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Policy Perspectives

"Of Precept, Policy, and Practice"
December 2002
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This essay describes a set of forces that have contributed to a division between the goals of public policy and of higher education institutions through the past three decades. It argues that higher education leaders and public officials have been co-dependent agents in a process that has transformed practices without redefining policy. The desire for prestige and market position often causes universities and colleges to pursue goals that differ from a state's rationale for supporting its public and private institutions. In seeking expanded sources of revenue to pursue new opportunities, universities and colleges have helped shift a greater share of the cost of higher education to students and their families, effectively raising the barriers of affordability for many.

The problem is that those with public responsibility, for the most part, lack an agreed-upon agenda, pursuing instead a variety of maintenance agendas that are themselves products of habit and history, and that accord the greatest funding to institutions and students who are most advantaged. The essay asks a series of questions to public officials and institutional leaders, the answers to which might help all parties determine how a state's policy environment can align more closely with the objectives of its higher education institutions.


"Who Owns Teaching?"
August 2002
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"If one conceives of teaching as an outgrowth of an academic community, what kind of claim does that community hold on the teaching of individual faculty?" The answers to this question become more complex in a digital age that offers the means to reproduce and distribute intellectual content or expression of any kind. This essay derives from a national roundtable convened at Princeton University to consider how colleges and universities can build and sustain stronger communities centered around teaching.

"Who Owns Teaching" argues that while this activity remains central to the educational mission of universities and colleges, teaching often lacks a strong foundation as a subject of common engagement within the academy. The absence of a sustained and purposeful dialogue about teaching in most institutions allows the forces of commercial competition and public accountability to become the main drivers of educational quality. For-profit enterprise and public agencies have appropriated increasingly powerful roles in defining what teaching is, how to measure its success, and who should benefit from what is taught. Accompa nying the rise of commercial interests are growing challenges to the traditions of attribution, synthesis, and knowledge development that have informed the environment of open inquiry in college and university classrooms. The essay argues that colleges and universities need to build and sustain a more active community and culture of evidence around good teaching; define clear goals of what teaching seeks to achieve; and create consortial movements among higher education institutions to preserve fair use of information and ideas for purposes of teaching and learning.


"Who Owns Teaching?" - Exemplars: "Michigan State University"
August 2002
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Under the leadership of President Peter McPherson and Provost Lou Anna Simon, Michigan State University has substantially increased its capacity for strategic innovation as a large, decentralized public research university with limited financial means. MSU systematically engages faculty, staff, and administrators in a mutual-interest approach to strategic innovation, working across organizational and hierarchical boundaries to achieve common purposes, in part through the agency of the Wharton-IRHE Executive Education program.