February 17, 1997
UCSC ranks 11th in new national assessment of research universities
By Jim Burns
In a comprehensive new analysis of more than 200 top universities, UCSC ranks 11th in the nation among public campuses in the quality of its research productivity. The study and rankings are detailed in a just-published book that chronicles the rise of a new generation of postwar research universities in the United States.
The book, The Rise of American Research Universities: Elites and Challengers in the Postwar Era (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), makes the case that some of this country's newer research campuses are challenging many of the so-called "elite" universities in the quality of their research activities.
The authors, historians Hugh Davis Graham of Vanderbilt University and Nancy Diamond of the University of Maryland, assessed the performance of 203 research universities from 1945 to 1990. For the study, they measured per capita faculty research productivity--the creation of new knowledge--in everything from medical science to the classics.
"Although there are fewer surprises among the private universities, in the public system some dramatic rising stars are found," Graham said. "Universities such as Ohio State and Penn State that traditionally enjoyed strong reputations were not among the top performers."
UCSC, according to the survey, was.
The campus's overall ranking of 11th in the nation among public universities includes a No. 1 ranking in the survey's Social Science Index and No. 6 in the Arts and Humanities Index.
The numerical indexes used to measure productivity were: money received from federal grants, number of articles published in all fields, articles in top-rated scientific and social science journals, and fellowships in the arts and humanities.
"Surveys such as those conducted by the National Research Council and the American Council on Education use reputational data to measure productivity," Graham said. "This creates a halo effect, especially for the large institutions, which leads to the selection of the same elites, year after year."
Chancellor Greenwood calls the study the most important of its kind in decades. "Obviously, I'm thrilled by the ranking of UC Santa Cruz in this study. But I believe this analysis is also proof positive that the California Master Plan for Higher Education has worked," the chancellor said. "In the span of 30 years in California, we have progressed from having one or two recognized research campuses to enjoying the benefits of a handful of high-quality research campuses, of which UC Santa Cruz is one."
The authors supported that view, giving high marks to states like California that have designated certain schools as research institutions and supported them accordingly. Too often, they said, states try to level the playing field by considering almost all public universities as research institutions, which dilutes support.
California's 1960 master plan designated specific roles for the state's three branches of higher education: the University of California, California State University, and Community College systems. The master plan gave the UC system exclusive responsibility for research activities and doctoral degrees.
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