To Research or Not to Research? That Is the Question
Dr. Robert M Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities, suggested yesterday that the United States needs to prune its number of research universities in light of tighter budgets and stronger international competition. If this were to be done, it is beyond doubt that Marshall University and all but certain that West Virginia University* would not make the cut.
I have mixed feelings about Dr. Berdahl’s proposal. On the one hand, I think every higher education institution should be free to compete for scarce research grant dollars from NSF, NIH and other organizations. If there is any arena in which free market and merit principles should operate, it is in the fields of education and research. On the other hand, I know that Congress has provided more and more institutions with earmarks for research without regard to merit and that West Virginia University and Marshall University both have struggled to come up with the modest amounts of matching funds required by West Virginia’s own Research Trust Fund program, which suggests that neither institution is ready to move into the upper echelons of American research universities any time soon.
*West Virginia University is listed in the Carnegie classification system as having “high,” rather than “very high,” research activity, which places it behind at least 96 other higher education institutions in terms of research activity. Additionally, West Virginia University will not appear anywhere on the soon-to-be-released and very prestigious National Research Council rankings of graduate programs at over 222 higher education institutions because it didn’t even participate! I challenge someone to review the list and attempt to identify ONE other state without a participating institution (HINT: There is one other state.) or ONE of West Virginia University’s peer institutions that did not participate. More on this subject when the rankings are released.