09 June 2010

Balkanizing small universities

Our university had a 5% budget cut, an now is facing a 10% budget cut on top of that. Our situation is the new normal, according to a news piece in Nature that looks at the effects the financial crisis is having on universities. Also worth reading is an article on the financial benefits of investing in research (harder to prove than you might think).

One section, though, bugs me.

Diane Auer Jones... thinks budget pain should make smaller state schools rethink their research ambitions... (A)dministrators have been spending too much on programmes besides undergraduate education. Faculty members are rewarded on the basis of their research portfolios, and teaching gets mere lip service.

Not surprisingly, I disagree strongly with Jones (who also has an opinion piece in the issue).

First, if undergrad institutions are putting “too much” emphasis on research at the expense of teaching, what does that say about the heavily research intensive universities? They have far more notorious reputations for ignoring everything but research on tenure decisions.

Second, this advice reeks of something that “have” research universities would say. They would probably love to have less competition for money and resources.

I don’t believe for an instant that telling faculty that they should abandon their research and balkanizing undergraduate universities the way forward.

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