30 September 2007

Universities as corporations

The more I think about, the more universities seem like corporations than schools. We've always heard that research universities want their professors to spend most of their time on obtaining grants rather than teaching or mentoring students. I tried to find some budget numbers to prove that claim. Here's a (very hard-to-read) revenue graph from the MIT Tech Talk newspaper. You can see that research grant money is roughly 1-2 times larger than tuition money in terms of contributions to the university revenue (over the past 50 years). No wonder Harvard, Columbia, and other schools are rushing to expand their science campuses. Anytime a professor wins a grant, 1/3 to 1/2 the grant money goes to the university in the form of "indirect costs."

It all makes me wonder what is the central mission of universities? To educate students or to act like engineering/pharmaceutical companies?

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