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Book Review

Book Review

Reengineering the University: How to Be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious


By William F. Massy
Review by Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti, MS

With accountability and college costs making the higher education news almost daily, academic leaders at all levels are increasingly feeling the pressure to make their departments, colleges, and institutions run more efficiently and deliver higher quality education. However, many books addressing these issues focus almost exclusively either on cost containment and efficiency or on ways to improve the pedagogy. William F. Massy, however, has done both.

In his most recent book, Reengineering the University: How to Be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious, Massy takes an in-depth look at how teaching and learning take place in the university and how these functions can have an impact on and interrelate with budgetary efficiency. Massy, currently a higher education consultant, brings a great deal of experience to the table: he is professor emeritus of education and business administration and a former vice president and vice provost of Stanford University. His previous books, including Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered and Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment in Higher Education, demonstrate the depth of expertise he brings to the topic.

“This book is about reforming traditional colleges and universities from the inside out in ways that preserve their academic values and essential strengths,” Massy writes. He identifies several reasons why universities can’t rely on “business as usual” to address problems and challenges that have arisen in recent years. Two particular challenges stand out as ones that the current generation of academic leadership has likely never had to address before now:

  • Failures in the marketplace: “The main failing is that would-be undergraduates and their families lack good information about how to choose among institutions on the basis of quality in relation to price,” Massy writes. With return on educational investment increasingly becoming a product of institutional choice, degree earned, and money spent, institutions must learn to convey information clearly while improving program quality and keeping cost under control.
  • Disruptive innovators: New ways of teaching and learning, such as MOOCs (massive open online courses), have burst on the scene and changed the way students and families think about education. Where once an educational innovation might have been limited in impact to a select few, innovations such as MOOCs have a broad enough reach that “it’s no longer possible to ignore their systemic impact,” Massy writes.

In Reengineering the University, Massy takes on these and other new challenges, looking at the newest information about teaching and learning and examining ways that institutions can link pedagogical improvements to the university mission and ultimately to cost-saving measures. His in-depth yet highly accessible analysis is a must-read for any academic leader, and the book will also find a welcome home in graduate educational leadership programs.

Massy, William. Reengineering the University: How to Be Mission Centered, Market Smart, and Margin Conscious. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016. $32.95

Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti, MS, is managing editor of Academic Leader and chair of the 2016 Leadership in Higher Education Conference. She owns the writing, speaking, and consulting firm Hilltop Communications.


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