In my previous post in this series, a response to a column my colleague Steve Pearlstein wrote in the Washington Post over the weekend, I discussed some difficult choices that public universities will need to make in the future as enrollments change, legislative investment declines, and options for students proliferate. And just to be clear, I’m very specifically talking about public colleges and universities, not other higher ed institutions, while Pearlstein generalizes across the higher education spectrum.
Less research, more teaching: It’s simply not the case, as Pearlstein erroneously claims, that the vast majority of work published in the humanities and social sciences is not cited by other scholars and so has no value. As Yoni Applebaum pointed out yesterday, Pearlstein is guilty of citing bad data when he repeats this claim. We don’t accept such carelessness from our students, so we shouldn’t accept it from our professors.
But, being wrong about one thing doesn’t make him wrong about everything.
I happen to think he is correct when argues that we should, “offer comparable pay and status to professors who spend most of their time teaching, reserving reduced teaching loads for professors whose research continues to have significance and impact.”
One of the questions the Ernst & Young report on Australian higher education asks is: “Can your institution maintain a strong competitive position across a range of disciplines?”  I would say that the answer is “no” for the vast majority of public colleges and universities in the U.S. There just isn’t enough money to go around in public higher education, and, really, how many doctoral programs in X, or MA programs in Y, or BA programs in Z, does a state higher education sector need?
But we all seem to want to offer everything to our students, leading to a