The Kirkus reviewer raved about this book, calling it “Comprehensive, insightful and visionary.” I take a more reserved approach. It is a significant contribution to today’s higher education landscape, doing necessary and so far neglected work. My complaints about the book are about execution, not content: the underlying organization is feels like the end product of “good enough,” but it is confusing—the part and chapter titles waffle between lyrical and straightforward, and the lack of consistency makes it difficult to see the book’s trajectory up front. In Part II, it is disorienting to move from medieval Europe to the twenty-first century, then go back to “The Quarrel between the Ancients and Moderns” (perhaps I am especially disgruntled about the mis-use of the term “Modern”) and then jump to a chapter on the craftsmanship of the professor throughout history. As for the book’s combination of philosophical and administrative content—that feels strange, but in the end, I liked the combination. Why shouldn’t registrars and librarians be as philosophical about their work as faculty and university presidents?
The tie to Newman’s work feels forced, like it was either a vestige of an early draft the authors’ couldn’t bear to cut or tacked-on late in the game—either way, the connection is not developed enough to justify the title and frame, which sets up unmet expectations and leads to confusion. Finally, the ending feels rushed, almost manifesto-like with short sections on “what higher education could be in the digital age” (217) instead of more extended reflections on significances and challenges.