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Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don't know about Canadian universities [Paperback]

Ken S. Coates , Bill Morrison
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don't know about Canadian universities (Second Edition) Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don't know about Canadian universities (Second Edition) 5.0 out of 5 stars (1)
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Book Description

March 7 2011
Our universities represent the very best in our society. They are the wellsprings of new ideas, the incubators of new companies, the centres of culture, the training ground for the leaders of tomorrow, and the meeting place for brilliant young minds and accomplished mentors. Or at least, that's how it's supposed to be. The truth is, our universities are floundering, and as a result they are coming under attack from all sides -- from government, students, parents, and faculty. To respond to these challenges, the first step is to face the uncomfortable facts about universities today. That's what insiders Kenneth Coates and William Morrison do in this short book. If we can get past the myths and dreams to come to terms with universities as they actually are, we can start a real debate about what they should be doing.

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"According to Coates and Morrison, Canada should rethink its approach to post-secondary schooling, with more students streamed not to university but to technical and practical training. Clearly, there's an enduring demand for IT support staff and healthcare technicians, electricians, plumbers, skilled construction workers, draftsmen and tool and die makers." (Diana Swift Anglican Journal 2011-11-01)

"Only once students respect the university experience for what it is -- not what it will get them -- will attitudes change. But with the many challenges facing young people today, Coates and Morrison aren't sure this can even happen." (CBC.CA/books 2011-09-16)

"...a guide to the mindset of the entitlement generation." (Margaret Wente Globe & Mail 2011-09-17)

"[Ken Coates and Bill Morrison's] new book, Campus Confidential, is a bracing reality check that should be essential reading for would-be university students, their parents and anyone who thinks higher education holds all the answers." (Margaret Wente The Globe and Mail 2011-03-31)

"Heading to university just because Mom, Dad, a guidance counsellor, or society in general think you should can prove to be an extremely expensive mistake." (Rick Maclean Charlottetown Guardian 2011-09-24)

"This is a must read book for all parents and teenagers thinking about university education as well as all high school counsellors." (Hrayr Berberoglu Wines World 2012-11-05)

Thinking about post-secondary education? Bill Morrision [and Ken Coates] has just the book for you. (Ladysmith Chronicle)

"The entitlement generation is killing the joy of teaching they say, but students aren't the only challenge for universities....The 100 startling things are organized into short chapters with snappy titles..." (Janet Steffenhagen Vancouver Sun 2011-09-05)

"...crisply written" (Jon Ferry The Province 2011-09-07)

"[One] of the smartest critics of the system is Ken Coates... Dr. Coates’s book, Campus Confidential, is essential reading for students and their parents." (Margaret Wente The Globe and Mail 2012-10-20)

About the Author

KEN S. COATES is Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan. Formerly, he was Dean, Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo. He lives in Saskatoon.

BILL MORRISON was a professor and administrator at universities in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia and a visiting professor in the United States before he retired in 2010. Morrison has published fourteen books, twelve of them in collaboration with Ken S. Coates. He lives in Ladysmith, BC.


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3.0 out of 5 stars a very uneven book May 20 2012
Format:Paperback
From the subtitle ("100 startling things you don't know...") I was expecting more of a telltale/gossipy book where campus insiders could air their dirty laundry and let the general public & policy makers know what's actually happening on campus and what needs reforming. Given the paucity of hard-hitting books focusing on the Canadian university scene we need this, notwithstanding "Ivory Tower Blues" by Côté and Allahar. There's lots of books of this type for American universities so why not one (or several) for Canada? Well, we do get some dirty laundry, along with the authors' view on what needs changing, but the material presented is very uneven - sometimes solidly argued, often contradictory and sometimes just mere opinion.

Overall, this book is basically a grab-bag of arguments covering different aspects of the modern Canadian university. A few themes, however, do emerge: (1) we have far too many unqualified students attending university and standards are dropping all the time in order to get bums in seats. For a deeper analysis of this problem see Côté and Allahar's book. (2) Basic competencies in reading, writing and thinking are in very short supply along with someone defining what a core curriculum is, especially in the Faculty of Arts. Someone needs to address this so that employers will know what kinds of skills they can expect from graduates. (3) There's a serious question as to whether all that research money in universities drive significant innovation in the wider Canadian economy. They give some evidence that not much national wealth creation comes from all this spending. (4) We should stop pretending all universities are excellent (whatever that means) and allow different universities to focus on different aspects of the market as happens in the U.S.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a very uneven book May 20 2012
By A.Reader1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
From the subtitle ("100 startling things you don't know...") I was expecting more of a telltale/gossipy book where campus insiders could air their dirty laundry and let the general public & policy makers know what's actually happening on campus and what needs reforming. Given the paucity of hard-hitting books focusing on the Canadian university scene we need this, notwithstanding "Ivory Tower Blues" by Côté and Allahar. There's lots of books of this type for American universities so why not one (or several) for Canada? Well, we do get some dirty laundry, along with the authors' view on what needs changing, but the material presented is very uneven - sometimes solidly argued, often contradictory and sometimes just mere opinion.

Overall, this book is basically a grab-bag of arguments covering different aspects of the modern Canadian university. A few themes, however, do emerge: (1) we have far too many unqualified students attending university and standards are dropping all the time in order to get bums in seats. For a deeper analysis of this problem see Côté and Allahar's book. (2) Basic competencies in reading, writing and thinking are in very short supply along with someone defining what a core curriculum is, especially in the Faculty of Arts. Someone needs to address this so that employers will know what kinds of skills they can expect from graduates. (3) There's a serious question as to whether all that research money in universities drive significant innovation in the wider Canadian economy. They give some evidence that not much national wealth creation comes from all this spending. (4) We should stop pretending all universities are excellent (whatever that means) and allow different universities to focus on different aspects of the market as happens in the U.S. (5) Business schools and large donors probably have too much influence over some Canadian universities at present.

Too often Coates and Morrison are reticent at naming institutional names when they have insider knowledge of bad practices or which contradict university marketing fluff. The authors hide behind statements like "A Canadian university was recognizing ..." and "One Canadian university offered a degree..." and "A decade ago faculty members at a Maritime university started complaining...". Well, what are the names of these institutions?

A few of their arguments are quite specious like chapter 27 "Toronto Rules the Canadian Academic World". I was expecting them to construct an argument along the lines that U. of Toronto is like Harvard or the other Ivy-league schools in the U.S. which hold disproportionate sway in American business, politics, institutional government, academia, research and so on. But in this chap. 27 all they tell us is that the GTA has more students than anyone else. (Yes, it took two Ph.D.'s to promulgate such a nonsense 'argument'). That's hardly what's meant by `ruling the academic world' guys.

I would have appreciated more references directly in the text rather than a very incomplete set of sources at the end. If you're going to change opinion or public policy then you need to have some solid data behind your thoughts especially for the big ticket items such as how funding models and accessibility needs to change.

Some chapters are quite good: 87 (If we ran the university), 1 (university isn't for everyone), 9 (universities want high schools to shape up), 19 (universities need a proper admission test), 39 (we should abolish the three-year degree), 68 (the shame of the sessionals).
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