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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The New Research University

Rebirth of the Research University

Nicholas B. Dirks | April 27, 2015

In California, some of us spend a good deal of time feeling nostalgia for days past (specifically, 1960) when the California Master Plan for Higher Education was codified, approved, and financed. In the world of higher education, this visionary plan was the greatest organizational idea for public higher education in the 20th century. It connected excellence in research to the mission of near-universal education by defining the roles of its three systems of universities, state colleges, and community colleges.
Today, however, there is a growing belief that higher-education systems modeled after the master plan have run their course; many people in state governments and the public at large not only assume that such a model costs too much in absolute terms, but also increasingly question the value and quality of higher education, particularly of the sort delivered at elite research universities. Indeed, at the root of debates about the cost of higher education, the worth of college, the vocational utility of degrees, and the commitment to teaching among research faculty, there is a widespread suspicion that we cannot have all that the master plan promised. There is a growing belief, in particular, that research can no longer be the primary mission of our great universities.

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