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More higher ed summer reading

2017’s edition of the finest selection of higher education summer reads. Featuring ‘BUCS for Schmucks’, ‘Footnoting for fun’, and ‘A month in the country – it really is research not vacation’.

From 007 to Registrar

A distinctive new approach to the campus novel Unlikely as it may seem this brief book offers the most exciting representation of a Registrar since Lucky Jim. Set in a real university (York) but with fictional (we hope) characters there is plenty to enjoy here: The present and past lives of James Kerr, university senior manager… read more

Still waiting for a decent new campus novel?

Fertile territory for Higher Ed fiction? Previous posts on Higher Ed fiction have looked at the end of the campus novel and some flickers in the embers with a few more recent offerings including the Marriage Plot. More recently I also posted on satire in HE which covered, among other things, an unpromising series of British… read more

That Higher Ed joke isn’t funny any more

Satire in Higher Education. I’ve written before about books covering higher education in general and the commented on the end of the campus novel as well as its  possible reinvention. More recently, there has been a series of books intended to capture the humorous and darker side of British higher education life: A comic portrayal of modern… read more

Zombie University

Zombies in the Academy: Living Death in Higher Education Very excited at the news of the publication of Zombies in the Academy: Living Death in Higher Education. Ever since the launch of the zombie course at the University of Baltimore there has clearly been plenty of room for further undead related higher education activity. This… read more

The Imperfect University: Know Your History

  Know your history For my 700th blog post here I thought I would reflect on university histories. Given their nature it’s often struck me as rather surprising that universities and their staff tend not to have a well developed sense of institutional history. Research matters to universities but they tend not to prioritise maintaining… read more

Secrets and Interdisciplinarity in 1928: The Combination Room

A reminder of the opening of the Trent Building The office recently received a copy of this commemorative brochure from the opening of the Trent Building of what was then University College Nottingham.   The booklet contains a set of line drawings of the Trent Building together with a detailed and somewhat florid commentary by… read more

The best book ever written about university life?

Cornford’s Microcosmographia Academica A reminder about or introduction to a brief and essential piece of reading for everyone working in higher education. The almost timeless (well, apart from the fact it only features blokes and has an ever so slightly Oxbridge feel) Microcosmographia Academica is of course the essential text for all those with a… read more

The reinvention of the campus novel?

A new direction for the campus novel? The Chronicle Reviewc has an excellent article on a new campus novel from Jeffrey Eugenides about leaving campus behind. A five year old post on my other blog includes reference to a couple of articles, including one by David Lodge, on the ‘end of the campus novel’. The… read more


The Great Brain Race by Ben Wildavsky I read this some months ago but, inexplicably, failed to note the fact. Wildavsky is a clear, cogent and persuasive writer. He provides a good review of the global higher education picture and many of the key issues facing nations and universities. There is, unsurprisingly, plenty of coverage… read more

The Strategic Plan: a tool for administrative power?

Questioning the purpose of the strategic plan The Chronicle of Higher Education carries an extract from a new book by Benjamin Ginsberg on the ‘all-administrative university’ which apparently argues that: that the explosive growth in administration, the decline in faculty influence, and the institutional corporatization of American universities contributes to a loss of intellectual rigor…. read more

Still the End of the Campus Novel?

Why aren’t there any good campus novels these days? Inspired by an article in the Guardian by David Lodge about Pnin by Nabokov I wrote a brief piece some five years ago on “The End of the Campus Novel?“. With the possible exception of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, have there been any decent campus novels… read more

Replacing Textbooks With iPads

Another interesting experiment Story in the Chronicle of Higher Education about an interesting experiment at University of Notre Dame where they have tried replacing textbooks with iPads: It was quieter this past fall in Corey Angst’s project-management course at the University of Notre Dame, but it wasn’t because he and his students were talking less…. read more

Are Undergraduates Actually Learning Anything?

Are Undergraduates Actually Learning Anything? Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses By Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa The Chronicle carries an extract from what sounds like an extremely interesting new book. The paper reports that, drawing on survey responses, transcript data, and results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment (a standardized test taken by students… read more

Free books for freshers

Persuading freshers to read Last year St Andrews gave a novel to all freshers to get them reading, discussing and engaging with each other. This year, according to theBookseller.com, the scheme seems to have expanded: Nearly 18,000 freshers across five UK universities have been given copies of a winning or shortlisted Man Booker novel for… read more

Vocational qualifications: ‘a great idea for other people’s children’

A new review of vocational qualifications The BBC reports on Education Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement of an independent review of vocational qualifications for students aged 14 to 19 in England. A spokesman for the Department for Education said the government wanted qualifications in practical subjects to be more “hands on”. The number of vocational qualifications… read more

“Top scholars should lead research universities”

Top scholars should lead research universities: Review of fascinating new work in University World News. Research universities should be led by brilliant scholars and not merely talented managers, says Warwick University fellow Amanda Goodall. It is not sufficient for leaders to have management skills alone, Goodall states in a new book. In Socrates in the… read more

Scandals of Higher Education

Is this the future for UK HE? Scandals of Higher Education – The New York Review of Books A really interesting and hard-hitting review article from the New York Review of Books of a set of recent publications on US higher education. Two fundamental questions here: what is higher education actually for? And who is… read more

90 years of Universities UK: exciting book of facts

Universities UK celebrates 90 years To mark this notable event, and presumably to provide stocking fillers for many lucky Vice-Chancellors, UUK has released an exciting book of facts: Did you know that the first official rules of football were influenced by student footballers at the University of Cambridge Football Club? Or that the University of… read more

Books “that make you dumb”

Interesting piece of work – a website which shows the correlation between favourite books on Facebook and average SAT scores for particular US institutions. The five highest-scoring books (and Average SAT scores): 1. Lolita (1317) 2. 100 Years of Solitude (1308) 3. Crime and Punishment (1307) 4. Freakonomics (1275) 5. Catch-22 (1233) Someone, with more… read more

He really doesn’t like the QAA

Entertaining Guardian interview with Thomas Docherty It includes some quotations from his forthcoming book which offer a choice perspective on the QAA: Is the Quality Assurance Agency (a) a safeguard designed to maintain and improve academic standards or (b) the “worst thing to happen to higher education in recent times – and perhaps ever”? Docherty… read more

Faddish behaviour…

Management Fads in Higher Education: Where They Come From, What They Do, Why They Fail by Robert Birnbaum   This is just an outstanding book. Although the focus is on the USA, the messages are eminently translatable to the UK context. Birnbaum carefully analyses and deconstructs the big management fads to have hit US universities… read more