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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Center for Studies in Higher Education is a research and policy center on higher education oriented to California, the nation, and comparative international issues. It promotes discussion among university leaders, government officials, academics and all those interested in higher education policy. It assists policy making by providing a neutral forum for airing contentious issues and by keeping the higher education world informed of new initiatives and proposals. Likewise, the research conducted at the Center aims to inform current debate about higher education policy and practice. Founded in 1956 it was the first higher education center of this kind in the United States. Currently it has an especially strong interest in public policy aimed at improving higher education in California and developing a strategic perspective on the future of the University of California.

BERKELEY VERSUS THE SATA Regent, a Chancellor and a Debate on the Value ofStandardized Testing in Admissions


The following essay details a debate between UC Berkeley and a Regent who made charges of discrimination against Asian-American students that are similar to the current legal challenges facing Harvard University. The crux of such charges: onaverage, that one racial or ethnic group is more “qualified” than other groups, often underrepresented minorities, yet they havelower admissions rates. In 2004, Regent John Moores, convinced of discriminatory practices toward Asian-American students inthe admissions process at Berkeley, did his own analysis of UC admissions data focused on SAT scores and that he publicizedin the LA Times and other venues. Moores claimed his investigation provided clear evidence of discrimination. In the aftermath of California’s Proposition 209 barring the use of race in admissions, Moores complained that Berkeley’s adoption of a “holistic” review of applications reduced the importance of test scores by elevating subjective "measurements" that served as possiblyillegal proxies for race and ethnicity. Conjuring memories of charges of discrimination in the 1980s by the Asian-American community regarding Berkeley’s admissions processes, Moores asked, “How did the university get away with discriminating soblatantly against Asians?” For anti-affirmative action advocates, like Moores, standardized test scores were, and are, seen as the gold standard of academic ability since it is a “universal” measure unlike grades that are local assessments of abilities andsubject to grade inflation. However, when compared to grades in high school, test scores have proven weak indicators ofsubsequent academic success at highly selective universities that must choose among a large pool of highly qualified students.Test scores also are not necessarily good measures for predicting the future engagement of students in the wide range of experiences and opportunities offered by major universities – including public service, undergraduate research, and co-curricularactivities. Anti-affirmative action advocates largely see admissions as a reward based on test scores and are not terriblyconcerned with the predictive validity of other admissions criteria. This essay concludes with a brief discussion of the similarities of Moores’ analysis and charge of discrimination in admissions with that at Harvard, and the probable legal path toward a new Supreme Court decision on affirmative action.

Cover page of Undergraduate Education, Best Practices, Leadership, University of Southern California

Undergraduate Education, Best Practices, Leadership, University of Southern California


The University of Southern California (USC) transformed its undergraduate education program by making it a top priority in its strategic plans for the last two decades. The undergraduate experience was thoroughly studied and findings were used to determine what needed to be changed to improve the educational experience for students in and outside of the classroom. The institution has spent over $1.5B to hire new faculty to teach undergraduates, construct new residential colleges and renovate older ones (all led by tenured faculty), and build a new health center, campus center, and spaces in the USC College and professional schools dedicated to undergraduate academic programs, support services, and co-curricular programs. The key to the transformation was leadership provided by its late President Steven B. Sample and the university leaders he recruited to take on this big challenge. The team was focused and empowered to make administrative and academic changes, in concert with deans and faculty leaders, and given resources to turn thoughts, dreams and hopes into reality. The results are clear and demonstrate that institutions can improve undergraduate education by making it a high priority, allocating resources to recruit and hire outstanding faculty, and expand and improve programs, activities and facilities that directly serve undergraduates.





Despite massive cuts in state funding over the past thirty years, the University of California has managed to keep enrollment on pace with growth in population.  With California’s population projected to grow 22.5 percent (from 40 to 49 million by 2040), that will no longer be the case, unless UC is able to find a new funding model. Informed by the historical analysis in the report Approaching a Tipping Point: A History and Prospectus of Funding for the University of California, this essay revisits the options for funding UC from that report, including: reinvestment by California lawmakers and a proposed general bond measure for capital construction; increasing research funding to help subsidize teaching and public service programs; revising the indirect-cost agreement with the State of California; raising undergraduate tuition and fees for upper income students and establishing tuition pricing model tiered by student family income; explore differential fees by major; and reducing the percentage of UC undergraduate tuition income that is “returned-to-aid” in favor of increased fundraising for financial aid. All relate to two central questions: a) can UC afford to grow in its enrollment and academic programs with the state’s population and needs? and b) how to identify new sources of revenue and pursue management efficiencies to reduce operating and capital costs? Without a substantial boost in income from the state or other sources, UC may be approaching a crossroads, where it continues to grow in enrollment without adequate funding, or where it instead chooses to halt or limit growth to focus on maintaining quality and productivity, but with serious consequences for California. Any significant state reinvestment will depend on the new California governor. Governors in the past have been key players in creating and building California’s pioneering higher education system.  A new governor should have ambitions for higher education that match those of Californians. 

Cover page of Research University Spaces: The Multiple Purposes of an Undergraduate Education

Research University Spaces: The Multiple Purposes of an Undergraduate Education


Students, faculty, and the public expect undergraduate education in research universities to contribute to multiple developmental purposes.   While academic purposes remain pre-eminent, a singular focus on knowledge and skills development is no longer adequate. Based on data and analysis from the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Undergraduate Survey, this essay identifies and discusses five widely endorsed purposes of student development during the college years: social, personal, academic, civic, and economic.  It also identifies the characteristics of classroom and extra-curricular settings that contribute to the achievement of these purposes.  In turn, the resulting SPACES model provides a theoretical framework for SERU intended to guide future survey design and research.




What are the benefits and costs of attending a selective public research university instead of a less-selective university or college?This study examines the 2001-2011 Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) program, which guaranteed University of Californiaadmission to students in the top four percent of California high school classes. Employing a regression discontinuity design, Iestimate that ELC pulled 8 percent of marginally-admitted students into four "Absorbing'' UC campuses from less-competitivepublic institutions in California. Those ELC compliers had lower SAT scores and family incomes than their eventual peers; almosthalf were under-represented minorities (URM), and 65 percent came from the state's bottom SAT quartile of high schools.Nevertheless, marginally eligible students became more than 20 percentage points more likely to earn a university degree within5 years, though URM and less-prepared students became less likely to earn STEM degrees. Students' net expected earningsconditional on university completion, major, and gender substantially increased across subgroups, and linked state employmentrecords suggest an increase in URM students' average early-career earnings.




Effective education at the tertiary level is one of the key conditions for the development of modern economies; it also has a substantial impact on social development. Nowadays, higher education institutions all over the world are facing numerous challenges, some of them global (e.g. funding), others local (e.g. demographic trends). Universities are seeking new ways of dealing with the challenges; however, they often resort to methods that seem to do more harm than good by moving the emphasis from long-term objectives to short-term ones. In marketing literature, a new concept of Service-Dominant Logic (SDL) is proposed as an alternative approach to traditional and outdated marketing theories applied to the higher education sector. Its foundational premise of value co-creation seems to be of particular relevance here as it assumes that various groups of actors jointly create the academic experience. This paper focuses on the higher education sector in Poland and investigates the attitudes of Polish students towards value co-creation and their consequences for the academic experience. The study leads to the identification of value co-creation styles among students reflected by five segments: Maximalists, Minimalists, the Scrupulous, the Networking-Oriented and the Intellectuals and presents their detailed characteristics.

Cover page of REFORMING DOCTORAL EDUCATION: There is a Better Way



The traditional apprenticeship model for PhD education involves supervisors mentoring students through a substantive research project and ultimately into academia. Although about half of PhD graduates enter careers beyond academia, this apprenticeship model, with a narrow focus on thesis research has continued to dominate in many countries. While there are variations in terms of coursework requirements, the main assessment continues to be on the PhD thesis, and, in most countries, an oral defense of this thesis. The aims of this working paper are firstly to critique the dominant models of PhD education by using the lens of ‘success’, and secondly to consider an alternative model of PhD education. A PhD program may be deemed successful if it leads to high employment rates, high satisfaction with types of employment, and graduates who are well equipped for being in the world – in work and in society. Through examining these indicators of success, I argue that the North American and British PhD models may be failing, and suggest an alternative model based on ‘constructive alignment’, in which the graduate outcomes are well aligned with teaching and learning methods, and the assessment regime. This alternative model is still based on an apprenticeship approach but requires PhD programs to be tailored to the individual and their desired career pathway, so that alongside and through their research, they can develop a holistic set of graduate attributes – for ‘doctorateness’, for possible careers, and for global citizenship. This model has implications not only for the learning opportunities available to PhD students, but also for how we assess PhDs. Universities may need to develop programs to better support the career planning and professional development of PhD students. A portfolio or digital badge assessment approach, whether summative or formative, would allow PhD graduates to demonstrate the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills they have acquired through doctoral study, and better equip them for their chosen career pathway.

Cover page of A THIRD WAVE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENT MOBILITY: Global Competitiveness and American Higher Education 

A THIRD WAVE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENT MOBILITY: Global Competitiveness and American Higher Education 


International students are critical to the competitiveness of American higher education in terms of financial, intercultural, and educational contributions. However, recent data indicates that the U.S institutions enrolled 31,520 fewer international students in Fall 2017 as compared to Fall 2016. At average tuition and fees of US$ 25,000, higher education institutions are likely to lose potential revenue of US$ 788 million for the first year of studies alone. This paper examines the shifting landscape of international enrollment from the lens of three overlapping Waves spread over seven years and takes a deeper dive into implications for American universities. Wave I was shaped by the terrorist attacks in September 2001 and resulted in slower overall growth in international student enrollment of 11% between 1999 and 2006. Wave II has its origins in the global financial crisis which prompted universities to search for self-funded students and experienced overall robust growth of 44 percent in international student enrollment between 2006 and 2013. Finally, Wave III is shaped by the new political order and intensified competition from English-taught programs in Europe and Asia which will slow down the pace of projected growth in international enrollment to 18 percent between 2013 and 2020. In this current Wave of intensified global competition, overall international student enrollment is likely to flatten or decline for most universities. While the reputation and quality of American higher education is admired and emulated around the world, resting on its past laurels will not be sufficient for attracting international students in the Third Wave. This means that universities must get proactive and strategic in reaching, engaging and supporting international students throughout their educational lifecycle. Demand for studying abroad among international students remains robust, however, increasing competition and expectations for value for money will requires proactive and concerted efforts to maintain the global competitiveness of American higher education.

Cover page of HISTORY’S COILS: The UC Nuclear Weapons Laboratories

HISTORY’S COILS: The UC Nuclear Weapons Laboratories


Early in the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt appealed to the nation’s elite universities to join in the quest for powerful new technological weapons to counter the Nazi threat.  Urged on by Nobelist Ernest O. Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron and director of the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, the University of California responded to Roosevelt’s call in 1943 by lending its scientific leadership to the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico.  The goal: to design and build the world’s first atomic bomb.  UC president Robert Gordon Sproul intended from the outset that the University’s involvement in secret weapons research would end with the conflict itself.  In the end, an engagement entered into as an act of wartime service became a more or less permanent marriage that was controversial from the start.  What justification could a public university—any university—offer for conducting research on weapons of mass destruction?  Decades of public protest and faculty criticism did not end UC’s involvement in the weapons laboratories it managed for the federal government, first at Los Alamos and later at Livermore, California.  What almost did was a series of sensational events that began in 1999 with charges that a spy was at work in Los Alamos’s X Division, responsible for the design of nuclear weapons.  The ensuing espionage trial and its aftermath sent shock waves that spread far beyond the specific details of the case. They precipitated a series of events involving national security, US nuclear policy, and politics within the Department of Energy and the Congress that cast a shadow over UC’s stewardship.  The University and its president, Richard Atkinson (1995-2003), faced fundamental questions about the direction and future of an increasingly contentious partnership.  This paper discusses the University’s evolving relationship with the federal government and how the debate over the nuclear weapons laboratories ultimately shifted from morality to management.

Cover page of CAN THE RESEARCH MODEL MOVE BEYOND ITS DOMINANT PATRON? The Future of Support for Fundamental Research in US Universities

CAN THE RESEARCH MODEL MOVE BEYOND ITS DOMINANT PATRON? The Future of Support for Fundamental Research in US Universities


The United States has been the leader in fundamental research for the last seven decades. Fundamental research is overwhelming undertaken in or in conjunction with research-intensive universities, and since the 1950s they have depended on US Federal funding to make this possible. This support has been consistently championed by Congress, is popular across the political spectrum and enjoys long public backing, in no small part because there remains a widespread trust in the societal benefits it provides. Yet the US now faces a dilemma over the future of this national achievement and the supporting arrangements making it sustainable. The ‘social contract’ for science and research now looks more tentative than at any time since the Space Race. This paper examines why many US university leaders, faculty, experts and policy-makers are increasingly concerned, what is driving this and how they are responding. Building on 37 interviews with university, academic and government leaders, this study uses a mixed methodology to explore perceived institutional challenges and the politics around them, alongside the responses and strategies of US research-intensive universities in the context of global, national and regional policies. This paper examines tensions in the relationship between universities and government, and between researcher and public, combining perspectives from a sample of leading research universities and from national policy leaders to offer insight into the intersection of Federal policy and local operationalization. It concludes that for the future of US basic science and research two factors are likely to be decisive, being whether the strength of the public backing for funding university-based fundamental research continues, and how universities respond if, and in the assessment of many, when this support erodes. If the current research system is to remain viable, universities will need to make greater efforts to rebuild trust and understanding with the US public and litigate anew their raison d'etre at the center of US research.