What is the reason for the American university's global preeminence? How did the American university succeed where the development of the German university, from which it took so much, stalled? In this closely-argued book, Meyer suggests that the key to the American university's success is its institutional design of self-government. Where other university systems are dependent on the patronage of state, church, or market, the American university is the first to achieve true autonomy, which it attained through an intricate system of engagements with societal actors and institutions that simultaneously act as amplifiers of its impact and as checks on the university's ever-present corrosive tendencies. Built on a searching analysis of the design thinking of Wilhelm von Humboldt and Adam Smith and closely tracing the learning process by which Americans adapted the German model, The Design of the University dismisses efforts to copy superficial features of the American university in order to achieve world-class rank. Calling attention to the design details of the university and the particulars of its institutional environment, this volume identifies the practices and choices that produced the gold standard for today's world class higher education.