6, 2011
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I was assigned this book for a class in organizational theory for higher education. When I first saw the age of the book I was at first skeptical that it might not be applicable to the higher ed environment in 2011. I was wrong! Birnbaum's book was well written and I found that his ideas are just as applicable, and more importantly still useful, today. I highly recommend it as a starting point for understanding "how colleges work."
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Articulate and concise explanation of academia - much of which remains true despite several decades separating current colleges from the time in which Birnbaum wrote this work. Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in working as an academic administrator!
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