In the excerpt below, Frank H.T. Rhodes, former president of Cornell
University, discusses the following eight characteristics of the New
1. Institutional autonomy, lively faculty independence and vigorous
academic freedom, but strong, impartial, public governance and
decisive, engaged presidential leadership.
2. Increasingly privately supported, but increasingly publicly
accountable and socially committed.
3. Campus rooted, but internationally oriented.
4. Academically independent, but constructively partnered.
5. Knowledge-based, but student-oriented; research -driven, but
6. Technologically sophisticated, but community-dependent.
7. Quality-obsessed, but procedurally efficient.
8. Professionally attuned, but humanely informed.
The excerpt is taken from From, Chapter 17, The New University, by Frank
H.T. Rhodes, in CHALLENGES FACING HIGHER EDUCATION AT THE MILLENNIUM,
edited by Werner Z. Hirsh and Lue E. Weber. ? 1999 by The American Council
on Education and The Oryx Press. Published by The Oryx Press. 4041 North
Central at Indian School Road Phoenix, Arizona 85012-3397.
http://www.oryxpress.com/ All rights
reserved. Reprinted with permission.
The posting includes the chapter introduction, a description of
characteristics #3, #5 and #8, and the chapter conclusion.
NOTE: If you would like an electronic version of the entire chapter
please let me know.
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CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NEW AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
From: Chapter 17, The New University, by Frank H.T. Rhodes
Knowledge has become the currency of the new global market; the most
successful societies in the future will be those that optimize the
creation, distribution, and utilization of knowledge. In this
optimization, the universities will play a crucial role.
If our future well-being depends in some measure on the effectiveness
of our research universities, what expectations should we have for
these institutions? What should the best universities of the
twenty-first century look like? Without pretending that anyone can
provide a precise blueprint for the research university of the
future, several characteristics seem essential. My description will
be limited to the American university, not because I think it either
the most important or the most likely to serve as a model for those
in other places, but only because I know it best. The New American
University will prosper to the extent that it can maintain a dynamic
equilibrium between several inherent tensions.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NEW AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
Described below are what would appear to be some of the most likely
and important characteristics of the New American University:
... 3. CAMPUS ROOTED, BUT INTERNATIONALLY ORIENTED.
In spite of the growing benefits of information technology, the New
American University will still depend on an established campus base
as the essential platform for both its specialized facilities and its
scholarly community. Though its role may change, the traditional
concept of a university as a place is unlikely to be made redundant
by a virtual institution, however powerful and inclusive distance
learning may become. But the "real" university, though it may be
located in a particular place, cannot be confined to a single place,
campus-based in its location, it will be international in its
orientation and cosmopolitan in its character; its graduates will
purse their careers within an increasingly global economy and an
increasingly diverse workforce. Both its curriculum and its
membership will still be recruited; study abroad will become the
norm; both the student and faculty bodies will become conspicuously
international in their membership, and productivity in a diverse
community will increasingly come to be regarded as a "job skill."
International students already form a significant proportion of the
university's student body (typically 10-15 percent of its
undergraduates and up to 50 percent of its graduate students) and
foreign-born faculty members are already found at all levels within
the ranks of most of its departments. Boards of trustees of private
universities already include several international members. New
research partnerships, teaching exchanges, scholarly consortia, and
institutional associations all serve to reinforce these growing
international linkages. This emphasis on global knowledge is scarcely
new; it recapitulates and reflects a characteristic as old as the
university itself. While most colleges and universities will still
draw their students from local regions, the great research
universities will become ever more international in their membership
... 5. KNOWLEDGE-BASED, BUT STUDENT-ORIENTED; RESEARCH -DRIVEN, BUT
The distinctive feature of the New American University will still be
its commitment to learning in its widest sense. This involves not
simply the transmission of existing knowledge, but also the
creativity that produces new achievements and the research that leads
to new discovery and new knowledge. World-class scholarship will
require both greater selectivity and greater interaction among
disciplines than is now the case. But this will be pursed in the
context of a student-centered culture, with clear educational goals,
explicit statements of curricular objectives, clearly defined
professional skills, and new measures of educational outcome. It will
include a new commitment to effective learning at every
level-professional, graduate, and especially undergraduate-with
emphasis on clearly defined standards, high competence, effective
advising and mentoring, cultivation of learning skills, personal
growth, individual creativity, and meaningful assessment, all based
on a variety of learning styles, teamwork, off-campus experience,
lifelong learning, and the effective use of educational technology.
The "best" universities and colleges of the future will be those
demonstrating the most effective gains in learning and learning
skills among their students. This new accountability will demand a
better understanding of the learning process and a clear statement of
instructional purpose and effectiveness. The traditional pattern of a
student accumulating information-however advanced-and a professor
teaching "subjects"-however effectively-will be displaced by an
emphasis on developing in students the initiative, skills, and
discipline to pursue knowledge independently, to evaluate and weigh
it effectively, and to apply it creatively and responsibly.
... 8.PROFESSIONALLY ATTUNED, BUT HUMANELY INFORMED.
The growth in importance of professional studies has been paralleled
by a decline in influence of the traditional liberal arts. This is
partly cause and effect, influenced in part by the growing importance
and increasing public role of the professions, and by the growing
popularity of professional studies among students. But part of the
decline in the influence of the liberal arts reflects the lack of
internal cohesion within their own traditional core disciplines. The
sciences have become powerful, but increasingly unintelligible to
nonscientists. The social sciences, entranced by microanalysis and
quantification, have become increasingly irrelevant to social issues
and public policy. The humanities, embracing fragmentation,
otherness, and unreality, have neglected the great overreaching
issues of human commonality in favor of partisan advocacy.
Yet never has professional practice stood in a greater need of
enlightened influence and humane awareness. There is limited value
and little benefit in information, undigested and un-scrutinized by
personal reflection, or in professional skills, unguided by
thoughtful insight and personal commitment. If the university fails
to educate free and responsible citizens, who will undertake the
task? So the New American University must reinvent the liberal arts,
perhaps expanding the range of cultural statement by the creative
integration of sound, text, and image, and using the new
communications technology to create both a new form of expression and
a new level of literacy. This integration is, as yet, characterized
more by trash than by pearls, more by entertainment than by
enlightenment. But it offers the possibility of enriched cultural
expression and a new cultural literacy to which the traditional
liberal arts have yet to respond.
These eight characteristics seem likely to shape, and perhaps define,
the New American University. They will change the culture of the
campus, in much the same way that the changes of the late nineteenth
century transformed the American college into the more comprehensive
research university. The transformation will involve a combination of
the best in the public land-grant university and with new global
partnerships as strong as those of multinational corporations.
How creatively the university deals with these tensions will depend
on the strength of its core values and its willingness to adapt to
changing conditions and needs. This adaption will involve
changes-some of them wrenching-within the university. But American
universities need to change, not because they are weak, but because
they are strong. American universities are not "in trouble" not in
decline. In spite of financial pressures, which are real, and public
concerns, some of them justified, universities are doing well. They
include world-class institutions; a dozen or so provide the benchmark
for the rest of the world.
So change for the sake of change offers no benefits. But responsive
and responsible change is the requirement for their continuing
strength, and their continuing effectiveness. Like it or not,
universities were originally created and continue to enjoy public
support because they are "service organizations," serving the growing
needs of society for knowledge and professional skills and service.
But that responsibility is best discharged not by immersion in the
issues of the moment, but by taking the larger, comprehensive view of
knowledge, in all its dimensions. The community that is a university
is the best means yet devised for achieving that comprehensive view,
with all its benefits. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the
university is to balance the inevitable tension between that
scholarly community, and the degree of separation that sustains it,
and responsible concern for the clamoring needs of society.
University Trustees, deans, provosts, and especially, presidents must
become the challengers of complacency, the voices of institutional
conscience, the patient advocates for change, the champions of
excellence, the midwives of the new alliances and partnerships, the
facilitators of teamwork, and the untiring exemplars of both
traditional values and a new level of commitment.
In an age of limits and constraints, of cynicism and suspicion,
universities must reaffirm the soaring possibilities that enlightened
education represents. In an era of broken families, dwindling
religious congregations, decaying communities, our nation desperately
needs a new model of community-knowledgeable but compassionate,
critical but concerned, skeptical but affirming-that will serve the
clamoring needs of our fragmented society and respond to the nobler,
unuttered aspirations of our deeper selves.
This is not to pretend that universities have either wholesale
solutions to humanity's ills or a monopoly on skills to address them.
Universities are human creations, full of human imperfection, with as
much sloth, envy, malice, and neglect as any other community and
rather more their share of pettiness, arrogance, and pride. But it is
to assert that universities, with all their imperfections, represent
the crucible within which our future will be formed. Boiling,
steaming, frothing at times, a new amalgam must somehow be created
within them if we are to surmount our social problems and rediscover
the civic virtues on which our society depends. And, as leaders in
every field of endeavor are educated within their walls, as knowledge
is increased within their laboratories, new works created within
their studios, and professional practice developed and refined within
their facilities, so universities provide each new generation of
leaders, educated, influenced, and shaped within the culture of the
campus. This emerging community-analytical and affirming, critical
and creative, inclusive and inquiring, engaging and enabling-will be
the New American University.
Frank H.T. Rhodes was president of Cornell University for 18 years
before retiring in 1995, having previously served as vice-president
for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. A geologist by
training, Rhodes was a member of President Bush's Education Policy
Advisory Committee. He has also served as chairman of the National
Science Board and chairman of the boards of the American Council on
Education, the American Association of Universities, and the Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He was chairman of the
American Council on Education's task force on minority education,
which produced the report One-Third of a Nation and for which former
presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford served as honorary co-chairs.
He holds over 30 honorary degrees. Rhodes has just completed a book
on American universities. He is at present a member of the Washington