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AWIS in Action! July 2012-Universities
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   July 2012
In This Issue
The Future of the American Research University

A topic of increasingly frequent discussion on the Hill revolves around the role of research universities in this nation and AWIS is monitoring that dialogue. Many universities are operating at unsustainable financial levels. Tuition continues to rise as financial support from states decreases due to budget cuts, if sequestration occurs universities will receive less grant money, students are taking on increasing amounts of debt only to enter a sluggish job market, other countries are pouring money into their schools to increase their competitiveness, and the demographics are shifting in the United States but we aren’t attracting a comparable level of those people to the create workforce we will need in the near future. The one certainty is things cannot remain the way they are

Many people are concerned about ways to alter the current on these issues and a broad range of approaches are being suggested but nobody knows what the best solution is. Expand online education? Cut programs that are less popular or functional like philosophy or medieval studies? Increase collaboration with industry to provide hands-on experience and thus a better trained workforce? Institute mandatory civil service for a year? Compel technology transfer offices to generate revenue? Commit to making investments in research 3% of the GDP? Consequently, many different groups are working to try to put forward solutions and Congress has gotten involved too. 

At a House hearing several weeks ago representatives from several different universities, including Auburn, Texas A&M, the University of Arizona, and Duke, convened on a panel to discuss these challenges and subsequent opportunities facing campuses at the moment. Some expressed concerns about the diminishing appreciation for the role basic research by universities plays in supporting innovation in industry. Others alluded to frustration with bureaucratic red tape and the complexities of working through regulations which sometimes slow down progress and innovation in addition to decreasing the time and money available for direct support of research. Central to the discussion also was a report released by the National Academies, Research Universities and the Future of America which posits ten different recommendations including reducing regulatory burdens, increasing partnering with private enterprises, and increasing participation and success of women and minorities in STEM fields to improve individual and national economic success. Many of the audience members were Vice Presidents for Research and similar titles who were in town to celebrate the 150 year anniversary of the Morrill Act, which established the creation of land-grant colleges, and who hopefully took these ideas back to their own institutions for further discussion. Given the scope of the problems, this topic will continue to be a hot one. What is important is that in spite of the need for universities to adapt, we must make certain we are not undercutting the value of what universities and research contribute to this nation in terms of jobs, research training and education, innovation, and national security.

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