Thursday, March 02, 2006

Harvard as the new GM

As much as I want to relish in the fact that my alma mater's sworn enemy is in decline according to a piece in The New Republic by Harvard Law Prof Bill Stuntz, there's nothing to celebrate here. To quote:

Harvard is the General Motors of American universities: rich, bureaucratic, and confident--a deadly combination. Fifty years from now, Larry Summers's resignation will be known as the moment when Harvard embraced GM's fate. From now on, the decline will likely be steep. And not only at Harvard: Among research universities as in the car market of generations past, other American institutions will follow the market leaders, straight to the bottom. The only question is who gets to play the role of Toyota in this metaphor.

When one sees a large competitive opportunity, it's usually a good bet that someone else has seen it already. Universities in other parts of the world now enjoy an enormous opportunity. And the competitive position of American schools is worse than GM's in the 1950s. Then, Germany and Japan were still prostrate; no one could imagine that within a generation their economies would seem poised to overtake America's. Now, it's easy to imagine that a generation hence, Chinese or Indian universities will dominate the world, or perhaps that some intellectual entrepreneur will bring Oxford or Cambridge back to the top of the heap.

As Instapundit says, read the whole thing.

A SIDE NOTE: Notice the part in the article about the academic life of graduate students. While I am and have never been a supporter of graduate student unionization, is it any wonder that graduate students have been trying to unionize? Especially given that the movement is essentially led by humanities grad students for whom it is not uncommon to spend 7 or 8 years in grad school, this trend should be no surprise.


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