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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
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Summer 2004
The Next Step
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Of the some 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States, just 62 are recognized through invitation to be a member of the Association of American Universities as being truly outstanding. Nine of those 62 universities are in California, and six of them, including UCLA, are campuses of the University of California. The regions surrounding great research universities are populated by technology and medical centers, arts and cultural opportunities, innovative businesses and steady, productive economic development. In a knowledge-based economy, universities create knowledge and, in so doing, generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic development.

Research breakthroughs at the university will undoubtedly be among the key drivers of the state's economic recovery, as well as its global leadership in the high-tech and biotech industries. Clearly, then, it is in the best interests of our region and the state to have the brightest scholars propelling discovery and innovation, and to have the brightest graduate students working in partnership with them.

Q: How is competition from private universities affecting us?

A: Private research universities, which have not suffered cuts nearly as severe as those that have been made to public universities, are working hard and spending lots of money to attract the best and the brightest away from elite public research universities like UCLA.

We need to see exactly what our competition looks like. At Johns Hopkins, Duke, MIT and Stanford, for example, 90 percent of doctoral candidates are fully funded. At UCLA, we can commit to multiyear funding for just 20 percent of our doctoral students. That is a disparity we have to narrow. We also need to consider the fact that because competition is so fierce, the funding margins are amazingly thin. Often $1,000 can mean the difference between winning and losing a world-class doctoral student. The competitive situation is similar for young faculty. In this environment, our faculty are attractive targets for recruitment by other institutions. We are fortunate that in recent years UCLA has been able to retain about 70 percent of our professors who have received offers elsewhere. Still, many are receiving multiple offers a year in regions of the country where housing is more affordable and salaries are greater. This is why the Ensuring Academic Excellence initiative is so important for us right now.

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