Brad deLong has more:
Let me put it this way: in 1960, the University of California–then overwhelmingly UCB and UCSF and UCLA–was about four times the size of Harvard, 5000 vs. 1200 undergraduates a year, with graduate students and faculty roughly in proportion. Clark Kerr, as president of the University of California in the 1960s, took a look at space constraints in Berkeley and Westwood, took a look at the rising population of California, took a look at increasing wealth, took a look at increasing educational attainment, took a look at the increasing attractiveness of American universities to people abroad, and conclude that the number of undergraduate students who could and would want to take full advantage of a UC education was going to grow eightfold over the next fifty years. So he decided to go all-out to clone UCB and UCLA.
And he did it.
Today we have UC Davis, UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Sunnydale, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC San Diego which together with UCB and UCLA graduate 40,000 undergraduates a year. Quality of education at UCB and UCLA has suffered a little bit as this cloning process has diverted resources away from us–but only by a very little bit. And the other UCs are damned good–with Davis and UCSD now being, I think, equal to the flagship campuses (although we don’t admit it in bureaucratic system wars). And the Cal States do an impressive job as well. And the community colleges provide remarkable educational value for the money. The high administrators of the University of California starting with Clark Kerr have an extraordinary, remarkable accomplishment to look back upon. And they should be very proud–especially as they have accomplished it in the face of declining relative levels of support from the state legislature in Sacramento.
Harvard, over the same fifty-year time span… Harvard has gone from 1200 undergraduates a year to 1600, and has done so in spite of starting with a substantial endowment and receiving $15B of private charitable gifts. Harvard does a great many things well–and I am impressed by the fact that Larry Summers’s presidency seems to have had the effect of creating a large brand-new science building on every block. But it is hard to think that the production function from resources to outcomes is an efficient one or something to be particularly proud of: I think presidents Pusey, Bok, Rudenstine, Summers, and Bok again were beaten by the system. At meetings of high academic administrators Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and his ilk can hold their heads up high as proud successors to a highly capable group of administrators who made a lot of lemonade out of the lemons that they were handed, but I don’t think Harvard president Faust can do the same.
As they say, read the whole piece.
Topic for discussion: Should institutions of higher education be a) market-driven, b) worker-managed, c) politically managed?