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Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674016347
ISBN-10: 0674016343
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The idea of the college campus as a refuge for intellectual pursuits has been all but swept away as colleges and universities succumb to highly competitive market pressures, with liberal arts suffering especially as interest focuses on the "practical arts." Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, examines how these trends have led to a consumeristic approach to the marketing of higher education. Students, once thought of as minds to be molded, are now "customers," a school's reputation is its "brand," each department a "revenue center." Disturbing as this trend may be, its effects have been widely varied. Kirp examines about a dozen schools and the ways they position themselves to attract the highest quality "customers." There was a staff revolt when a marketing strategist was brought in to the highly intellectual University of Chicago, yet several years later a budget crisis was averted as both enrollment and students' qualifications increased significantly. An illuminating view of both good and bad results in a market-driven educational system. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


The monastery is colliding with the market. American colleges and universities are in a fiercely competitive race for dollars and prestige. The result may have less to do with academic excellence than with clever branding and salesmanship. David Kirp offers a compelling account of what's happening to higher education, and what it means for the future. (Robert B. Reich, University Professor, Brandeis University, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor)

Can universities keep their purpose, independence, and public trust when forced to prove themselves cost-effective? In this shrewd and readable book, David Kirp explores what happens when the pursuit of truth becomes entwined with the pursuit of money. Kirp finds bright spots in unexpected places--for instance, the emerging for-profit higher education sector--and he describes how some traditional institutions balance their financial needs with their academic missions. Full of good stories and swift character sketches, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line is engrossing for anyone who cares about higher education. (Laura D'Andrea Tyson, former Chair, Council of Economic Advisers)

David Kirp wryly observes that "maintaining communities of scholars is not a concern of the market." His account of the state of higher education today makes it appallingly clear that the conditions necessary for the flourishing of both scholarship and community are disappearing before our eyes. One would like to think of this as a wake-up call, but the hour may already be too late. (Stanley Fish, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the University of Illinois at Chicago)

This is, quite simply, the most deeply informed and best written recent book on the dilemma of undergraduate education in the United States. David Kirp is almost alone in stressing what relentless commercialization of higher education does to undergraduates. At the same time, he identifies places where administrators and faculty have managed to make the market work for, not against, real education. If only college and university presidents could be made to read this book! (Stanley N. Katz, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University)

Once a generation a book brilliantly gives meaning to seemingly disorderly trends in higher education. David Kirp's Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line is that book for our time [the early 21st century?]. With passion and eloquence, Kirp describes the decline of higher education as a public good, the loss of university governing authority to constituent groups and external funding sources, the two-edged sword of collaboration with the private sector, and the rise of business values in the academy. This is a must read for all who care about the future of our universities. (Mark G. Yudof, Chancellor, The University of Texas System)

David Kirp not only has a clear theoretical grasp of the economic forces that have been transforming American universities, he can write about them without putting the reader to sleep, in lively, richly detailed case studies. This is a rare book. (Robert H. Frank, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University)

David Kirp wanders America's campuses, and he wonders--are markets, management and technology supplanting vision, values and truth? With a large dose of nostalgia and a penchant for academic personalities, he ponders the struggles and synergies of Ivy and Internet, of industry and independence. Wandering and wondering with him, readers will feel the speed of change in contemporary higher education. (Charles M. Vest, President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

An illuminating view of both good and bad results in a market-driven educational system. (David Siegfried Booklist 2003-11-15)

Kirp has an eye for telling examples, and he captures the turmoil and transformation in higher education in readable style. (Karen W. Arenson New York Times 2003-11-09)

Mr. Kirp is both quite fair and a good reporter; he has a keen eye for the important ways in which bean-counting has transformed universities, making them financially responsible and also more concerned about developing lucrative specialties than preserving the liberal arts and humanities. Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line is one of the best education books of the year, and anyone interested in higher education will find it to be superior. (Martin Morse Wooster Washington Times 2003-12-14)

There is a place for the market in higher education, Kirp believes, but only if institutions keep the market in its place...Kirp's bottom line is that the bargains universities make in pursuit of money are, inevitably, Faustian. They imperil academic freedom, the commitment to sharing knowledge, the privileging of need and merit rather than the ability to pay, and the conviction that the student/consumer is not always right. (Glenn C. Altschuler Philadelphia Inquirer 2003-12-28)

David Kirp's fine new book, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line, lays out dozens of ways in which the ivory tower has leaned under the gravitational influence of economic pressures and the market. (Carlos Alcalá Sacramento Bee 2004-02-29)

The real subject of Kirp's well-researched and amply footnoted book turns out to be more than this volume's subtitle, 'the marketing of higher education.' It is, in fact, the American soul. Where will our nation be if instead of colleges transforming the brightest young people as they come of age, they focus instead on serving their paying customers and chasing the tastes they should be shaping? Where will we be without institutions that value truth more than money and intellectual creativity more than creative accounting? ...Kirp says plainly that the heart of the university is the common good. The more we can all reflect upon that common good--not our pocketbooks or retirement funds, but what is good for the general mass of men and women--the better the world of the American university will be, and the better the nation will be as well. (Peter S. Temes San Francisco Chronicle 2003-12-28)

David Kirp's excellent book Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line provides a remarkable window into the financial challenges of higher education and the crosscurrents that drive institutional decision-making...Kirp explores the continuing battle for the soul of the university: the role of the marketplace in shaping higher education, the tension between revenue generation and the historic mission of the university to advance the public good...This fine book provides a cautionary note to all in higher education. While seeking as many additional revenue streams as possible, it is important that institutions have clarity of mission and values if they are going to be able to make the case for continued public support. (Lewis Collens Chicago Tribune 2004-06-27)

In this delightful book David Kirp...tells the story of markets in U.S. higher education...[It] should be read by anyone who aspires to run a university, faculty or department. (Terence Kealey Times Higher Education Supplement)

David Kirp's Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line is more than a breath of fresh air: it is a healthy slap upside the head to academics who think they are immune to the grubbing and grabbing of raw market forces. Elegant, amusing, irreverent, refreshingly written, and beautifully edited, this book shakes the scales off a purist's eyes… [Kirp] balances descriptions of the impressive successes of some experiments with a warning that the assertion "leave it to the market" is itself a political statement, "a default of institutional leadership and an abandonment of the idea of a university's mission." His concluding chapter raises all the right questions about the balance between providing for the private gain of individuals and corporations by charging market rates for the products of professors' work and protecting the common good by arranging subsides for the things that enrich society but that do not pay for themselves (like "sociology, comparative literature, and pure mathematics"). (David W. Leslie Academe 2004-07-01)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (September 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674016343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674016347
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What an engaging book, neat anecdotes abound. Each chapter presents a case study of some kind to show the sorts of adjustments colleges and universities make to gain and maintain competitive advantage. Much has been written of the packaging of students for display and evaluation by university admissions committees. This book explores the opposite end. Kirp shows how NYU wooed the finest analytic philosophers money can buy in order to gain top students and international reputation, how many public universities are rethinking their commitments to their charter states as the tax-based funding dwindles, and how schools such as DeVry, Phoenix, and many two-year colleges now fill a niche offering IT certification, practical courses most universities choose to ignore.
One of my favorite chapters exhibits the cooperation of several small southern liberal arts colleges in an effort to maximize the utility of the internet and defy the complications of location to offer a world class education in the Classics. The chapter on the University of Chicago's efforts to market itself by emphasizing the rigors and intensity of its offerings at the expense of its reputation as a party school provides some humorous moments.
Kirp seems to know all of the people he needs to know to get the stories straight and compelling. From the brainstorming of catchy college name to the purchase of science departments by the funding dollar, public and private, Kirp explores the variety of decisions, the successes and failures of faculty involvement, and the remarkable institutional overhauls that occur while remaining solvent and functional.
Money changes everything for the college and university.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This informative and provocative book is presented as a series of case studies. They cover a quite comprehensive set of issues and institutions. Among schools mentioned or treated in depth are U of Chicato, Dickinson College, NYU, New York Law School, USC, U Michigan, UVA, Columbia, MIT, Rhodes College in Memphis, the British "Open University," the University of CA (various campuses), the University of Phoenix, and DeVry University (the last two are for-profits). The problems faced by these various schools -- raising operating funds, preserving their missions, collaborating with private industry, surviving a ratings-driven admissions process, adapting to and exploiting technology -- are issues that each institution faces in ways that are both distinctive and overlapping. The case-study method permits exploration of the complexities of the higher education landscape without reductiveness.

The method, however, does have its drawbacks. Too many issues (for instance, the role of technology) circle around repeatedly, so one starts to feel issue-fatigue. Also, the case study method attempts to "tell a story," often featuring personalities. The approach borrows a lot from the "New Journalism." For example, here is the opening sentence of Chapter 3: "For William Durden, the peripatetic president of Dickinson College, the October 5, 2001, issue of the Wall Street Journal contained some very good news." Well, maybe that gets a reader to want to keep going (actually, it turns me off), but it also suggests a focus on individuals and their impact on the places where they work, not on the abstract patterns to be found in the problems they confront.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent analysis of the current state of affairs in higher education. The book includes 14 chapters including the conclusion. Each chapter can be read independently, as they follow the famed Harvard case study method. Each chapter describes a unique issue impacting higher education. Some of these interesting issues include: a) the advent and so far failing of online higher education; b) the success of for profit publicly traded university companies; c) the new sources of funds for universities, including copyrights and patents; d) the ongoing restructuring of undergraduate core curriculum to please the students and private industry; e) the shrinking government subsidization of public universities and their resulting de facto privatization; f) the compromising of the independence of university research when financed by the private sector; and f) various attempts to revive the liberal arts discipline within an increasingly profit driven higher education culture.

Throughout these issues, the authors covers recurring themes. These include the many conflict of interest between: a) intellectual culture and profits; b) professors' research activities and undergraduate teaching; c) practical job oriented education and liberal arts.

Some of these fascinating themes beg the questions of what is knowledge? What is culture? Even what is critical thinking? During the Renaissance the answer to such questions would include being fluent in both Latin and Greek in addition to a couple of vernacular languages. It also entailed having an extremely developed art appreciation supported by demonstrated artistic capabilities. A broad and deep understanding of most aspects of science was also important.
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