Ten Top Books on Higher Education

Much of the commentary on our higher education system is fawning, creating the impression that our system is superb and lacking only in adequate financial support. The authors of these books think otherwise. American higher education has a great reputation, but that reputation masks some serious problems, as the books on this list (in alphabetical order by author) reveal. Read any or all of the books, which reveal “warts and all,” and see if you don’t agree.

I would enjoy hearing (in the comments below) whether you agree or disagree with my top picks. If you disagree, please suggest others.

Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus by Donald Alexander Downs

A University of Wisconsin professor who initially supported campus speech codes attacks them, providing a history of the key battles to protect free speech against those who would like to punish “insensitive” writings or statements. (2005)


Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus

Two authors decidedly in the progressive camp write on the looming transformation of higher education. (2010)



The Shadow University by Alan C. Kors and Harvey Silverglate

Demands for politically correct speech and action proliferate on American campuses, to the detriment of free expression and inquiry. (1998)



Trembling in the Ivory Tower by Kenneth Lasson

University of Baltimore law professor Lasson shows how American higher education is being taken over by zealous, often intemperate professors who prefer to preach instead of teach. (2003)



History Lesson by Mary Lefkowitz

When a Wellesley professor finds that a faculty colleague is teaching demonstrable falsehoods to his students and brings the matter into the open, how do the colleague and college react? Civility and truth both take a beating. (1997)



Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education by Harry Lewis

A former dean of Harvard College shares his views on the erosion of the curriculum and sliding academic standards. (2006)



Real Education by Charles Murray

One of America’s leading public intellectuals turns his sights to our education system and finds that from top to bottom, it underperforms. Murray argues that we have too many students in college and most of them are there for the wrong reasons. (2008)



Beer and Circus by Murray Sperber

Professor Murray Sperber, who long taught at Indiana University, here explains the reasons for the degradation of undergraduate education and his sorrow over it. (2000)



Going Broke by Degree by Richard Vedder

A top-flight economist looks at higher education from the standpoint of efficiency and social value—and finds it badly wanting. (2004)



Does Education Matter? by Alison Wolf

A British professor challenges many of the conventional ideas about higher education, particularly the supposed need for more of it to boost a nation’s economy. (2002)



What do you think of this list? Are there any we’ve missed?