Thursday, January 11, 2007

The State Universities

While Luca suffers in Hong Kong, I am visiting beautiful Columbia, South Carolina. (The ribs are better here) Next week a day in Bloomington, Indiana and the following week a couple of days in Ann Arbor, Michigan as I visit the flagship universities of those states.

Over my life I have visited the flagship campuses in Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey (Rutgers), North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania (Penn State), South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. (Illinois is conspicuously absent). I have also visited several campuses of the California and New York systems which don't have a specific flagship. I can more locations of flagship campuses than I can state capitals.

The state universities got a strong push from the Morrill Land Grant Act passed during the Lincoln administration after the southern states that objected (like South Carolina) had left the union.

One of the great strengths of the US higher education system are these state universities, independent and competing, instead of a system of nationalized universities that you find in many other countries.

1. One of the great strengths of the US higher education system are these state universities, independent and competing, instead of a system of nationalized universities that you find in many other countries.

This is 100% true. In many European countries basically all the universities are state-owned. This e.g. means that the new positions are assigned at the central level (i.e. it is a decision of the government to "create" a new professor position at a given university). The problem is that the universities are then afraid to hire the best candidates, since if he/she quits, the position is "lost".

Another problem with this system is that the salaries do not depend on where you work. E.g. in the big cities you get exactly the same salary as in the small provincial towns (where the costs of life are the half are much smaller).

2. I thought berkeley is
the flagship of california
system
and stony brook is the flagship
of new york system.

3. SUNY Stonybrook (my ugrad school) is not
a flaghsip. Either NY STATE has several
flagships (Albany, Bingomton, Stonybrook,
apologies if I left out any) OR it has
no flagships. However, for Math/Phy
Stonybrook was the flagship.

I don't think NY STATE decided to put
LOTS of resources behind ONE of the
schools at the expense of the others.

bill g.

4. In France our universities may suffer from many problems, but definitely not from the problem described by Anonymous 1. If a professor moves from university A to university B, the government will usually allow university A to hire a new professor to replace him. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the government's purse) this does not lead to an infinite expansion in the number of professor positions because the departing professor can move only if the government declares that a position is open in university B.
Could Anonymous 1 tell us what anonymous country he has in mind ?

5. If you think that Columbia is beautiful, you should visit Charleston!

6. Could Anonymous 1 tell us what anonymous country he has in mind ?

Italy

7. Hey, UIUC is only a 3 hour train ride away. Last I checked, you could get tickets for as low as $12. (sometimes they are as high as$30)

Amtrak seats are comfortable, too; they're better than riding in a car. I only wish I'd figured that all out before I graduated...

8. Umberto Eco wrote an essay in 1986 on some of the problems stemming from central control of Italian universities. In "How to Compile an Inventory," he mentions an issue somewhat similar to anonymous #1:

"Teachers engaged on temporary contracts ought to be outside scholars of great reputation and irreplaceable expertise. But between the submission of the university's request and notification of the ministry's approval, we usually reach the end of the academic year, with only a few weeks of instruction remaining (unless the ministry simply says no). Clearly, in such an aleatory situation, it is hard to attract a Nobel laureate, and we end up with the dean's unemployed sister-in-law."

Granted, this is no doubt exaggerated for effect. Still, I hope things have become better twenty years later...

9. In the UK there is plenty of competition between universities. In terms of funding it's moving towards the US model.

10. So Lance, which university in Iowa is the flagship? :)

11. new york has no official flag ship, i personally think new york has too much schools to have a flagship