Putting the case for education reimagined

Duke Kunshan Dean for Academic Strategy and Learning Innovation Noah Pickus has co-authored a book chronicling the development of eight innovative colleges and universities around the world.

Titled ‘The New Global Universities: Reinventing Education in the 21st Century’, the book describes the combination of intellectual courage, entrepreneurial audacity, and adaptive leadership needed to launch new international universities that are fit for the modern era.

Noah Pickus, dean for academic strategy and learning innovation

“Higher education faces many problems today, from rising costs to a sense that the liberal arts are outmoded,” said Pickus, who is also director of the Institute for Global Higher Education at DKU.

“We’ve put the counterargument, the one that shows how higher education is being reimagined and improved through innovative curriculums and new ways of learning,” he added.

Co-written with Bryan Penprase, vice president for sponsored research and external academic relations at Soka University of America, the book follows the launch and development of universities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and North America. It looks at how university leaders at these relatively new institutions have secured creative sources of funding, designed interesting curriculums that match the realities of modern careers, and balanced local needs with global ambitions to attract top faculty and students from across the world.

Although not a case study in the book, Duke Kunshan is discussed at several points, and Pickus is working with colleagues at DKU to tell the university’s story in a follow up publication and in conferences in China and the United States.

As participants in the founding of new academic institutions themselves, Pickus and Penprase were well placed to write the book, drawing upon their own experiences at DKU and Yale-NUS, respectively, as well as speaking with other founders and academic leaders.

“We aimed to write a book that’s both interesting and informative to a wide range of readers,” said Pickus. “Our hope is that the experiences we describe offer lessons for the future founders of other new universities and for those who want to breathe new life into existing ones.”

The book has received praise from many academic leaders, including Elizabeth Kiss, chief executive officer of the Rhodes Trust at the University of Oxford, who described it as “offering a bracing and inspiring counternarrative to the prevailing gloom about the future of higher education” and “an important new contribution to the history of liberal education, abounding in valuable insights for educational innovators everywhere.”

William Kirby, professor of China studies and business administration at Harvard University said the book would, “appeal to a wide audience of educators and educational entrepreneurs—indeed to anyone interested in the alternative futures of higher education.”

The book is being published by Princeton University Press and will be available to buy on December 5, 2023. Pickus will speak about the book at events in Shenzhen and Beijing in November, and at Duke Kunshan University next year.

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