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The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out

ISBN: 978-1-118-06348-4
512 pages
July 2011, Jossey-Bass
The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out (1118063481) cover image


The Innovative University illustrates how higher education can respond to the forces of disruptive innovation , and offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of where the traditional university and its traditions have come from and how it needs to change for the future. Through an examination of Harvard and BYU-Idaho as well as other stories of innovation in higher education, Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring decipher how universities can find innovative, less costly ways of performing their uniquely valuable functions.
  • Offers new ways forward to deal with curriculum, faculty issues, enrollment, retention, graduation rates, campus facility usage, and a host of other urgent issues in higher education
  • Discusses a strategic model to ensure economic vitality at the traditional university
  • Contains novel insights into the kind of change that is necessary to move institutions of higher education forward in innovative ways

This book uncovers how the traditional university survives by breaking with tradition, but thrives by building on what it's done best.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: Ripe for Disruption—and Innovation xix

Part One: Reframing the Higher Education Crisis

Chapter 1 The Educational Innovator’s Dilemma: Threat of Danger, Reasons for Hope 3

Part Two: The Great American University

Chapter 2 Puritan College 33

Chapter 3 Charles Eliot, Father of American Higher Education 46

Chapter 4 Pioneer Academy 72

Chapter 5 Revitalizing Harvard College 80

Chapter 6 Struggling College 98

Chapter 7 The Drive for Excellence 110

Chapter 8 Four-Year Aspirations in Rexburg 139

Chapter 9 Harvard’s Growing Power and Profile 148

Chapter 10 Staying Rooted 157

Part Three: Ripe for Disruption

Chapter 11 The Weight of the DNA 171

Chapter 12 Even at Harvard 185

Chapter 13 Vulnerable Institutions 192

Chapter 14 Disruptive Competition 206

Part Four: A New Kind of University

Chapter 15 A Unique University Design 223

Chapter 16 Getting Started 238

Chapter 17 Raising Quality 249

Chapter 18 Lowering Cost 276

Chapter 19 Serving More Students 301

Part Five: Genetic Reengineering

Chapter 20 New Models 325

Chapter 21 Students and Subjects 347

Chapter 22 Scholarship 358

Chapter 23 New DNA 379

Chapter 24 Change and the Indispensable University 396

Notes 403

The Authors 445

Innosight Institute 447

Index 449

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Author Information


CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the founder of Innosight Institute, a nonprofit think tank. He is the author of many books, including The Innovator's Dilemma, and has applied his theory to K–12 education in Disrupting Class and to medicine in The Innovator's Prescription.

HENRY J. EYRING serves as an administrator at Brigham Young University-Idaho. He is a former strategy consultant at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Monitor Company.

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"Scholars will find this work a good point of departure for asking more pointed questions about how nest to meet the demands of an increasingly disparate population of students (and potential students) who have different needs and expectations from previous generations of college-going individuals." — Journal of College Student Retention Vol. 15 (3)

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Press Release

August 08, 2011
The Innovative University

“This superbly documented book is a must read for anyone who cares about America’s universities and colleges and the invaluable role they play in our contemporary society.” Molly Corbett Broad, president, American Council on Education 

The Innovative University

 Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out

San Francisco, CA – For years traditional colleges and universities have competed against one another for students, and were not threatened by innovation occurring outside of their structured realm.  However, the landscape has now changed.  As the price of higher education continues to rise, new online institutions and learning tools are challenging the future of traditional colleges and universities.   How can institutions of higher education think constructively and creatively about their response to occurring and impending disruption?

In their newest book, THE INNOVATIVE UNIVERSITY: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out (Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley; August 2011; $32.95; Cloth: 978-1-118-06348-4), authors Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring offer a powerful set of solutions to the disruptive dilemmas and challenges that institutions of higher education now face.   They explore how and why universities must evolve to cultivate future success.  Also, they apply Christensen’s acclaimed model of disruptive innovation to the higher education environment, which is the idea that sustaining institutions or models exist, and then something will come into the fold and "disrupt" the traditional or "sustaining" model.

“Henry and I love higher education, and deeply appreciate all that it has done for us.  We hope this book will inspire people to utilize all of the new technologies to reinvigorate the traditional university and/or college - instead of letting it threaten and disrupt.   It is in the spirit of hope and love that we wrote this book, so that others can benefit like we have from higher learning,” Clayton Christensen

Together, Christensen and Eyring go back to the 19th century where the roots of the modern day university were laid.  Through an in-depth study of Harvard, BYU-Idaho and other institutions they show how most universities follow the same formula, or in their words, are ‘made up by the same DNA’; however, by unraveling the strands that bind these organisms (or institutions) together, they decipher how universities can find new and less costly ways of performing their uniquely valuable functions.

THE INNOVATIVE UNIVERSITY explores how systems of higher education can reengineer their DNA from the inside out – to transform pitfalls into opportunities, and uncovers how the traditional university can survive by breaking with tradition and thrive on building what it has done best.

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