Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Building A New Research-University System

Chronicle of Higher Education
Author: Jonathan R. Cole
January 17, 2016

American research universities are clearly the finest in the world. As of 2015, and for at

least 40 years, the United States has had by far the greatest system of higher education

in the world. By most reckonings, we have roughly 80 percent of the top 20 universities,

70 percent of the top 50, and 60 percent of the top 100. We win the majority of Nobel

science and economics prizes and other internationally prestigious awards for scholarly

achievement. Research produced by our universities dominates most fields.

The majority of the educated American public, however, think of our universities in terms

of teaching and the transmission of knowledge rather than the creation of knowledge, and

most critiques of higher education focus on undergraduate education. Let me be

emphatically clear: Excellent teaching of undergraduates and graduate students is

crucially important and an integral part of the mission of great universities. It is perhaps

our first calling. But it is not what has made our research universities the best in the

world. Rather, our ability to fulfill one of the other central missions of great universities
— the production of knowledge through discoveries that actually change the world — has

created our pre-eminence.