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Introduction to “Rise of the Research University”

The modern research university is under intense scrutiny. Some critics argue that with student debt at unsustainable levels, it is ripe for “disruption” by new digital technologies and the Internet. Some state legislatures seem eager to remake public research universities as institutions whose sole focus is teaching— the teaching, that is, of preprofessional and vocational fields. And within the academy, the professorial critique of the university has become a distinct genre.

Within the context of this debate, there has been much talk about the mis- sion of research universities in the United States and their indebtedness to a model that developed in nineteenth-century Germany. Calls for new modes of organization as well as attempts to defend core structures are often tied to historical claims. What the research university should be is oftentimes framed in terms of arguments about what it once was. Thus, the present debate is the poorer for the fact that these arguments seldom engage with the history of the research university, and particularly with the issue of its German heritage, in a meaningful way. A more deliberate consideration of these complex origins and institutional in uences will address many of today’s concerns and prove some of them misplaced. This book provides resources to facilitate just such engagement.

[Read the full introduction to Rise of the Research University: A Sourcebook (University of Chicago Press, 2017 as PDF]

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