Are we nearing the end of a worldwide era of university expansion and influence – and, if so, why? The two books under consideration suggest very different answers to these questions. David John Frank and John W. Meyer’s The University and the Global Knowledge Society anticipates continued expansion and influence as university enrollments grow throughout the world and as the university’s knowledge practices rationalize ever more remote areas of human cultural life. John Douglass’s Neo-Nationalism and Universities raises the specter instead of a university sector controlled by illiberal politicians who are intent on restricting the freedom of professors and students and on directing university teaching and research in ways that align with their regimes’ interests. In this essay I argue that Frank and Meyer are right, for the most part, about the continuing expansion and influence of universities and that Douglass and his collaborators are right to worry about the future. But neither of the books focuses on one of the major threats to academe: universities may be in nearly as much danger from internal failings and a weakening market position as they are from external political control. Highly selective colleges and research universities remain vital instruments of national economic and social progress but the value added of less selective institutions is becoming questionable to many prospective students, even those who live in countries at the center of the liberal world order.

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