The President Emeritus of York University, Toronto, surveys the university's sporadically illustrious 800-year history and doubtful future. Perhaps because he is a Canadian who experienced the seismic tremors of the Sixties indirectly, Ross writes with detached balance, effortlessly blending historical and sociological perspectives and comparing national academic styles--English, American, Canadian, German, even Italian. He ponders the long period of stagnation between 1500 and 1850 when the universities contributed so very little to the intellectual and cultural growth of Europe without venturing an explanation. Will the university survive the egalitarian assaults of the Sixties? Ross recognizes profound and alarming changes: the state has become virtually the ""paymaster"" of the university, and consequently its existence as a semiautonomous corporation of tights and privileges is threatened. Worse, its intrinsic elitism is being questioned by populist and anti-intellectual elements. Ross puts in a gentlemanly plea for the social worth of the ""traditional university devoted to scholarship and excellence"" even while suggesting that the financial squeeze plus leveling sentiments dictate a canny, defensive posture for the near future. Now that the dust has settled, he does hope for a restoration of the ""atmosphere of civility"" which once prevailed in academe and urges the three.""estates""--students, faculty and administrators--to put their own house in order, the better to ""survive"" in the years to come. A moderate's recap of the last decade set in a larger frame.