Letter: Home truths

December 1, 2000

Closer analysis of the data used by Kate Flynn to claim that public and private universities in the United States are comparable reveals the overwhelming dominance of private universities (Letters, THES, November 24).

The top 19 universities in the US News & World Report rankings are all private. Only California-Berkeley and Virginia among public universities manage to get into the top 20. Just six of the top 30 and nine of the top 40 are public. Even those figures overstate the case. Of those nine, three belong to the University of California - a system that has received an atypical amount of funding from the California state legislature. It is true that a handful of public institutions have achieved prominence in a small number of disciplines. But the figures demonstrate that private universities have accomplished massive superiority in terms of research productivity, student access, alumni support, student:faculty ratios, library and computer resources, graduation rates, and faculty distinction.

This should make UK vice-chancellors pause if they are asked to choose between private and public status. Universities such as Yale, Harvard and MIT have achieved dominance despite being denied the funding that state legislatures have showered on certain public universities.

Simon Baatz
Research fellow National Institutes of Health Maryland, US

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