How to Destroy a University

(Digital Vision)

A colleague elsewhere, who wishes to remain nameless for fear of retribution, has illustrated how easy it is to destroy a university. His is abolishing its economics graduate programs; introductory economics will be taught in sections of 1,000 students; professors do their own purchasing of supplies; and upper-division courses are being sharply reduced in number.

All this is a response to calls for greater efficiency in higher education. Is this really greater efficiency? Or is it a move to a different point on the production possibility frontier, essentially choosing to convert a research institution into a mediocre equivalent of a two-year college? Calls for professors to teach more to save higher-education money have consequences—there ain’t no free lunch here. Of course, too, such policies drive away faculty members who might be interested in doing research. Fortunately, not all public universities are following this troglodyte approach.

Fred Guss

The system is going at the wrong direction. School has to begin to give more credit to the ones that are great. Train people in the subject that they have a talent in. Thats the way to create new Einsteins!


Just for comparison, what is that university doing with its engineering and science courses? Is this perhaps less about across-the-board cost-cutting, and more about the perceived worth of a graduate economics degree?


I think part of the problem is that the existence of professors doesn't really do too well in a cost-benefit analysis. The cost of hiring them is up front, while the benefit of their research (if any) is nebulous and hard to value.

From the perspective of students and families, they are being asked to subsidize, through their tuition payments, a huge research structure from which they may or may not derive any benefit.

I know more than a few people who think that it would be a good idea to separate the research and teaching functions of the university so that student tuition payments only support the teaching functions.

These days, community colleges provide much more bang for the buck...

Joyce Furfero

I'll go you one better: My university pays students to come their first year. When they can't cut the muster and manage a B average to retain their scholarships, they drop out (transfer?), the university blames the professors, demands more accountability (e.g. more student evaluations/feedback, post-tenure review, teaching portfolios, etc.). Research? What research. We have no research resources. They have all gone into the new plants around the 105-acre campus!


Seems to me it's supply and demand. Traditionally, universities create research-oriented economists, which then go on looking for research-oriented jobs. But there is probably too much supply and too little demand for those at this point.

On the other hand, there is a lot of demand for non-research-oriented economics graduates, who go on taking general white-collar positions in companies and banks. So, some universities will respond by switching their research oriented programs to non-research oriented programs. Seems reasonable to me; what else would you want them to do?

Dearth Verbose

Since the invention of the PRINTING PRESS the presentation of knowledge by so called "teachers" by the means of Socrates thousands of years ago has become OBSOLETE unnecessary and unbelievably and incredibly WASTEFUL of both public and private funds utilized for its payment in GREAT even FANTASTIC sums by so called "tuition". What do said teachers know and present in their so called "lectures" which is not ALREADY presented by ANY number of authors of the literature extent thus being a mere REPETITION. The middle class can be expanded by the betterment of the lower classes and strengthened by the saving of the great funds otherwise NEEDLESSLY spent on said tuition which when is so needlessly spent a student is only told by said teachers which TEXTS THEY MUST PURCHASE READ and STUDY UPON if all students who wish to learn studied in their OWN way in their OWN time and in their OWN homes by reading and studying upon the literature extent which knowledge thereof is not presented here because this writer is not aware of any simple and obvious means to obtain said knowledge of said literature though of course it SHOULD be for any and all of course economically useful subjects fields and trades so that all can benefit from the possibility for self betterment which such knowledge engenders or by practice with hand tools for mastering a trade and which SHOULD ALWAYS include knowledge of BUSINESS CREATION MANAGEMENT and FINANCE as such knowledge engenders the possibility of great perhaps even fantastic wealth security and increased employment and even perhaps profound economic advancement of the entire economy as already demonstrated and made obvious by any number of great companies and business organizations even of recent years the existence of which would not be possible without said business knowledge if the subject mastery and skill or perhaps even invention is of a profound kind at NO COST to them except of course for the purpose of purchasing the required literature or said tools thus saving the otherwise great cost of said tuition. Should the obtained literature prove unsatisfactory for any reason perhaps the student's own limitations or even if not right proper or sufficient or even if incorrect each of which I believe I have observed on a few occasions in advanced mathematical texts though I consider it unlikely to occur in the introductory texts utilized in so called "undergraduate" schooling there are any number of other authors whose published written presentations can be obtained read and studied upon whose explanations may prove satisfactory to the student. Though when the limitation is that of the student's I believe there are specific means and techniques perhaps of my own discovery not usually known as near as I can discern as I am not aware of same presented by any usual or common method of presentation or publication which can be utilized by said student to understand and comprehend that which otherwise he would not which I will not present here except to say that it is a matter of examining and understanding one's own ignorance and thus able to answer one's own questions which otherwise a student would as is usually done pose to said teacher for the purpose of receiving another explanation which for some reason said student is able to understand which somehow said teacher is able to discern and determine or perhaps even discover through some means not obvious which I can only assume is taught in so called "schools of education" which bestow a so called "education degree" though in my humble and ignorant belief does not impart said magical skill of discernment or discovery and also of knowing of the different methods of learning which I will also not present here except to say that it is a matter of repeated attempts duration and patience though I will present here my belief and meager opinion that if despite every effort to master an economically of course useful subject a student fails then said student should choose another field subject or trade to study upon and of course master for purpose of economic security. When the middle class is expanded or strengthened the entire economy is strengthened thus increasing employment. Most of the subjects taught in schools require as much skill to read and understand by any and all as is the reading of the daily newspaper but who cares if da Vinci painted with his left hand or his right. Please consider the following parable as a kind of summary of the paltry thoughts of this writer concerning the topic described herein. Johnny decides to become an electrical engineer by his own efforts as described herein. He somehow obtains knowledge of the literature he must read and study upon to master the field and of course business. He obtains said literature and in but a few years completes his studies as described herein to mastery then perhaps he invents something and creates a business thereof or he demonstrates mastery of his chosen field to a hiring manager at IBM gets a great job there and thus also helping to ensure his parent's future by the saving of the great amount of moneys otherwise needlessly spent on said tuition which they can if they choose utilize for their own social security. If he chooses at some future time to study subjects such as geography history or social science whatever that is or perhaps the history of art he can do so with but little effort and time as he has now mastered the skill of learning by the reading and studying upon of the literature extent especially such trivialities which knowledge thereof has never created a FORTUNE 1000 company or any wealth as far as this writer is aware of.