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Hardcover | Out of Print | 344 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 14 b&w illus. | August 2011 | ISBN: 9780262015806
Paperback | $18.95 Trade | £14.95 | 344 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 14 b&w illus. | February 2013 | ISBN: 9780262518628
eBook | $13.95 Trade | August 2011 | ISBN: 9780262299398
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Abelard to Apple

The Fate of American Colleges and Universities


The vast majority of American college students attend two thousand or so private and public institutions that might be described as the Middle—reputable educational institutions, but not considered equal to the elite and entrenched upper echelon of the Ivy League and other prestigious schools. Richard DeMillo has a warning for these colleges and universities in the Middle: If you do not change, you are heading for irrelevance and marginalization. In Abelard to Apple, DeMillo argues that these institutions, clinging precariously to a centuries-old model of higher education, are ignoring the social, historical, and economic forces at work in today’s world. In the age of iTunes, open source software, and for-profit online universities, there are new rules for higher education.

DeMillo, who has spent years in both academia andin industry, explains how higher education arrived at its current parlous state and offers a road map for the twenty-first century. He describes the evolving model for higher education, from European universities based on a medieval model to American land-grant colleges to Apple’s iTunes U and MIT’s OpenCourseWare. He offers ten rules to help colleges reinvent themselves (including “Don’t romanticize your weaknesses”) and argues for a focus on teaching undergraduates.

DeMillo’s message—for colleges and universities, students, alumni, parents, employers, and politicians--is that any college or university can change course if it defines a compelling value proposition (one not based in “institutional envy” of Harvard and Berkeley) and imagines an institution that delivers it.

About the Author

Richard A. DeMillo has held senior positions in academia, industry, and government. Currently Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Chair of Computing and the Director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech, he is the author of Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities (MIT Press).


“This book will provoke debate.”—Charles R. Middleton, Times Higher Education


“Both those who welcome and those (like me) who view with alarm the linking of undergraduate education to student career goals should read this wide-ranging and deeply informed analysis of the issues.”
Stanley Fish, Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Law, Florida International University, New York Times columnist, author of How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
“This thoroughly engaging book provides a view of higher education that is future-oriented and technology-savvy yet rooted in the sweeping historical pageant of the world’s universities. It brings more than a little tough love to our sometimes self-satisfied American research universities while acknowledging and encouraging boldness in facing today’s challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities. It is a unique volume and should be read by all who care about the future of higher education.”
Charles Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering, and President Emeritus, MIT
“Using a plethora of examples, quotes from intellectuals, and his own analysis and experience, DeMillo beautifully and forcefully argues for change. University administrators, including the Presidents, Provosts, and the Deans, will find this book an asset as they consider curricular and structural changes in the face of the immense popularity of the Internet.”
Aditya Mathur, Professor of Computer Science, Purdue University

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Episode 34 (Sept. '11): Richard A. DeMillo
Richard A. DeMillo