Robert M. Berdahl, former President of Berkeley and current President of the Association of American Universities, is making a case for fewer research universities which could be much more focused in their efforts to product world-class scientists and brain-leaders. Mr. Berdahl’s association represents 60 American Universities which award the majority of all doctoral degrees, including 55% in science and engineering. These very institutions have been hard hit by the recession and their endowments have been decimated. Berdahl argues that if we don’t focus our efforts and make some pointed choices, we can lose our competitive edge.
While there are opponents to this proposal, the nation should also ask itself:
If there were more focused research institutions, could we have more effective state colleges and non-research colleges? In other words, could we have more colleges which, like University of Phoenix, are student-centered, teaching-based and focused on helping students from a wide range of academic, emotional and social levels succeed?
Imagine a freshmen experience at a state university where professors who aren’t under so much pressure to “publish or perish” actually taught introductory classes instead of teaching assistants. Imagine a way for class size to be smaller and for undergrads to have more access to professors who might otherwise be too busy in pursuit of the university’s research goals. Imagine a scenario where 40% of the freshmen who typically drop out freshmen year actually staying in college and went on to get summer internships, graduate and secure gainful employment. What impact would that have on our economy of the future? How many more people would have health care with a college degree? How many more people might contribute to their communities in addition to their home and workplace? How many more grads with a degree might feel the need to give back, financially and with their time?
It seems like there are many possible benefits to targeting and focusing on the best research institutions in America. If we do that, it opens up the possibilities for asking what is possible for a better education for the masses—especially turning around the tidal wave of those who start college as one of the 1.5 million developmental English students or the 2.5 developmental math students. Let’s consider both options as that debate continues.
Chronicle of Higher Education
By PAUL BASKEN
Amid tighter budgets and stronger international competition, the nation may need “fewer but better” when it comes to research universities, the head of those institutions’ chief lobby group said Thursday. The United States, at a time of tighter budgets and stronger international competition, may not be able to afford its current crop of research universities, the head of their chief lobby group said Thursday.
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