Develop new and unique identities
Comment on "Chinese Ivy League?" (Page 8, October 21, China Daily)
The editorial "Chinese Ivy League?" brought to mind some thoughts regarding my own experience as the president of Arizona State University, the youngest of the roughly 100 major research institutions in the United States, both public and private, and, with enrollment approaching 70,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, the largest American university governed by a single administration. While I certainly applaud China's intent to create a consortium of world-class institutions, I concur with China Daily that in order to build great universities it is first essential to emphasize a pragmatic approach to institutional design. The objective must indeed be to meet the needs of the people rather than institutional ambitions for status. As China undertakes planning for the development of the newly formed alliance, authorities should bear in mind that Ivy League universities do not necessarily represent ideal institutional models for China, a nation that has the opportunity to lead in the development of new institutional designs. Institutions like Columbia University, where I taught for twelve years and served prior to my departure as executive vice provost, were formed in response to the needs of another century. Nevertheless, most American universities, both public and private, as well as universities around the world continue to model themselves on this handful of elite institutions.
Across the globe, the infrastructure for higher education remains dangerously underbuilt and undifferentiated. We must build access even as we demand innovation and differentiation of our colleges and universities. Institutions must move beyond historical models of elitism and leverage their individual and local strengths to develop unique identities, thus fostering intellectual flexibility, creativity, and the capacity for innovation in a global society interconnected by advances in technology. Colleges and universities must embrace a broader societal role by advancing desired outcomes. Each must adapt to be of the greatest value to its constituents. What is required are institutions committed to academic excellence, inclusiveness to a broad demographic, and maximum societal impact.
Michael M. Crow, president of the Arizona State University, US
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(China Daily 10/26/2009 page4)